Because the winters are getting milder and milder and the change is annoying, all-season tires are selling better and better. But are they a good choice? We put eight of the “all-rounders” to the test.
First freezing cold, then sweltering heat: We wanted to find out this year and put all-season tires to the test.
On test: tires for high-roof station wagons, vans and mid-size sedans
This time we tested eight 205/60 R16 all-season tires that fit many high-roof station wagons such as the Citroën Berlingo, vans such as the VW Sharan, and mid-size sedans such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
All-season tires enjoying growing popularity
We also wanted to know how the tires would perform on a warm summer’s day, and this time we conducted the wet and dry tests near Vienna in August. After all, the “All Seasons” had already proven in last year’s test that they can cope quite well with autumn and winter conditions.
At that time, however, we only had a small number with us for comparison purposes. But because they are selling better and better – ten percent more all-season tires were sold last year alone – we reversed the distribution this year and took only one reference tire each for summer and winter.
Summer tires can be a deadly hazard on snow and ice
Not surprisingly, the summer tire already fails the handling test because it can’t even get up a small incline on the test track. The Berlingo spins around its own axis and then slides downhill. Even when accelerating and braking on a perfectly flat track, the values are so poor that the tire scores exactly zero points. Therefore at this point once again the urgent warning: If it suddenly becomes cold, snow falls or over-freezing wetness threatens, summer tires are life-threatening. Even the shortest distance in built-up areas can become a mortal risk on wet or slushy roads in winter.
Lack of grip makes braking distances dangerously long
However, none of the all-season tires in the test performed as miserably as the summer specialist! However, the tires from Michelin, Nexen, and Bridgestone were disappointing on slippery roads. When accelerating and braking, the rubbers cannot build up any real grip despite their large number of sipes. In everyday use, this means in the best case that the ESP intervenes constantly and that halfway smooth progress is no longer conceivable; or it means that the braking distances become dangerously long despite ABS.
Even small inclines become a problem and curves a danger
You know the picture of the sudden onset of winter and the trucks that fail on the Kassel mountains? The Bridgestone-tired Berlingo struggles up a small incline on the test track in exactly the same way. The deficits also become clear in the technical part of the handling course. The test drivers complained about imprecise steering behavior on all three tires: Because the tires lack any feedback, cautious “driving like on eggs” is always the order of the day. The weak lateral control means that vehicles with appropriate tires can quickly leave the road on a winding country road and slide into oncoming traffic.
Intermediate result: The all-season tires of Bridgestone, Michelin and Nexen cannot convince on snow.
Conclusion: Bridgestone, Michelin and Nexen offer at best emergency running characteristics on snow, the limit range is so narrow that less experienced drivers would quickly lose control. Clearly: Hands off, at least when snow and ice threaten.
Fulda, Nokian and Continental almost show winter tire qualities
But that the generalists do not necessarily have to lose out on snow. And there is that, too: The all-season tire from Fulda is even superior to the winter tire on snow in terms of acceleration and braking, but not quite as easy to control as the winter specialist.
The tide turns in summer conditions
Nevertheless, the Fulda is not perfectly suitable as an all-season tire in the true sense. It does not perform well enough for that in our summer section. It lags behind on both wet and dry roads. The criticism: It offers little lateral control and can only be circled imprecisely through the course.
Overall, turn at summer temperatures, The Bridgestone so scolded on snow convinces with best values at the level of a summer tire. Michelin and Hankook also like dry asphalt, but are not in the top group in the wet. There the Goodyear is also in front, but its weaknesses on snow prevent a better overall ranking.
Test winner AllSeasonContact from Continental lives up to its name
The AllSeasonContact from Conti succeeds best in the “snow-wet-dry” triad. It brakes and steers more like a winter tire on the wet and like a mixture of summer and winter tires on dry asphalt, which is rather positive in this case. In aquaplaning, only the winter tire is better. Praise also from the handling crew: Overall, it is always easy to predict how the tire will react. However, there is still potential when braking on dry roads or during sudden load changes.
Those who opt for all-season tires have to make compromises
Conclusion: A mixture of three different tires would be ideal, and not just for our evaluation: The Fulda for the few days a year when it’s freezing cold and snowing, the Conti when it’s raining – no matter what the season. And the Michelin for dry roads. Three different profiles: That would be allowed, but the handling would certainly be underground. So the only compromise is to choose one and know the limitations, because most all-season tires can now keep up with good summer and winter tires – we just haven’t found the one that can do it all this year.