Subaru’s all-wheel drive system may have huge advantages, but many of them can be eliminated when the snow starts falling and the roads get icy. No matter how high-tech your drivetrain, only the tires touch the ground and if they’re not up to the task, well… you might wind up in a ditch. Or in a fender bender. Or just stuck in your own driveway after the plow goes by.
How embarrassing. Especially if you own a Subaru.
So winter tires really are a must-have for anyone in a northern climate. They don’t just help in deep snow either. There are numerous different kinds of winter tires built for all sorts of different purposes, so it’s important to get the right ones for you.
Do You Need Winter Tires?
It’s important to remember that winter tires are not just snow tires. They are engineered with a special compound that offers better grip than all-seasons below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it could be a perfectly clear day, but on the cold side, and your all-seasons can start sliding around, making for unsafe driving conditions – even when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.
Best Winter Tire for Subaru Outback
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2
We genuinely love these Blizzak’s. A relatively recent addition to the lineup, they are a beast in the snow.
The densely packed and extra-wide center tread section of triangles produces a massive surface area to provide grip on snow covered roads, while the siping (those little zig zag etches cut into the tread blocks) running in every direction means you have traction in every direction.
On the road you notice that they just provide an incredibly stable ride on snow packed roads, respond better to inputs and don’t dart around as much or get pulled around by ruts in the snow.
The siping even runs up the shoulder blocks, offering added grip in cornering while in deep snow – something you just don’t see elsewhere.
Traction on ice or clear roads is good, but not class leading. Still, it’s enough that we think this is the best well-rounded winter tire.
If there are other drawbacks, they include a less responsive drive in the dry compared to some tires, plus water and slush evacuation could be better.
And for what you get, they’re even reasonably priced.
Best Winter Tire for Subaru Outback (Alternative)
Michelin X-Ice Snow
A close runner-up to the Blizzaks is Michelin’s X-Ice Snow. An update to the original X-Ice tire our critique of that product was that it lacked grip in deep snow – while it certainly did deliver on ice traction.
Michelin’s new FlexIce 2.0 compound uses microscopic unevenness in the contact patch to create traction.
There’s plenty of siping on the tread blocks and Michelin has chosen to include two different types of this feature. One is a conventional sipe, while the other has small bumps inside the sipes. This means the tire doesn’t flex as much, therefore retaining more stable and responsive driving feel in dry or wet conditions. Essentially, it removes a lot of the ponderous flex you feel when driving most winter tires.
Another key upgrade to this tire is that the spaces between the tread blocks have been increased. This helps with water and slush evacuation and limits hydroplaning.
If you don’t think you really need the extra grip for driving in snow, or you live somewhere that’s colder but doesn’t really get a lot of snow, then these might be the best choice.
Best Run-Flat Winter Tire for Subaru Outback
Bridgestone Blizzak LM001 RFT
Another top performance from Bridgestone, what makes these tires unique and earns them a spot on our list is that they’re also run flats.
Overall winter grip isn’t quite at the level of the DM-V2s but as a run flat tire you can drive up to 50 miles at speeds of up to 50 mph on a completely flat tire.
Known as a performance winter tire, the LM001 offers higher speed ratings. It also delivers better on-road driving dynamics with better outright handling and more responsive steering.
A directional tire the sipes run in different directions, while the overall v-shaped pattern is ideal for forcing away water or slush, helping prevent hydroplaning.
Best Studdable Winter Tire for Subaru Outback
General Altimax Arctic 12
If you need more traction than a winter compound and Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive can provide then there’s really only one next step: studded tires.
The General Altimax Arctic 12 combines numerous winter features plus it comes ready to accept metal studs for next-level traction, especially on hard-packed ice or snow covered roads.
The directional tread patter with a wide center area gives stability on snow covered roads and does a great job of evacuating slush. Siping on the center section runs diagonally to help with traction when turning, while the exterior tread blocks feature sipes that run horizontally.
The design and compound have also been optimized to limit premature wear – often a critique of winter tires.
Overall, these tires deliver the extreme grip of a studded winter tire at a surprisingly affordable pricepoint.