2008 Cadillac CTS V6 DI: Shall we play a game?
December 23, 2008
At last count, 31 of you faithful readers have smacked Edmunds.com Advice Editor, Phil Reed for choosing to drive the summer tire-shod Infiniti FX50 to snowy Colorado recently.
Today, with a fresh couple of inches of snow on the ground here in Detroit, I decided to play a little game I've tentatively named, "Exactly how wrong was Phil?"
The Point: To determine, in something approximating controlled conditions, exactly how much worse are summer performance tires than all-season tires when driving on snow.
The Players: I happen to have at my disposal our long-term Cadillac CTS, which I think I've mentioned on several occasions wears half-worn all-season Michelin tires that aren't particularly good in the snow. I also have in the office garage a brand-spanking new Infiniti G37 sedan, which carries Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer performance tires with only about 1,000 miles on them. I know, I know, it's not apples to apples exactly. But it's the closest comparison that I could pull out of my, um, hat.
Cadillac CTS/Michelin all-season tire
Infiniti G37 sedan/Bridgestone summer tire
The Playing Field: The private roads around the Edmunds Detroit office in Southfield, MI (seen below from the14th floor).
The Procedure: Drive one lap around our monster office complex in each car while avoiding property and/or personal damage.
The Results: We took the Cadillac first, it being a known quantity. It successfully completed the roughly one-mile trip. It only really had trouble getting rolling from a stop. Its stability system intervened five times, but three of those were later in the loop where I was just goofing off, hanging the tail out for kicks. The Cadillac eventually made it up the final obstacle, the steep snow-covered ramp that goes from outside directly to the second floor of the parking garage.
The Infiniti rated a DNF. It simply could not manage the snowy ramp, no matter how much momentum we carried. After three attempts, under the watchful eye of building security, we relented and took an easier route into the garage. Theoretically given enough momentum we could have crested the ramp, but the utter lack of grip from the tires meant we couldn't possibly get enough speed in the run-up. And we're not sure we'd have wanted that much speed anyway. The Infiniti's noisy traction control system meted out tiny bits of wheel rotation such that with our foot to the floor we manage a top speed of 20 mph in about a 1/4-mile straight. Steering control was by wishful thinking. And the rear would slew sickeningly sideways near drainage grates, essentially trying to slide down the drain. Fail.
The conclusion: Let's just say, I'm very happy that I'm not driving a summer-tired sporty sport ute through Colorado right now. Possibly now, I will complain slightly less about the Cadillac's winter-weather performance. Possibly. --Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit