Seasonal tyres are a safe bet
W ITH Wednesday's snow fall being just the latest in this long winter an intriguing test has revealed that seasonal tyres can actually give more grip than four wheel drive.
The authoritative Autocar magazine has tested two Skoda Yeti models, each with a 108 bhp diesel engine and each wearing 225/45 R 17 section tyres, on snow and ice-covered roads.
The cars were identical in every way, except for one being front-wheel drive only fitted with winter tyres and the other having four-wheel drive but everyday all-weather tyres.
The results showed that winter rubber, with tyres specially designed to cope with freezing temperatures, provides more grip than all-year round ones which start to lose performance when the thermometer drops below seven degrees Celsius.
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In a braking test from 22mph – a typical speed on snow covered roads even in a built up area – the car fitted with winter tyres stopped on average around 4.5 metres earlier than the four-wheel-drive car, a distance more than sufficient to be the difference between a minor and a significant accident.
In a cornering test both Yetis were driven around a constant radius circle, with the lateral g-force developed by each car measured. While neither had much grip the car equipped with winter tyres developed 35 per cent more grip than the four-wheel-drive car. In the acceleration test and with all electronic aids switched on to simulate real world driving, both cars were driven from a standstill to 40 mph on the snow-covered road. Initially, the winter tyre shod car fared best, but from five mph upwards the four-wheel-drive-car showed its advantage, hitting 40 mph 4.4sec faster.
As a final test Autocar's test drive sampled both cars to give a view on which delivered more confidence. While both cars were deemed good, the car equipped with winter tyres delivered greater accuracy in cornering at all times.
Jim Holder, Autocar editor, says: "Of course the ideal scenario is to fit your 4x4 with winter tyres and enjoy the best of all worlds, but faced with a simple choice between the two, our tests indicate strongly that for most people most of the time, they'd be better off both literally and figuratively keeping their current two-wheel drive car and investing in a set of winter boots."
A set of new winter tyres typically costs from £400, while the average transaction price of a used 4x4 is currently just under £15,000, having risen by more than 10 per cent during the recent cold snap, according to data from British Car Auctions.
Although for most people most of the time a 4x4 clearly gives better traction, helping acceleration and grip while climbing slippery surfaces, the combination of two-wheel drive plus winter tyres offered significant benefits under braking and cornering.
Watch the video at http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-video/winter-tyres-vs-4x4