In August 2017, I started driving a new 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat as a daily driver, including during winter conditions. Once the road commission starts dumping down the rock salt, I stop driving my Challenger, but that usually doesn’t happen until some time in January. As a result, I spend quite a bit of time driving my 707-horsepower muscle car in freezing temperatures. Still, until late last month, I have only ever run three-season tires on my Dodge Challenger—three different sets of “summer tires” over the past 6 years, and all of them driven in temperatures well below 0°F.
I actually drove my Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat during a polar vortex, when we saw temperatures around -30°F. At -20°F, I could still get from 0 to 60 in the low 5-second range, while my stopping distance from 60 was 15-20 feet longer than normal. Engineers from the tire manufacturers warned me that driving with those tires in those sub-zero temperatures is not ideal and that it could cause accelerated wear and unusual damage to the rubber. Every time I have gotten a new set of tires, I have talked to the people at the tire shop and there was no sign of unusual wear on the tires that were coming off, but I am not advocating using summer-only tires in freezing weather.
When I have driven my Hellcat Challenger in freezing temperatures with the summer tires, I have always driven relatively gently, unless I was out in the middle of nowhere doing measured performance testing. While those tires can offer decent grip when warmed up, they tend to stay cold and hard, leading to diminished grip when cornering, braking and accelerating, so while I drive my Hellcat in the winter, I take it safe, to say the least. I enjoy the heated seats, the heated steering wheel, the remote start and the premium Harman Kardon sound system more than the monster power and once the heavy snow forces the state to dump road salt, I pack the Challenger away and drive my Ram 1500.
However, I was recently speaking to longtime friend and media colleague John Goreham, who has done some tire testing for Falken. He mentioned that Falken has a new all season tire and their website shows the tires being tested on a Dodge Challenger. I reached out to the folks at Falken, told them what I drive and what tires I have been using for the past few winters. Their team told me that their new Azenis FK460 A/S tires would perform just as well in warm weather as the three-season tires I have used over the past 6 years, but the Falken tires would outperform all of those other tires in colder temperatures.
To prove their point, Falken sent me a set of Azenis FK460 A/S for testing. Although they arrived in mid-April, we have seen freezing temperatures and a little snow here in Michigan. This has provided me with a great chance to test these all season tires in a setting that is very similar to the fall and early winter. We have had enough rain to wash away the winter road salt and other debris that accumulates during snow plowing, but plenty of 20°F road surfaces and even some light snow to make things slippery.
Like all Hellcat cars, my Dodge Challenger features the UConnect system with Performance Pages, which includes all sorts of performance measurements – including acceleration times, braking distances, a G-force meter and more. The Performance Pages app allows me to gather real world numbers when testing, and while the acceleration times from the on-board system may vary a bit from a laser timing system on a drag strip, this system provides a consistent measurement system for my tests.
Driving in temperatures of 28-31 degrees F, the Falken FK460 A/S got my Hellcat Challenger from a stop to 60 in 4.5 seconds. That was just coming to a stop an on empty stretch of road, and launching hard without any attempt to heat up the tires. With my past summer tires, to get into the 4-second range in freezing temperatures, I would have to find a section of roadway that was in the sun and I had to get the tires hot, but more often than not, freezing temps with the summer tires led to 5-second 0-60 times. For reference, my best 0-60 times on my previous summer tires was 3.8 seconds, on a warm fall day with clean, hot pavement.
Along similar lines, when cruising in second gear and hammering down with the summer tires in freezing temperatures, my Challenger would just roast the tires. To really use any power with the summer tires in freezing temps, I had to be in third gear and I had to be careful with the peddle. On the other hand, the Falken FK460 A/S tires allow me to really climb into the throttle hard at the top of second gear with some care, and third gear allows gobs more power application in the cold.
Finally, the other performance test that results in clear information on the street is the 60-0 braking distance. The in the best conditions with the factory tires, Hellcat Challengers can get stopped from 60mph in roughly 105-110 feet. In freezing temperatures with my summer tires, I have found that getting stopped from 60 takes around 130 feet. With the Falken FK460 A/S tires at 29F ambient temperature, my Hellcat Challenger got stopped from 60 in 118 feet. That 12-foot difference is about a car-length difference, which is fairly significant when you are stopping fast in traffic.
While I am comfortable performing acceleration and braking tests in the cold and snowy weather, I am not comfortable really pushing the handling G-loads to their capacity, but I have noticed one distinct aspect of normal daily driving in freezing temperatures where the Falken FK460 A/S tires really outshine all of my past summer tires. In freezing temperatures, when making tight turns around my driveway or in a parking lot, it is very common to feel the summer tires “skip” across the pavement. The rubber gets hard enough in the cold weather that rather than gripping the surface and moving the car how the driver expects, the tires will slide towards the outside of the turn. A good example is turning into or backing out of a parking spot in a tight garage with a smooth floor, as the front tires will almost feel like they are hitting little bumps – but they are actually sliding by small amounts. Mind you, this is a slow-speed issue, but it is impossible to miss at slow speeds and it shows the impact of cold air on summer tire rubber.
On the other hand, this doesn’t happen at all with the Falken FK460 A/S tires. In situations where my previous tires would annoyingly skip sideways at low speed (like when moving vehicles around in my driveway), the Falken tires clearly grip the cold pavement far better. I also find that I can apply more throttle on sweeping turns with these tires in cold air, but I have not pushed the car to the point of breaking traction under cornering to find the G-load capacity for these tires on cold pavement. However, I will be working to get those numbers in safer temperatures this summer.
The bottom line here is that the Falken FK460 A/S tires clearly outperform all of the summer/three-season tires I have had in the past. I expected them to be better, since they are made to handle these cooler temperatures, but the real world performance exceeds my expectations by a significant margin. The biggest test for these tires will come later this year, when temperatures rise, as I am curious to see if there is any decline in performance in the heat compared to summer tires.
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