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Cooper hears voices

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Cooper hears voices

”Good in snow, but not very good on wet or icy roads.”

”S/T2 needs a face-lift.”

”North of greater-Toronto needs a snow, studdable tire.”

”Blocky look is old looking.”

When Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. wanted to find out what its dealers thought about its winter tire offerings last year, it started its “Voice of the Customer” campaign. The dealers didn’t hold back.

And Cooper listened. The result is the new Weather-Master WSC, a premium, studdable winter tire designed for crossover vehicles and SUVs.

Compared to the Weather-Master S/T2, the WSC has superior snow handling; ice acceleration and braking; wet braking and handling; dry braking; “subjective” soft handling; and, all things being equal, tread life, according to the company’s testing. The S/T2, which is designed for passenger cars, has better dry handling capabilities.

The WSC (which stands for “Winter, Snow Confidence and Control”) is being marketed as a companion to the S/T2 (and, to a lesser extent, the Discoverer M&S), not a replacement for it.

The new tire initially will be available in 10 T-rated metric sizes. Four are XL sizes: 265/65R17, 205/50R17, 235/55R17 and 235/60R18. The other six are 18-inch sizes: 235/55R18, 245/60R18, 265/60R18, 215/55R18, 235/65R18 and 235/50R18.

Only one size, 235/55R17, is common to both the WSC and S/T2. “We’re trying to address missing holes,” says Jeff Schroeder, passenger, winter and UHP tire segment manager for Cooper’s North American Tire Division.

More sizes will be introduced in 2011; whether there will be any more sizes available to both Weather-Master lines is “undetermined,” according to Schroeder.

“The chances are very likely we’ll have S/T2 sizes for quite some time,” he says.

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Tread features

The WSC features a directional tread pattern, which offers better winter performance than an asymmetric pattern. It also has:

• 12 rows of studs, 132 in all;

• high density, micro-gauge, multi-angled sipes that stabilize each tread element and give the tire biting edges in all directions;

• patented, circumferential snow grooves integrated into the tread elements;

• a “snow flake indicator” in the outer grooves that the company says “provides a quick and easy view of tire wear.” (When the indicator is flush with the remaining tread, the tire is no longer considered a winter tire, according to Cooper.)

Produced using Cooper’s ventless technology, the tire has a premium tire look. Compared to the S/T2, the WSC also has enhanced sidewall aesthetics.

Bill Watkins, president of Moore’s Tire Sales Inc., an independent Cooper wholesale tire distributor in Owego, N.Y., describes the WSC as “more of a top-end line for crossover vehicles like the Lexus, BMW and Cadillac SRX. The S/T2 is not up to those vehicles’ appearance standards.”

The low-modulus tread compound is designed to remain flexible in extreme cold. However, the tread is fortified with “a high-modulus base stock” that Schroeder says stabilizes the tread for improved handling response. Silica in the compound helps with the tire’s wet, slush and ice grip.

Cooper tested the tire against the studdable Nokian Hakkapeliitta 5 — “an apples-to-apples comparison,” says Schroeder — the Firestone Winterforce and Kumho IZEN KW19.    ■

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