Just a few years ago everything was clear and simple: in the summertime, under the scorching sun, motorists were supposed to be driving on summer tires, while in the wintertime you were supposed to be switching on winter tires featuring numerous sipes and made of frost-resistant tread compound.
Today, however, more and more tires are launched on the market, which are not only «designed» for year-round use, but do indeed claim to offer superior performance both in winter and summer conditions. The demand for all-season tires is growing steadily along with the supply, and their market share is now about 20%, in spite of a huge number of skeptics.
The all-season tires save your time, money, and spare room, because they cancel out the necessity of the seasonal tire swap and having to store the other set of tires. Is it true, however, that the all-season tires come close in terms of their reliability and performance to their specialized seasonal counterparts? Are they just as safe? The expert team of the German motoring association ADAC, which conducted a test of all-season tires in size 235/55 R17, is adamant: none of the seven tested models is perfect for all kinds of weather, and their performance is still a compromise.
List of models tested:
- Bridgestone Weather Control A005
- Continental AllSeasonContact
- Goodyear Vector 4Season Gen-2
- Michelin CrossClimate+
- Nokian Weatherproof
- Uniroyal AllSeasonExpert 2
- Vredestein Quatrac Pro
The tests were performed in the winter and in the summer of 2020, the test car being a Ford Kuga. The tire size, selected for the test, fits most midsize SUVs and minivans, such as Audi A7/Q3, Ford Galaxy/S-Max/Tourneo Coustom, VW Phaeton/Tiguan/T6, Opel Astra GTC/Cascada, Jaguar XF, and Mercedes S and V classes.
|Ford||Galaxy, Kuga, S-Max, Tourneo Coustom|
|Opel||Astra GTC, Cascada|
|Volvo||S60, V60, XC70|
|VW||Phaeton, Tiguan, T6|
Comparing all-season, summer, and winter tires
One can tell winter tires by numerous sipes meant to ensure sufficient grip on snow and other slippery winter surfaces. They are made of comparatively softer rubber compound than the summer tires, which ensures more handling stability and shorter stopping distances at freezing temperatures.
Summer tires do not have miniature sipes, but their wide circumferential drainage grooves quickly and efficiently dispel water from the contact area, accounting for the tire’s grip on wet pavement, while the minimum number of rigid tread blocks ensures driving safety even during emergency situations.
Being some sort of a transitional option, the all-season models combine the tread design features of both winter and summer tires. In addition, the rubber compound that they are made of must stay effective in a wide temperature range from -30°C to +40°C, which even in theory means that such tires will be a compromise falling short of achieving the results of specialized winter and summer models. At least, this is the conclusion that the ADAC experts came to, looking at the results of the all-season tire test 2018. Has the situation improved, however, for the all-season models in 2020?
It should be noted that in winter conditions all-season tires can be used if they are marked either with an «M+S» sign (manufactured before 2018, valid until 2024) or a Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) sign, confirming their compliance with legislative and situational requirements for winter tires.
ADAC Test Results
Lack of dry traction
On wet pavement, the all-season models Continental AllSeasonContact (3.6 b.), Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2 (3.8 b.), Nokian Weatherproof (3.9 b.), and Uniroyal AllSeasonExpert 2 (4,3 b.) demonstrated satisfactory results, but were not as convincing on dry pavement.
Fitted with these tires, the Ford Kuga felt a little bit loose under high air and pavement temperatures. The ADAC experts emphasize that you will hardly feel comfortable driving on these tires down the highway, because you will need to make frequent steering adjustments.
Poor performance on snow
If you live in a region where snowfalls occur rather rarely, or you can do without a car in the wintertime at all, you should probably consider the following two all-season tire models with a summer bias. The first such model, Bridgestone Weather Control A005 (5.4 b.), ensures decent dry performance and is particularly good on wet pavement, quite holding its own against top summer tires. Its snow performance, however, can only be qualified as average, compared to the other tested models.
Another all-season tire with a summer bias is Michelin CrossClimate+ (3.9 b.). This tire is excellent on dry pavement, while its wet performance was only rated as satisfactory. Still, however, this tire does ensure adequate traction, even though the ADAC experts still had questions about its braking performance and handling response on «white» roads.
The performance by Vredestein Quatrac Pro (5.2 b.) on wet pavement left the ADAC experts satisfied, but on dry and especially snow-covered roads this tire has multiple issues, which significantly narrows the scope of its use. Even in comparison with the other all-season models
The results of this all-season tire test, conducted in size 235/55 R17 by ADAC experts, yet again go to show that all-season tires are still a compromise. None of the tested all-season models can become a serious rival to a good winter tire on snow in the wintertime, or a good summer tire on dry pavement on a hot midsummer day. However, for the drivers who live in a region with rarer snowfalls, or who can afford to leave their vehicle in the garage in case of doubt all-season tires can still be an economical alternative to specialized seasonal winter and summer tires.
It is also obvious that in comparison to summer tires, all-season models are a better choice for year-round operation.
If you have opted for all-season tires, make sure to swap them regularly from the rear axis to the front one (and the other way around) to ensure even wear.