Update 5th January 2016 - Here is our video overview of the test. The full test can still be found below
The UK climate represents a difficult challenge for car tyres. Warm enough to require a tyre that works well at higher temperatures, but not warm enough to make a summer tyre the best choice year round.
Until recently, tyres have fallen into three distinct categories: summer, all season and winter tyres. Traditionally, all season tyres have been developed from a winter tyre origins, which give them excellent snow performance but can impact dry and wet performance, especially in the warmer months. This year, Michelin have released the CrossClimate, which if the marketing is to be believed, promises to be a second type of all season tyre, one which started life as a summer tyre and has been gifted winter capabilities.
Is a summer and winter tyre combination the only safe option? Has the second generation Goodyear all season moved the game on? Can the new Michelin CrossClimate live up to the marketing hype? That's what we're here to find out.
In order to work out which, if any, type of tyre can be used year round in the uk climate, we've selected the best available from each category.
|For the summer tyre we've selected the excellent Michelin primacy 3, which won the 2015 ADAC tyre test, and is one of the few tyres which really manages to balance wet grip with wear.|
|The all season tyre is represented by the recently released second generation Goodyear Vector 4Season Gen-2. The original version of the tyre was pretty much default all season tyre, winning nearly every test it featured in thanks to a strong wet and snow performance, and the new version has already won the 2015 Auto Bild all season test.|
|The CrossClimate is of course the new Michelin CrossClimate. Michelin have asked people not to call the CrossClimate an all season tyre, but that's exactly what we're testing it as. The balance of qualities have been moved away from snow and ice handling, and towards dry braking, which counts for a lot more of "all seasons" drivng in the UK.|
|For the winter tyre, we've selected the Continental WinterContact TS850. If you've done any winter tyre research over the last few years you'll have come across this tyre, it wins nearly every test it features in.|
We'll be testing all the tyres in 205/55 R16 on 2015 Skoda Octavias. Where possible we've got 94V XL tyres, however the Continental winter was only available in 91H.
Due to the simpler than usual goal of this tyre test, we're sticking to the key measurements. Objective braking will be a full abs brake from 60 to 5 mph in the dry and 50 to 5 mph in the wet. Each test is repeated a minimum of 6 times then an average taken of all the runs. Dry and wet handling is timed against the clock, and subjective handling takes into account the comfort, steering feel and balance of the car. The wet tests were tested at 16c air temperature, and the dry tests at 18c, both at MIRA. Due to the nature of the winters we experience in the UK being characterised by short, sparrodic snow falls, we just wanted to make sure the tyres could get us up a snow covered hill, and stop us safely on the way down, so there were no objective measurements for these tests which took place inside Tamworth snowdome.
So, what do the results tell us? The snow tests were the simplest tests performed, and had the easiest to understand results. All three non-summer tyres outperformed the summer tyre in both snow traction and braking buy a huge margin. At lower speeds, the gap between the CrossClimate, all season and winter tyres was negligible, and while we're certain the Goodyear all season would outperform the CrossClimate in snow and ice handling, and the Continental would easily outperform both of them, for the few days of light snow ad slush we see in the UK, we're happy the CrossClimate will get you safely up and down those ungritted hills many of us live on, and to the main road where you can continue your journey.
In the wet, the margins are much smaller, with less than 5% separating the best and the worst tyres on test.
Under wet braking, the summer tyre bests the CrossClimate, stopping in an average of 33.97 meters compared to 34.74 for the CrossClimate. The Continental winter tyre finishes in 3rd place, stopping in 34.82 meters, and the Goodyear all season finishes last, but still under 2 meters away from the summer tyre at 35.54 meters.
During the wet handling tests, the order is dramatically changed. The lap times are again very close, with just over two seconds separating the four tyres, but this time the Continental winter tyre proves to be the fastest on test, and also the best subjectively with a surprisingly strong turn in, mid corner grip and an excellent overall balance. The CrossClimate finishes a close second place, less than a second behind the Continental and equally as close subjectively, while the Goodyear all season takes third place, a further four tenths behind the CrossClimate and on par subjectively. Surprisingly the summer tyre finished in last place in both raw time, and subjectively. The summer tyre was over two seconds slower than the winning winter tyre, and while the summer tyre had the best initial turn in and steering feel, it proved to be a much more difficult tyre at the limit, with a snappy balance meaning there was far more correcting of the car mid corner - not something you'd want on a cold wet winters morning.
In the dry, the results change again. As expected, the summer tyre wins both dry braking and dry handling, both objectively and subjectively. The shortest braking distance and fastest lap time of the summer tyre were backed up by having the sharpest turn in, strongest braking performance, highest level of feedback and a really beautiful balance which allowed you to play with the car mid corner. The CrossClimate made good on its promise of being a "summer tyre with winter capabilities", greatly outperforming the all season and winter tyre matching the summer tyre in laptime, and subjectively feeling much like the summer tyre just with a little more understeer in the balance, and having a higher level of noise suppression and comfort.
In dry handling, the all season and winter tyre fared surprisingly well on raw pace, with the Continental winter tyre finishing in third place 1.5 seconds behind the summer, and the Goodyear all season finishing fourth, a further 0.05 seconds behind the Conti. Where the gap was close objectively, the subjective difference was far greater. The Continental winter scored better than the Goodyear all season, and while it was a little slower to turn in than the summer and CrossClimate, the steering loaded up nicely and it proved to be a little more stable mid corner than the Goodyear. Turning and braking was where both these heavily siped tyres had issue, with the Continental requiring a much more considered approach to your braking points and the Goodyear almost refusing to turn the car under heavy braking, making corner entry an interesting issue on faster parts of the circuit.
The biggest difference in our test was dry braking, and as we discovered during the dry handling lap, the all season and winter tyre struggled to get the car stopped compared to the summer and CrossClimate. From 60mph, the summer tyre stopped the car in 36.20 meters, and the CrossClimate was within 2% of the summer, stopping the car at 36.88 meters. The third placed tyre, the Goodyear all season, took over 5 meters further than the crossclimate which equated to a 15% longer braking distance, and the Continental winter stopped another meter further, totally 18% behind the summer.
So what can we take from this test? The margins have proven surprisingly close in all but dry braking, where the CrossClimate highlights its different approach to coping with the UK conditions year round. While it's undoubtedly weaker than the Continental winter and Goodyear all season in snow and ice performance, it's close enough to the winter tyre, and far enough ahead of the summer tyre to make it safe and usable year round in any weather in the milder parts of the UK. The real highlight of the CrossClimate is as Michelin have marketed it, it feels like a summer tyre during the summer months, and doesn't sacrifice dry braking when compared to a summer tyre. For this reason, it would be our choice if you had to run one tyre year round in the south of the UK.
The Continental winter tyre is a remarkable bit of engineering, quite how it managed to be the best in wet handling at 15 degrees we don't know, but it did. It's also undoubtedly the best choice for serious winter conditions, so if you plan driving into Europe for a winter holiday, this would be a better tyre than the CrossClimate. For all its strengths, you can't ignore the dry braking penalty of a siped tyre, which is why we couldn't recommend the Continental winter for year round motoring.
Likewise, the second generation Goodyear all season is a fantastic tyre. It would absolutely be at home as a winter tyre for the more northern parts of the UK, and was very close to the Continental in all the tests. Like the Continental winter tyre, it would also be a better choice than the CrossClimate if you plan on any serious snow driving, whether that be into Europe for a snow holiday, or the Scottish highlands, but again as with the winter tyre, we're not entirely comfortable with the dry braking and subjective handling penalty to recommending the tyre for year round use.
As for the summer tyre, while it marginally beat the CrossClimate in the dry tests, it totally failed at the first sign of snow, which excludes it from being usable for year round motoring.
Everyone has a different priority for their own safety, which is why we've provided all the data collected to help you decide which type of tyre works best for your own circumstances. Michelin haven't performed the impossible with the new CrossClimate, but they have moved the balance of compromise to a more comfortable point for what we see as the average year round motoring in the UK. For ultimate performance, or on larger, more powerful cars, a dedicated summer and winter tyre combination is still the most effective choice.
Feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below, and look out for a video of this test due in the next few weeks.