September 29, 2017
When asked about their priorities while shopping for tires, most consumers place safety at or near the top of the list. We know the safest option is to utilize tires that provide the most traction in specific conditions, which means summer tires in the warm months and winter tires in the cold months. The ideal option of two sets of tires doesn't fit for every driver in the snow belt, so some look for a single tire solution to their year-round mobility needs.
Since their creation nearly 40 years ago, all-season tires have been marketed to drivers as the one-tire solution for all conditions. In reality, the "M+S" branding that denotes an all-season tire only indicates the tire's tread pattern meets certain requirements. It makes no guarantee of any level of performance in adverse weather conditions. To be considered severe snow service-rated and receive three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) branding, however, tires must deliver longitudinal snow traction that meets a certain threshold. The 3PMSF symbol was originally used as a designation for winter tires, but is making its way onto all-season tires with snow performance that meets the test parameters. While 3PMSF-branded all-season tires can't match the capability of a true winter tire in all adverse weather conditions, drivers can expect at least a minimum standard of grip in the snow from tires bearing this mark, and as tire technology continues to advance, over the next few years we expect these premium traction Grand Touring All-Season tires to become the status quo, as opposed to the exception.
To see how three new 3PMSF-branded tires perform and what, if any, tradeoffs come along with this enhanced snow traction, the Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive comparing the Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady, Michelin CrossClimate+ and Vredestein Quatrac 5 to one of the established favorites in the category, the non-3PMSF-branded Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus. Our evaluation used 2017 BMW F36 430i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 225/50R17 tires mounted on 17x7.5 wheels.
Our 6.0-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.
Around our road loop, it was very interesting to experience the different personalities of the tires in this group and think about which of their characteristics resulted from the pursuit of specific performance targets. The Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus is the only tire in the group without the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, and it emerged as our team's favorite in every category in the road portion of the evaluation. The ride was cushioned and composed and isolated the driver from the road nicely. Tread noise was a muted, white noise over coarse surfaces and nearly disappeared over the smooth sections of our route, and the steering was weighty and direct, but relaxed enough that it never felt nervous. The Michelin CrossClimate+ had the sportiest feel of the group. The ride was taut, but never harsh, and the steering responded quickly to inputs. There was some audible tread growl over all surfaces, which was most pronounced at low speeds when wind and engine noise were more subdued. Taking a small step back brings us to the Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady, which also produced some tread growl, but it blended into a broad tone that more readily faded into the background. The Goodyear's ride would benefit from a little refinement. While it wasn't overly firm, it didn't cope with impacts as well as the other tires in the group, making the driver more aware of road imperfections. The steering effort was very light, and the tire was quick to change directions, making it feel somewhat darty on the highway. While not objectionable, noise was the subject of conversation surrounding the Vredestein Quatrac 5 more than the other tires. It didn't produce any specific, intrusive tones, but the broad noise created was a notch louder than the Goodyear or the Michelin, and noticeably more than the Pirelli. The ride was firm, and there was some audible impact noise over expansion joints. A small dead spot immediately on center gave way to quick reflexes once a little steering input was added, and similar to the Goodyear, the Vredestein had very light steering feel.
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, a five-cone slalom and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.
Even though Grand Touring All-Season tires aren't intended for track duty, they typically prove competent and fun to drive around our small, autocross-style course, and all four tires in this group demonstrated the ability to evade an incident or stop in an emergency.
The CrossClimate+ felt almost like a performance tire on the track, with crisp steering response, authoritative front-end traction, high levels of lateral grip and confident braking. As a result, it turned some genuinely quick laps and emerged as our team's subjective favorite. Though its average lap times trailed the pack, the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus was balanced and easy to drive, which found favor with our testers. Its soft nature led to some noticeable roll, but while not at home on the track, it never felt unsorted or out of sync. The Assurance WeatherReady's on-track performance was highlighted by its responsive steering and quick turn-in, making it feel quite nimble, especially through the rapid transitions of the slalom. The 90-degree and sweeping turns of the track revealed a tendency to understeer, and subjectively, the Goodyear did not feel as strong under braking as the other tires. The Quatrac 5, which earned a close second place in all objective measurements, landed in fourth subjectively. It had impressive outright grip, and while ultimately very capable, felt somewhat disjointed and out of sorts, especially through the rapid transitions of the slalom.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, wet traction and snow traction are opposing targets in tire development, as many of the techniques used to improve performance in one discipline have a negative impact on the other. Because of this, we were very curious to see how the 3PMSF-branded tires would fare in our wet testing, and we ended up pleasantly surprised. The CrossClimate+ led the way in average lap time, 50-0mph ABS braking distances and around the skid pad, and it earned the top subjective rating from our team, feeling only slightly edgy at the limit. The Quatrac 5 was a close second, with capabilities that weren't quite as high as the CrossClimate+, but were easier to access and maximize. At an acceptable but noticeably lower level, the Assurance WeatherReady faced the same struggles in the wet as it did in the dry, but they were exacerbated by the lower grip of the wet surface. Quick turn-in felt good, but the limited front-end grip meant it would easily dissolve into understeer, and the driver had to begin braking appreciably earlier than with the Michelin or Vredestein tires. Based on past experience, we knew the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus wouldn't be a standout in the wet, and it was significantly behind the leaders. Though it felt balanced and rather benign, the driver had to carefully navigate the track, using slow and gentle inputs to avoid overwhelming the available traction.
Winter weather is often unpredictable, and snow-covered roads change with every passing vehicle as they churn snow into slush or pack it down to polished ice. A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow-handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers. To simulate the icy conditions found at intersections or the black ice experienced out on the highway, we use ice at a local hockey rink and measure acceleration and braking traction.
In the snow, all of the tires delivered very good performance. Together they are forming a relatively tight group at the leading edge of winter performance in the all-season touring tire segment.
The Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady led the group, with the best acceleration and braking traction. Very close behind was the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus, even though it doesn't have the 3PMSF symbol, underscoring the reality that the symbol isn't the only guarantee of good snow traction. The Michelin CrossClimate+ was able to accelerate a little better than the Pirelli tire, but couldn't quite match it in our ABS-assisted stop test. Rounding out the group and not too far behind, was the Vredestein Quatrac 5, which also delivered very good acceleration and braking traction.
Subjectively speaking, when driving around the handling course the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus was the easiest to control at the limit, even though it didn't have the most traction. The Assurance WeatherReady showed strong steering authority and would eagerly go where it was pointed, but felt a little edgy when reaching the limit of cornering traction. The CrossClimate+ would accelerate and stop well, but tended to understeer when asked to turn quickly or corner hard. The Quatrac 5 provided stable handling and was relatively balanced, but didn't have quite the ultimate traction of the others.
Like on the snow, when it came to acceleration and braking traction on ice, these tires weren't able to match a dedicated winter tire. But the CrossClimate+ and Assurance WeatherReady were standouts and gripped the ice surprisingly well. Small steps back were the Cinturato P7 All-Season Plus and Quatrac 5, which both did a good job starting and stopping our test car.
As a group all of these tires perform well in the snow and fulfill the promise that comes with having the 3PMSF symbol. Even though three share the 3PMSF designation, not all are created equal. And while not there yet, the best of them are getting ever closer to the traction of a dedicated winter tire.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.0-mile loop of 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with three stop signs every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 500 miles over the course of several days. Since we wanted to compare fuel consumption results that typical drivers would experience, our drivers were instructed to maintain the flow of traffic by running at the posted speed limits and sustain the vehicle's speed using cruise control whenever possible. They did not use hypermiling techniques to influence vehicle fuel economy.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady||29.5||508.5||-1.0%|
|Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus||29.6||506.8||-0.7%|
|Vredestein Quatrac 5||29.8||503.4||--|
|*Our evaluation used Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
Fuel economy often plays a big role in the purchase decision for a family vehicle, and the tires installed on the vehicle can have a significant impact on the delivered miles per gallon. Within this group we found a negligible difference in observed mileage, with a .3-mile per gallon disparity between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy. This difference would result in an additional 5.1 gallons of premium gasoline used per year. At the current cost of $3.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $15.30 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per year.
It's important to note our test's fuel consumption measurements follow consistent procedures designed to minimize variables that could influence the results; however, they do not represent an exhaustive long-range fuel consumption study. While our procedures require the test vehicles in each convoy to run under the same prevailing conditions, the week-to-week differences in ambient temperatures, barometric pressures and wind speeds that we experience over a season of testing can influence vehicle fuel consumption and prevent the absolute mpg values of this test from being compared directly against those of others.
Larger differences in consumption between tires may indicate a difference that might be experienced on the road, while smaller differences should be considered equivalent. As they say, your mileage may vary.
As time goes by, we expect more and more 3PMSF-branded Grand Touring All-Season tires to enter the market, and as tire technology advances, there should be fewer tradeoffs in the quest for better winter traction. These first movers have set the bar very high, and while they won't replace a set of dedicated winter tires for drivers in the snow belt, they are a viable option for anyone who typically uses all-season tires year-round and is looking for improved traction in inclement weather.
The Michelin CrossClimate+ led the test objectively in both the dry and the wet. It was also our team's subjective favorite in two of three overall categories and was a close second in the other. Aside from the distinct tone created by its highly directional tread pattern and the moderately firm ride, none of our testers had anything but praise for this tire. The Vredestein Quatrac 5 exhibits some mild compromise in the form of road and impact noise, but neither were objectionable to the point where we would consider it a loud tire. Its wet performance was just off the level of the Michelin, and some considered it easier to drive quickly. Pirelli's Cinturato P7 All Season Plus set the standard for on-road refinement and was easy to drive quickly in the dry, but its wet traction left much to be desired. Goodyear's Assurance WeatherReady was pretty good at everything, but didn't excel in any category. While it offers a reasonable blend of traits for a daily-driven vehicle, it didn't stand out from this crowd in any way.
Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady (Grand Touring All-Season): The Assurance WeatherReady is Goodyear's Grand Touring All-Season tire designed for the drivers of family sedans, coupes, crossovers, SUVs and minivans who want the smooth and quiet ride of a premium touring tire combined with the all-season confidence that comes from driving a vehicle equipped with tires bearing the Severe Snow Service certification symbol. Read more.
Michelin CrossClimate+ (Grand Touring All-Season): The CrossClimate+ is Michelin's Grand Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of sedans, coupes, station wagons and crossover vehicles looking for refined comfort on the daily drive and confident performance in the dry and wet plus premium light snow traction. The CrossClimate+ meets industry severe snow service requirements and is designed to be a one-tire solution for drivers in environments that experience all four seasons, but don't receive sufficient snowfall to require a dedicated winter tire. Read more.
Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus (Grand Touring All-Season): The Cinturato P7 All Season Plus is Pirelli's Grand Touring All-Season tire designed for the drivers of touring and luxury touring cars looking for tires offering predictable handling, everyday comfort and all-season traction. Developed to be environmentally friendly, Pirelli's EcoImpact icons confirm the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus' contribution to the environment with regards to energy efficiency, clean air, low noise and long wear. Designed to be driven in America's diverse weather conditions, the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus features lower weight, less rolling resistance and reduced noise while enhancing wet braking and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Vredestein Quatrac 5 (Grand Touring All-Season): The Quatrac 5 is Vredestein's Grand Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, station wagons and crossover vehicles looking for confident performance in the dry and wet plus premium light snow traction. The Quatrac 5 meets industry severe snow service requirements and is designed to be a one-tire solution for drivers in environments that experience all four seasons, but don't receive sufficient snowfall to require a dedicated winter tire. Read more.
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