Summer tyres and AWD vs winter tyres and FWD – which is better?
Have you ever thought that you can get away with running summer tyres in the winter just cause your car uses all-wheel-drive drivetrain? Well neither did we, but apparently there is a lot of people who do, luckily two of the best tyre channels on YouTube put this myth to the test, and well, it's pretty safe to say "Myth Busted!"
The aptly named 'Tyre Reviews' people took two BMW x1's to Goodyears winter test facility in Finland. One of the cars is All-wheel-drive (awd) and uses Goodyears Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 summer tyre, while the other is Front-Wheel-Drive(fwd) with Goodyear Ultragrip Performance Gen-1 tyres.
The first test TyreReview performed was fairly simple, both cars accelerated to 50kph then slammed on the brakes, the results speak for themselves: the winter clad tire car not only stopped much quicker than the AWD summer clad one, but also out-accelerated it by far. In the end, the AWD car stopped almost 34 meters – or 7,5 car lengths – further than the winter tyre car. The theme dominated rest of the tests which you really should watch rather than read about...
American 'Tire-Rack' performed similar tests, but they used two AWD cars. One had a set of all-season tyres and the other a set of dedicated winter tyres. They put both cars on an ice-rink and performed a range of acceleration, braking and turning tests.
Here the all-seasons fared a little bit better as you would exepect, all-season tyres were only marginally slower in the acceleration test, but they were still out-classed by far in every other test.
All-Wheel-Drive aids traction and helps to put the 'Powaaar' down efficiently using all of the available grip, but the grip is always dictated by the tyre, so if your tyre is crap then no magic system will save you.
Winter tyres have some key advantages - most of all the very rubber they are made off. Tyres are designed to flex and 'stick' to the road, however in winter conditions ( anything below 5° Celsius) summer tyres tend to stiffen up, therefore, lose their ability to flex and 'stick' resulting in loss of grip.
Winter tyre rubber meanwhile are made of a diffrent compound designed to stay nice and flexible in the cold, aiding your grip.
Another major difference is the tread pattern and depth, winter tyre tread is deeper and designed to prevent build up of snow, while summer tyre runs a compromise between maximum contact area and a tread that allows it to disperse water. That's why if you are running summer tyres on snow in the cold, it's like driving on hard slicks in torrential rain on during a Grand Prix, best of luck on your corner.