In Quebec, winter tires are legally required on passenger vehicles from December through April each year. That would explain why I found myself at the snowy Circuit ICAR racetrack near Montreal to test out General Tire’s latest winter tire, the Altimax Arctic 12.
Intended for passenger cars, compact crossovers, and minivans, the Altimax Arctic 12 is designed with new rubber chemistry and a flatter contour to offer better grip on snow and ice than the similarly named tire (minus the numerals) it replaces. The tire is also studdable for improved ice performance in municipalities that allow its use. General Tire says the new Arctic 12 should last longer than its predecessor, with at least three or four winter seasons expected of them.
Driving the latest front-drive 2017 Ford Fusions, Escapes, and Focus hatchbacks on an ice rink, an autocross circuit, and a slalom course, we tested the Arctic 12 against Firestone Winterforce tires, an older tire that’s slated to be replaced by the Winterforce 2 in time for next winter.
Both tire sets accelerated on ice and snow competently, as long as we were gentle with the throttle. Both performed well under braking, with the Fords perhaps slightly quicker to activate the ABS system with the Firestones than the Generals, signifying less grip. Through icy and snowy corners, neither winter tire had very good road feel, as you would expect. The Arctic 12 had a touch more bite going into corners, which made them a bit less prone to understeer, but the tires were generally (heh) pretty evenly matched.
Next, I tested a studded example of the Altimax Arctic 12 on a Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally car. Let me just say that driving a rally car with a brave, French-speaking Québécois instructor sitting shotgun and yanking the handbrake is a terrible way to test tires. I spent more time thinking about not plowing the Subaru into snowbanks (a futile endeavor) than critically evaluating traction. My bad.
The new General Tire Altimax Arctic 12 will hit dealerships this summer, just in time for the coming snow season. You can expect to pay about $50 USD to $120 USD per tire, depending on the size required. That’s pretty cheap, all things considered, giving you less of an excuse to scurry on all-season tires through the next blizzard-filled winter.