If you don’t need winter tires for your XC90 where you live, you can probably skip this post. Or, if you enjoy laughing at those of us who switch tires (and rims in my case) twice a year, maybe this post is for you. If you’re in the market for a set of snow tires, this will be one of the most complete, utterly subjective, non-scientific snow tire reviews you’ll have ever read.
After two years of winters here in Canada, I decided the odds were stacked against me and that the likelihood of a snowier-than-usual (and stupid-cold) winter was pretty decent. That meant scouting around for some decent snow tires, and possibly rims, to keep the XC90 safe during the winter.
After asking a few people I know online and IRL, Gislaved was a brand that had popped up slightly more than others. I’m not sure if that’s because the Volvo dealers in this area deal in that tire or what, but it was certainly suggested as one of the top winter tire brands available for the XC90.
Of course, there are a lot of questions when buying snow tires for the first time: Do I want to buy only the tires and pay someone to swap them twice a year? Is it worth it to buy a crappy set of rims so I can store the tires and install them myself twice a year? Should I buy new Volvo rims and use my current rims as winter rims?
Turns out, I found a set of Gislaved NordFrost 5 tires and Volvo rims that were bought at a dealership and used for ONE season. Well, they were used for three months, to be exact. Then the owner sold their Volvo. It was an XC60.
Unofficial and very subjective Gislaved NordFrost 5 road test #1: My icy road.
My road gets plowed when the city feels like it. It’s usually 3-4 days after a snowfall. I’m certain the city is hoping our snow melts by then, but what usually happens is the snow begins to melt…and then freezes into a semi-smooth glass runway over which there is little-to-no control in terms of stopping or steering. Unless, of course, you have a set of Gislaved NordFrost 5 like I do – and an XC90. Because I conducted my “test” before sunrise and there were no cars on the road, I was able to push my XC90 a little to see how the tires would grip the road.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tires gripped really well. Hard steering to the left and right didn’t cause any slippage or loss of control. Even semi-hard braking on the ice didn’t cause the ABS to engage.
Bonus test: The snowplow came by last night so I had to breach the 2’ snowbank at the end of my driveway going out (in reverse) and coming back. Both times, the Gislaved snow tires performed flawlessly.
Unofficial and very subjective Gislaved NordFrost 5 road test #2: Catching a snowbank on a narrow road.
I had to drive through an industrial area where the road narrows due to construction. The construction sign CLAIMS two cars can fit on this narrow passage going in opposite directions, but the reality is slightly different. It’s possible that the snow on the side of the road made it more narrow (and dangerous) for two cars. Of course, as I passed through with the XC90, there was an oncoming car that would have met an early demise had I not pulled deep into the snowbank on my side of the road.
Again, the Gislaved tires held for me. I felt no slipping at all and felt totally in-control. As for the person passing through the road at the same time as I was – I’m pretty sure they were in a little more fear.
Very subjective user review from my wife after her first trip to work with the tires:
“Made it…tires ROCK!”
With the saving I get on my insurance (I was quoted $2 to $3 per month) that means I’ll have paid these tires and rims off in 30.5 years. But the price of safety is obviously incalculable, so the savings really doesn’t matter much to me.
Review of my gently used Volvo rims that were originally bought from the dealer:
Ummmmmmmm look at the rims. They look amazing. They make my snow tires 1000% cooler. Very scientific, if you ask me.