It's the middle of November and the temperatures in the UK are still hovering around 14c, but with colder temperatures due next week, and even snow forecast in the northern parts of the country, now is a good time to look at the winter tyre market in 2015.
We all now understand that winter tyres aren't just for snow, but are effective at any temperatures below 7c, with the real benefits coming in wet, snow and ice performance at near, and past freezing point.
While this works for northern European countries, which have very distinct seasons, the last four winters in the UK have been characterised by mild temperatures, no snowfall, and even long spells of dry roads, where winter tyres don't have the opportunity to really show their performance qualities.
This has lead to a resurgence of the all season tyre market, which means using an all season tyre as a winter tyre in the UK is now a real possibility for the majority of the country. Modern all season tyres still offer vastly improved winter capabilities when compared to the equivalent summer tyre, but offer less of the drawbacks in warmer dry and wet conditions, where even the best winter tyre can't get within 15% of a summer tyre under dry braking.
There have been six new all season tyres launched this year, with two outstanding options for the UK. Michelin have launched the new CrossClimate, which moves the all season tyre balance away from snow and ice performance, and instead towards dry and wet performance at colder temperatures, and Goodyear have updated the multiple award winning Vector 4Season, again pushing the balance more towards dry and wet performance, but keeping a more snow and ice bias than the Michelin.
In our own testing, we found the Michelin CrossClimate to be as good as a summer tyre in the dry and wet, and the only all season or winter tyre which offered comparable dry braking to a summer tyre. Even with this dry braking and traction advantage over the winter tyres, it still offered enough traction and braking performance in the snow to avoid getting stuck when the snowfall comes down.
For this reason, if you live in the south of the UK and don't have any plans to drive into Europe to more extreme weather, this is the tyre we would recommend for the smaller vehicle, with the added bonus of it being safely usable year round.
If you live in more Northern parts of the UK, or plan driving to a ski resort, the Goodyear Vector 4Season Gen-2 is the smarter choice due to a better snow and ice profile than the Michelin. The drawbacks of a strong snow and ice performance are found in dry braking, where like with a winter, you still lose nearly 15% dry braking performance when compared to a summer tyre.
The good news is if you're set on a winter tyre, or you drive a car with a larger wheel size where there isn't an all season option, there's a couple of new options for you this year.
For the larger sizes and sports cars, Goodyear have released the excellent UltraGrip Performance Gen-1. We had the opportunity to test this tyre at the start of the year against the best premium competition on the market in the dry, wet and snow performance, and it outperformed all of them. Auto Express have since agreed as it won their 2015 winter tyre test, and a number of German tyre tests have put this tyre on the highly recommended list!
In the smaller sizes, snow specialist Nokian have updated the hugely successful WR D range to the WR D4. This builds on the success of the WR D3, and promises excellent snow and ice performance.
Dunlop have launched the new WinterSport 5, which replaced the well reviewed WinterSport 4D, and the Continental WinterContact TS850 is still an incredible all round winter tyre and an excellent option, even with the TS860 due next year.
While it feels late in the season, judging by the forecasts we recommend fitting your winter (or all season!) rubber in the last few weeks of November.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask below, and don't forget to leave winter tyre reviews once you've some miles on them!
As always, safe motoring in the 2015 winter season to all our readers
Winter Tyre Information
All Season Tyre Tests
Winter Tyre Tests