We've had a few snow scares recently and many local people were switching over to winter tires, so I decided it was a great time put mine on. In Calgary, the weather is so unpredictable, we could have a 6 inch dump of snow tomorrow with little warning.
After much research, and advice from the after-market parts manager at the large non-BMW dealership I work, I opted for Nokian Hakkapeliita R as my choice for winter tires. I got a great deal, with nearly $100 off retail per tire.
Before I continue, I must say that I know absolutely nothing about cars or tires. I love to drive cars, but when it comes to fixing them or changing things, I am about the most unqualified person for a tire review -- but I'll give it a go.
I wanted to use my stock 189 wheels as my winter set, and I will buy something a little more sporty next spring for my summer set; black VMR V710s, perhaps?. The thought of using steel wheels or something 'industrious' for 6 months per year was not appealing in the slightest.
Again on advice, I went with 225/40/R18s all around -- the skinnier tires work better in the snow, and I was told that they will stretch to fit nicely where the 255/35/18 rear summer tires once sat.
I had my service department install the tires -- we are not a BMW dealership, but given our size we sell a lot of used BMWs, Mercedes, and other European cars - we allegedly have the technicians who know what they are doing with our cars. I even instructed our service advisors to make sure somebody with experience works on my car.
Despite being a lowly computer programmer for this dealership, and others in our group, I have quite a high influence with our businesses, and provide lots of input with marketing, sales and the general direction we move. They'll look after me, surely!
Or not. Somebody in service, who shall remain nameless, decided to give my car to one of our apprentices to work on. He returned my car - with wheels absolutely covered in mechanics grease .. I wasn't impressed, but had some spare time so I cleaned them up after work. To my shock and horror, I removed the grease to reveal installation scratches - lots of them - on every wheel!
Needless to say, the service manager was notified - and has promised to get it fixed. They are not too bad, but can be seen easily if you look for them.
Anyway, on to the tires themselves.
I normally drive with the nannies disabled -- I dislike the throttle being cut at the most inopportune moments - and like to have control of my car. Also, for the record, my car is totally stock, bar a BMS drop-in and a roof spoiler. I've been driving for 17 years, and even with the nannies off, the 335i is quite a tame beast and easy to handle.
So as usual, I hold down the DTC button for a few seconds and set about on my merry way. Outside temperature was about -1oC (about 30oF), and the roads were dry and ice-free.
I was driving like a grandma to begin with to acquaint myself with my new Nokians, and immediately noticed that the ride was soft. Not just a little bit soft - but very soft, like riding on a big cushion of air. Not in a nice way, either. Where my summer Potenzas connected me to the road, these might as well have sent me up in a blimp.
Anyway, once the car was warmed up to operating temperature, I was on an empty road, stuck at a red light, so decided to give it a little gas when it went green.
And .. out the back goes, tires spinning like crazy! I shift up to second .. they are still spinning; and the back still wants to head anywhere other than forward. Shift up to third, and they are still spinning. So I ease off and resume granny-mode. During this interesting episode, it should be noted that this was a mildly aggressive launch, from about 1,800RPM with a smooth feathering of the clutch. Nowhere near a full WOT launch, however.
Thinking it was just a tire break-in issue, I continue testing. But 100km later, it has not improved in the least. I cannot launch from a stop without spinning the tires; Corollas and Minivans are leaving me in the dust from stop lights and I can't get any decent traction until somewhere in third gear. With traction control ON, it's even worse, more on this in a bit.
Remember, this is on a dry road - at temperatures these tires are supposed to excel. Before they were installed, I drove to work in the morning, -3oC, on my Summer Potenzas - with a dusting of snow on the road, and had no issues whatsoever.
However, with the Nokians, on acceleration from 0-100km, there is so much tire squirm, the car feels downright dangerous. I'm having to take corners so slow that lifted pickup trucks are tailgating me through the turn. Not good.
With all the electronic nannies enabled, the yellow warning light is on more than it's off - the throttle being cut so much that the car is a nightmare to drive. Sure - I can drive this car like a Civic, and it'll be fine - but thats not why I bought a 300hp/300tq car; especially since the winter tires are supposed to stay on until April.
Three days later, there is no improvement - and I have decided that these tires are simply too unsafe to use with this car. The rear simply wants to race ahead of the front even when trying a simple passing maneuver.
My service manager is going to attempt to get them returned, and has suggested that I go with Bridgestone Blizzaks instead, which were ironically my original choice. They apparently have much better dry-road performance -- something which the Nokians do not appear to have at all. He's a Subaru guy and says Nokians suck in our weather conditions - after all, Calgary is not quite the north pole..
I'm a little annoyed that our After-market manager would assure me that the Nokian Hakkas would be great performance tires on dry road, when it turns out they are pretty much a dedicated snow tire; and useless on anything else.
So we will see what happens next.
I've included a picture of the stance of the 335i with 225/40/R18s on the rear. Skinny? Absolutely. I think if I go with the Blizzaks, I'll go back to having 255/35/R18s. I'm willing to sacrifice a little winter peformance for cosmetic looks. I have a SUV I can use on the really bad days.
Finally, I should add that I was fully aware that winter tires would behave differently than my summer tires; but so far, these Nokians have transformed my safe, performing, 335i into a dangerous vehicle that cannot be driven any way other than with slow speed and extreme caution.
There is an outside chance that these Nokians will suddenly improve over the next day or two .. and if they do, I will be back eating humble pie.
Review/rant over! Cheers for reading