Review of the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80

King Of Ice, and a Whole Lot More.

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Bridgestone's Blizzak WS80. Bridgestone USA, Inc.

When I reviewed the Blizzak WS70 years ago I said, in essence, that it was good but not quite great. On the one hand, the basic winter performance was excellent, especially on sheer ice, where Blizzak has always been among the very best. On the other hand, dry road performance was somewhat “squishy” and the tire seemed to get rather high treadwear. But my biggest problem was that the special Tube Multicell Compound that gave the tire much of its great performance only comprised about 60% of tread depth, due to the manufacturing limitations of a process that Bridgestone will not describe in detail, but seem to involve blowing the compound onto a green tire as a kind of semi-foam.

In addition, the WS70 is an elder statesman among the winter tire lineup. Released years ago, it doesn't have the advantage of much of the revolutionary winter tire advances that have been sending shockwaves through the industry. So I was very excited to see that Bridgestone was launching the next generation.

Technology

Optimized Footprint – The WS80 is specially shaped to optimize the tire's footprint and evenly distribute pressure across the tread for better grip and better water or slush evacuation.

Next-Gen Tube Multicell Compound – The specialized Tube Multicell Compound, which features tiny voids throughout the tread still comprises only slightly more than half of the tread depth, however for the WS80 Bridgestone has added a “hydrophilic” (water-loving) coating, which allows the voids to suck up even more water.

3D Zigzag Sipes – Zigzag siping patterns present multiple biting edges to the surface, while the internal 3-dimensional topology of the siping cut prevents tread blocks from flexing too much, decreasing both wear and “squishiness.”

Angled Tread Blocks – 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.

Increased Block Edges – The WS80 has smaller shoulder blocks, which increases the biting edges of the blocks by 20% as well as increasing lug channels.

Bridgestone says that this increases overall grip by 10%. The shoulder blocks have a small sipe running parallel to the tire that is 3D-cut to improve lateral stability.

Bite Particles – Much like other top-tier winter tires, the WS80's tread compound contains microscopic “bite particles” which add grip on sheer ice. Bridgestone will not say what these particles are, only that they are not walnut shells.

Micro-Texture Technology – The surface of the tread is artificially roughened for that last iota of grip.

Performance

First things first – I'm told that Bridgestone has heard some customer concerns that working to improve snow performance might compromise the spectacular ice performance that has long been the hallmark of the Blizzak line. I can state absolutely that those concerns are groundless. Repeated runs on the sheer ice of the local hockey rink proved unquestionably that the Blizzak is still the King Of Ice. Straight-line acceleration and braking on sheer ice beat the other tires by a Colorado mile.

But as I've said before, the only people who actually drive on ice rinks are tire testers and Zamboni operators. The real test is how the tire performs in mixed snow and ice conditions, and this is where the WS80 very clearly improves on its predecessor.

The most obvious, in-your-face improvement is in lateral snow grip, which is quite simply superlative. Whether entering a turn or recovering from an induced slide, these tires catch at the snow like Velcro hooks, engaging with an amazing amount of authority and fighting for every last iota of grip. Braking was also noticeably excellent.

The tires feel quite firm but very smooth on a variety of surfaces, with very little play in the sidewalls. Steering is precise with no hint of squishiness, although we could not have found a non-snow covered patch of pavement anywhere near Steamboat Springs to test clear road performance.

The Bottom Line

The WS80 is a clear improvement over its predecessor, taking advantage of a large number of technological leaps forward that have been going on since the WS70 was introduced.

Bridgestone has taken many of the best of these leaps and applied them to its own technological leap forward to make a tire that is more than the sum of its parts. Blizzak fans need have no fear that the King Of Ice has lost a step in its rightful domain – it has not. Instead, it has taken a big step forward in terms of pure-snow and real-world performance that keeps the new Blizzak among the very best of winter tires.