Our 2013 Subaru BRZ Gets Winter Tires

By David Thomas  on January 29, 2013

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The shiny new black Subaru BRZ sat in our collective driveways for only a week when we realized that its standard summer performance tires weren't the best for tackling a Chicago winter.

Subaru added all-season tires as standard equipment depending on where the BRZ is sold, but ours didn't come with them. It must have been an earlier model off the line.

It's been a relatively warm, snowless winter in Chicago so there shouldn't have been a sense of urgency to slap on winter rubber, but we had a certain high-profile event — just 10 days away at the time — that the car needed to get to in Detroit.

History told us the five-hour drive to Detroit in early January can be treacherous and maybe we should start investigating tires ... now.

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Editor Joe Bruzek did some online research and found that Bridgestone Blizzaks were likely our best choice for the tire size.

We could order from a website like Tire Rack and then get the tires installed at an area tire shop, or just go straight through the shop itself.

I had put two sets of Yokohamas on my two personal cars in the past two years using a local Discount Tire store and had had good experiences, so I checked out its prices.

Including installation, it seemed Tire Rack wouldn't save us much money, so I had the Discount Tire store order the Blizzaks after putting a $100 deposit down with a credit card. The shop said the tires should arrive in plenty of time for the drive to Detroit.

On the morning of the installation, I folded the BRZ's rear seats, covered the expanded cargo area with an old sheet I use as a drop cloth and headed to the store.

The installation went smoothly enough. I asked the technicians to put all four summer tires in the back — a feat Subaru claims the BRZ can handle — but if they had to be forced into the space, I told them I'd come back with my wagon and pick up the tires.

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It turns out that they fit with plenty of room to spare. The technicians wrapped each tire in a plastic bag, so the dropcloth wasn't necessary.

The total cost was $777.60 for the tires and installation. The four summer tires found a winter home in my storage shed; they're tucked inside my kids' playhouse.

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I've never driven on winter tires for an extended period of time; my personal cars are all wrapped in all-seasons. The ride definitely felt more cushioned versus the low-profile summer tires. It even seemed a bit quieter.

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I also drove the BRZ to Detroit. I woke up to the car coated in a thick layer of ice. Temperatures hovered around 30 degrees during the nearly 300-mile trip, with some rain falling during the drive's last three hours. I saw one car in a ditch from the slick roads as I made my way to Detroit, but the BRZ seemed well-planted.

Once back in Chicago, Bruzek and two other editors found the BRZ to be a bit "squirrelly" on the new tires, but that was all on dry roads. News editor Jennifer Geiger was the first to get it in actual snow last week.

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"It did feel really squirrely to me when driving around town without snow. The traction control came on while accelerating away from a red light on dry pavement," Geiger said. "A bit of snow changed that — it felt way more solid and composed around town — didn't even notice any slip from a stop." We'll report on the driving experience in more bad weather — assuming it snows again in Chicago this year — as winter progresses.

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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David


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