After completing a series of comparison winter tire tests of the 2020 season, the Motor magazine experts focused on all-season tires. Which manufacturer was able to design the best-balanced tire for various weather conditions? In order to answer this question, the experts from the Polish motoring weekly purchased from independent tire dealers about a hundred all-season tires of different brands in size 205/55R16, which can be fitted on such popular passenger cars as Audi A3, Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Renault Megane, Skoda Octavia, and Volkswagen Golf, and tested their performance on snow, as well as on wet and dry pavements.
The comparison test of all-season tires in size 205/55R16, performed by the Polish car magazine Motor (#1–2, 2021), involved:
- Bridgestone Weather Control A005;
- Continental AllSeasonContact;
- Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2;
- Hankook Kinergy 4S² H750;
- Kormoran All Season;
- Michelin CrossClimate+;
- Yokohama BluEarth-4S AW21.
The snow tests were performed at a military airfield in the Swiss Alps; the performance of the tires on asphalt was evaluated at a test facility in Germany.
While the usual practice for the latest winter tire models was to improve on the performance of their predecessors by a few percent, according to the Motor experts, the designers of the latest all-season tires were able to make a real breakthrough. The results of the past test are vivid proof of that.
As recently as a few years ago, just a handful of companies produced all-season tires. And, to be sure, the all-season tires could not seriously compete with specialized seasonal tires, particularly winter ones. Today, the tables have turned — all-season and all-weather tires are now produced by virtually every major manufacturer, and the capabilities of these tires are truly impressive.
This primarily has to do with the development of technologies for the production of rubber compounds. The chemical composition of modern compounds allows the production of tires, whose performance is up to the level of both specialized winter and summer models. Still, however, this task is far from easy, and only the top tire makers can handle it.
The key to success in the production of all-season tires is finding a reasonable compromise between snow grip and wet/dry performance, which was thought to be impossible only a few years ago.
For a good all-season tire, the differences in the performance on various types of surfaces must be as little as possible. This season, the best companies to find a «happy medium» were Continental and Michelin. Both tires from these manufacturers, involved in the comparison tests, were perfectly balanced, and, although they did not often win in many of individual test disciplines, they were ultimately able to score the highest points. This means that, due to a stable level of performance, these tires will not bring the driver any unpleasant surprises in any weather conditions.
Bridgestone and Goodyear also showed decent results, but the former scored the highest points on dry and wet pavement, virtually failing the snow test. On the other hand, the Goodyear model, which was very good on snow, delivering performance on a par with a good winter tire, falls short on asphalt.
Then come the Yokohama and the Hankook models. And, even though their performance falls short of that of the leaders, they are still predictable and still ensure the required level of driving safety. It is important to note that the Japanese and Korean all-season models demonstrated virtually identical performance on all types of road surfaces. According to subjective evaluations from the Motor testers, these tire models feel like well-balanced ones.
The bottom line in the tournament bracket was occupied by a Kormoran tire, which comes as no surprise. After all, this was the only budget tire on test. The performance demonstrated by this all-season tire of Polish origin was not up to the cut — the tire only provides a minimum required safety level. The only strong side of this tire is its affordable price.
And now let’s take a look at some of the test results on different road surfaces.
The snow test
The snow braking was done from a speed of 50 km/h. The final result was the average stopping distance in a series of seven braking sessions, excluding extreme values.
The acceleration time from 0 to 20 km/h without slipping was measured with the ASR (anti-slip regulation) system enabled. In this test, it is the tread compound that makes all the difference.
The traction was measured with the traction control disabled with a 10–60% slipping of the wheels. In this test, it is the tread pattern that matters most.
The race against time was performed on a smooth snow-covered track 1,450 meters long. During the driving, the test pilot was evaluating the tire’s traction, braking, and cornering grip.
The wet test
The braking test was performed on a track covered with a layer of water 1mm deep. The braking distance was measured from a speed of 100 km/h.
The straight hydroplaning resistance test consisted in determining the speed, at which the slipping of a 9mm water layer achieved 15%.
The indicator for lateral hydroplaning resistance was the maximum lateral acceleration with the water layer being 10mm.
Lateral traction was evaluated on a circular track and was measured by the level of maximum centrifugal force, at which the pilot was still able to retain control of the car.
During the race against time on a wet track 1,835 meters long the test driver was evaluating the tires’ handling performance.
The dry test
The braking distance was measured from a speed of 100 km/h. Rolling resistance was measured in a laboratory on a drum-type stand. Dry traction was measured during a race against time on track 1,650m long. The handling performance of the tires was rated by the test pilot by 13 parameters (one of them being the consistency of response to a sudden release of the gas pedal). The external noise was measured at 50 and 80 km/h speeds with the engine turned off.
The comparison tests of all-season tires do give us an opportunity to compare their performance and choose the best model, but many drivers are asking themselves just how good these tires are compared to dedicated winter models. In order to dispel all possible doubts about this, the experts from Poland’s «Motor» included in the test a set of top-notch winter tires Goodyear UltraGrip 9+, whose performance was later compared to that of the winner of the all-season tire test, the Continental AllSeasonContact model:
This comparison proves that modern all-season tires ensure a rather high level of driving safety in any weather conditions. At the same time, all-season tires, although ever so little, still fall short of winter tires on snow, but are quite comparable with friction tires on wet pavement, and surpass them in all of the dry disciplines.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that the number of advocates of all-season tires grows by the year. They do help you save extra time and money otherwise spent on the seasonal tire swap and storing the idle set of tires. Nevertheless, in the realities of a harsh winter or a scorching summer, the maximum level of driving safety will still only be ensured by specialized seasonal summer and winter tire models.
Result summary and final classification:
The expert conclusion
The tires that scored the top four lines of the tournament bracket are top-quality products that deliver outstanding performance and ensure a high level of driving safety. The best balanced of them were the Continental and Michelin models. The Bridgestone model is still better on dry and wet pavement of city streets, while the Goodyear model shows itself to the best advantage on a snow-covered road, its performance coming close to that of specialized winter tires.