Review of Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1

Achilles Heel

Bridgestone's Blizzak DM-V1 is a winter tire designed primarily for SUV's, light trucks, and crossover-type vehicles. It incorporates a number of technological features from the Blizzak WS70 winter tire for cars, although not the newer and even better Blizzak WS80. When it comes to winter tires, Bridgestone, the third-largest tire manufacturer in the world, is locked in constant competition with both Nokian and Michelin in a three-way dogfight for the pride of place in the first tier, with the rest of the pack howling just a bit behind.

Winter tires for SUV-class vehicles are something of a tricky beast, as most SUV's have some form of All-Wheel Drive that tends to give drivers confidence somewhat in excess of the actual handling capabilities of an extremely heavy vehicle in snow or ice. SUV Winter tires, therefore, have to have the muscular capability to get a lot of bite and a lot of lateral traction to overcome the weight of the vehicle. The DM-V1 handles this task extremely successfully, in my opinion.

Pros

  • Spectacular grip on ice.
  • Excellent lateral grip.
  • Excellent recovery from breakaway.
  • Excellent stopping power.

Cons

  • Specialized winter rubber compound only comprises 55% of tread.

Technology

Multicell Z Compound
Bridgestone uses a highly specialized tread compound which is blown onto the green tire as a kind of foam before the tire is cured. On the WS70 and WS80 car tires, this is called Tube Multicell Compound, while on the DM-V1 it's called Multicell Z.

Both compounds are enhanced with a silica-silane mixture as a filler, which both lowers rolling resistance, increases wet grip and increases the flexibility of the rubber in very cold weather. Both compounds leave tiny bubbles, or “tubes” throughout the tread, which continually opens up as the tread wears and provide both microscopic biting edges against ice and tiny voids which suck up water on the surface of the ice or road, providing better contact and grip.

This compound is a major reason why the Blizzak line is so incredibly effective on the ice. The only drawback is that the compound only takes up 55% of the tread depth, for technical reasons which Bridgestone will absolutely not talk about. After 55% of the tread is gone, what is left is a standard all-season rubber compound, which is not nearly as effective on snow or ice.

Compound Tread Indicator
In addition to the usual tread depth indicators to let drivers know when the tire has reached 2/32” of tread and must be replaced, the Blizzak DM-V1 also includes tread depth indicators at 50% depth to let drivers know when the Multicell compound is “reaching the end of its ability to provide beneficial snow traction.”

3D Wash Board Z Sipes
Zigzag siping patterns present multiple biting edges to the surface of snow or ice, while the internal 3-dimensional topology of the siping cut prevents tread blocks from flexing too much, decreasing both treadwear and “squishiness.”

Center Multi-Z Pattern
The internal band of tread blocks is set at a 45-degree angle to the spin of the tire. This technology is now used on most top-tier snow tires and really seems to work wonders at improving lateral snow grip.

Low Void-To-Tread Ratio
The DM-V1 features smaller grooves to increase contact patch and snow grip while using more circumferential and crossing grooves to keep water evacuation capability.

Performance

I was deeply impressed by the performance of the DM-V1 when I had the chance to drive them at Bridgestone's Winter Driving School during the WS80 launch in Colorado. Like the WS80, their performance on sheer ice is simply unmatched. On the twisty, turny packed-snow course they were sheer fun to drive. They have a beefy lateral grip that stands up to the weight of an SUV and makes what should be an easy breakaway into a challenge. The lateral grip is highly progressive, letting you know when they are nearing their limit, and they are very controllable even past the limit into a full-on slide. The tires want to go straight and know when they are going straight, recovering from slides with an authoritative snap back into line.

Steering is precise and forgiving. They bite very hard on turn-ins - understeer was practically nonexistent, and even avoidance maneuvers could be performed at a higher speed than is probably safe. Linear grip, particularly stopping power, is extraordinary. These tires match up extremely well to the capabilities and drawbacks of SUV's in winter conditions, and were head and shoulders above any of the other tires we drove on that day.

The Bottom Line

When these tires are new, I consider them to be nearly the equal of Nokian's Hakka R2 SUV, which is, with all due respect to Bridgestone, still the very best SUV Winter tire on the planet. The DM-V1 can have the pride of second place, edging out Michelin's Latitude X-Ice Xi2 in terms of pure winter performance. Considering Nokian's general lead with regard to anything winter-related, as well as Michelin's hard-charging approach to winter tires, that's not at all a bad place to be.

My only problem with the Blizzak DM-V1 is the same as my problem with the Blizzak WS70, and now the WS80 – the 55% solution is frankly a half-crippling issue. It's basically like having a fantastic snow tire with only half the tread depth of any other snow tire because once the Multicell compound is gone the winter performance drops off dramatically. It's screamingly frustrating to me, because dammit these are great tires, but they're quite literally half the tires they should be.

So while I would rank the Blizzak DM-V1 above the Latitude in terms of pure winter performance, in terms of overall quality, the Latitude takes back second place, and that's a real shame for Bridgestone. But it's still true, as it has always been, that the competition just pushes everybody to get better.

Available in 61 sizes from 215/70/15 to 285/45/22