We have shortlisted three of the best all-season tires for your vehicle that will keep you going in the snow this winter.
Buying the right set of tires is one of the most elusive but also one of the most important maintenance decisions you’ll make for your vehicle. It is easy to choose from a small handful of options available for regular engine oil changes, coolant flushes, or brake pad and rotor replacements. But with tires, there are literally hundreds of options to pick from.
At the same time, besides functioning brakes, tires are the most safety-critical part of your vehicle. They influence every conceivable aspect of driving – braking, steering, acceleration, comfort, gas mileage, driving pleasure, and even road noise.
What Makes a Good All-Season Tire?
Broadly speaking, a tire has three interlinked attributes that define how good of a product it is.
First, the contact patch behavior. Contact patch, as the name suggests, is the footprint of the tire on the road surface. It determines the road grip provided by the tire as well as the rolling resistance, which in some sense are two contradictory properties to optimize. The road grip of a tire can be tested by measuring braking distances, acceleration times, and steering g-forces. Rolling resistance of a tire can be scientifically measured but is also indicated by the change in gas mileage of the vehicle.
Figure 1. The tire contact patch determines the road grip and the rolling resistance of the vehicle. Source: Discount Tire.
Second, the tire structure. This property of a tire is a more abstract one to explain but put simply it is characterized by the rigidity of the tire carcass. Rigidity improves the responsiveness to driver’s inputs and hence driving pleasure of your vehicle but can also result in increased road noise and harshness. Vehicle handling is quantified by measuring lap times or cornering g-forces, whereas noise and harshness are qualitative propositions left to the preference of the driver.
Lastly, consumer value. This is dependent on the tire price, tread life, warranty, and overall user experience. Unlike seasonal tires that are designed for specific conditions only, all-season tires should offer optimum balance amongst aforementioned attributes under all driving and weather conditions throughout their entire tread life.
How Did We Pick the Best All Season Snow Tires Below?
We first categorized the tires according to three classes of vehicles – high performance, passenger, and SUV / light truck. Then, we compared the available tire options for all three of these vehicle types based on their dynamic test results and user reviews.
The best all-season tires that we have selected for you provide exceptional grip and handling even under heavy snow conditions but do not compromise in any regard during the rest of the year.
Figure 2. The best all-season tires are able to provide good grip and handling even in heavy snow. Source: beyourcar.
Depending on your vehicle, a new all-season tire can cost anywhere between $40 to $240 on average. In our research, cheaper tires tend to be labelled as “all-season” rather colloquially sometimes. They barely do the job on dry and wet roads, and have next to no snow capabilities, which is outright dangerous. On the other hand, more expensive tires do not necessarily offer sufficient additional benefits that justify the premium.
People frequently say that you get what you pay for with tires, but we found that tires that offer the most value are not necessarily the most expensive ones on the market. We will let our list do the talking at this point…
1. Best Ultra High Performance: Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+
This pick is for drivers of high-performance cars who are looking for a tire that can keep up with their right foot even during winters. This pick does not come as a surprise to anyone. When introducing the Pilot Sport A/S 3+ back in 2016, Michelin mentioned how their Helio+ technology provides 28% more snow traction compared to its previous generation. They also touted their Variable Contact Patch 3.0 evenly spreads the pressure across the contact patch for better handling and increased tread life. This tire is proof that Michelin walks their talk.
Figure 3. Pilot Sport A/S 3+ offers excellent all-round dry performance compared to rivals in its segment. Source: Tire Rack.
Since its release, Pilot Sport A/S 3+ has earned high admiration from performance car owners. It has lived up to Michelin’s promise and has consistently posted shortest braking and acceleration distances on dry, wet, and light snow surfaces. It also offers the driving and handling responsiveness that you would expect from a top-of-the-line tire in this segment. This is reflected in the competitive lap times put up by this tire against its rivals under similar conditions. However, this performance also sacrifices some ride quality. People have reported increased noise and harshness compared to rivals while driving on this tire.
At the end of the day, it is still an ultra-high-performance tire that can put up with light to moderate winter. Compared to standard passenger all-season tires, the winter performance of Pilot Sport A/S 3+ is ordinary at best. This issue is universal to all tires in this segment, but Pilot Sport A/S 3+ offers the best snow performance among its peers.
Just do not expect it to power through six inches of snow or some ice with the same rigor as it does on dry or wet roads. Although this tire extends the performance envelope of your car, it is also somewhat unpredictable at the limit. But this is beyond what you would (and should) experience during daily driving.
Figure 4. Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ has a clean-cut side profile this gives it a sharp look. Source: BMWBLOG.
Pilot Sport A/S 3+ is available for sizes from 16” to 20” but here is the (tire?) kicker – it starts at just over $120. Bigger sizes, obviously, will be more expensive. This price is lower compared to its rivals which makes this tire an excellent value in this category. It is also backed by Michelin’s 45,000 mile / 6year warranty. Plus if you ask us, it looks pretty sleek as well.
Get your Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ on Vivid Racing today.
2. Best Passenger: Firestone WeatherGrip
Although we are calling it our passenger category, we compared the best all-season touring tires. These tires are tweaked in favor of ride quality and comfort, and have sufficient road grip for daily driving in city or on highway. This category is ideal for compact cars, sedans, minivans, and CUVs, and Firestone WeatherGrip deserves a sincere consideration.
A tire expert at Firestone told us “Firestone WeatherGrip tires are 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake certified, with 3D full-depth sipes that deliver enhanced snow and ice traction. A three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol branded on a tire’s sidewall indicates that the tire meets required performance criteria in snow testing to be considered severe snow service-rated. Braking and turning on snow, along with ice traction are not components of the test.”
On the road, WeatherGrip is extremely well-behaved. It can easily keep up with more expensive tires in this category under dry, wet, snow, as well as ice conditions. This tire has a relatively slower steering response compared to its competitors due its softer construction. While this small lag makes it less suitable for any spirited driving in dry conditions, it inspires driver confidence on wet and snow packed surfaces.
Although multiple tread patterns on WeatherGrip inject relatively more road noise inside the vehicle, it easily outshines its peers by offering class-leading comfort and ride quality. The softer construction makes the tire glide over most road imperfections with ease without unsettling the vehicle.
Figure 6. The difference in gas mileage numbers between different tires in the touring all-season category is minimal. Source: Tire Rack.
Available in 15” to 19” sizes, WeatherGrip starts at just over $100 on Vivid Racing. On top of their 65,000 mile / 5year limited mileage warranty, Firestone also offers a 90-day buy and try guarantee on this tire. Of course, while you can buy WeatherGrip at any local Firestone location, it is also sold at many other large retailers. While it leads on many fronts, Firestone WeatherGrip is not the technically best tire in its class; it gives more pricier options a run for their money and this is what makes it incredible value overall.
If you are not too price conscious and can live with a shorter tread life, Michelin CrossClimate 2 may be more up your alley.
Sources: Tire Rack, interview conducted with tire expert at Firestone (10/06/2020).
3. Best SUV / Light Truck : BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT
Most SUV and light truck drivers use their vehicles on road only. All-terrain tires can provide good snow capability to these vehicles, but they are not well-suited for daily driving on the tarmac. Therefore, we compared all-season touring tires designed specifically for your 4×4 or all-wheel drive vehicle. These tires have a higher load rating and are available in larger sizes to let your workhorse haul with confidence. We recommend the Advantage T/A Sport LT (LT stands for Light Truck) from Michelin owned BFGoodrich in this category.
Figure 7. The 3-D Active Sipe and Aqua-Flume technologies dictate the tread design of Advantage T/A Sport LT. Source: BFGoodrich Tires.
Similar to Advantage T/A Sport, the LT definitely inclines to a sportier side in dry conditions. It offers great traction for acceleration and braking, and the steering response has a desirable touch of understeer. This performance does not drop off too much in the wet either. It is also the only 3PMSF rated tire for severe snow service in its class, making it our preferred choice for winter driving. In terms of comfort, expect mild tread noise inside the cab but with good ride quality overall.
“The Advantage T/A Sport LT is a heavier [and] thicker tire made for a heavier vehicle like a SUV or a pickup truck. It provides better snow traction compared to the standard [Advantage T/A Sport] version and can handle moderate off-roading,” a representative at BFGoodrich told us.
Figure 8. Advantage T/A Sport LT offers class leading snow traction, as indicated by the shortest braking distance. Source: Tire Rack.
Sources: Tire Rack, interview conducted with tire expert at BFGoodrich (10/06/2020).