Use winter performance tires on that '96 Impala
SS by Paul Brand (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/7/96)
Q. I have a '96 Impala SS equipped with P255-50ZR B.F.
Goodrich Comp/TA radials on 17-inch wheels. Even though these
tires have a mud and snow (M&S) rating, I would like to know if
purchasing winter tires will improve safety and performance. If
so, what size wheels and tires do you recommend?
A. Lucky you! I wonder if this will be the last of Detroit's
true muscle cars - Corvette motor, four-wheel antilock disc
brakes, performance handling package, trick shocks, big wheels
and tires and all the goodies. Maybe you should park this beauty
during the winter.
If you can't store your Impala, I definitely think you'll get
better winter traction with narrower tires. Yes, Pirelli makes a
17-inch winter tire, but it costs more than $250 - each! Your
best answer is to step down one size in wheel diameter, and mount
an appropriate winter performance tire.
Mike Flanagan at Twin City Tires in Bloomington has a world
of experience in finding the right winter tire for performance
vehicles. He recommends a set of 16-inch wheels in a 6- to
He suggested several winter performance tires you could mount
on these wheels, including Goodyear's Eagle M&S, Bridgestone's
Blizzak and Pirelli's W210. Several specific 16-inch tire sizes
might work in terms of fender clearance and overall tire diameter
- we don't want to fool the car's computers, do we?
Depending on the specific winter tire, you should focus on
tire sizes in the P215-60/16, P215-65/16 and P225-60/16 range.
These narrower tires, with their winter tread compounds and
patterns, have approximately the same outside diameter as the
17-inchers, and will minimize the handicap of high horsepower,
light rear end and rear drive in slippery conditions.
As always, the key to winter driving safety isn't so much the
car or tire - it's the driver. As long as you don't overdrive
the available traction and vehicle/ tire combination, you're not
likely to have a big problem.