There is an ancient gag that if you don’t like the weather in Scotland you just need to wait half an hour and something else will come along.
It’s a bit of an exaggeration - sometime you’ll have to wait a whole 45 minutes - but it’s definitely true that the weather can switch from glorious sun to skin-peeling hail in a matter of minutes. That makes it a tricky place to choose the right clothes but the ideal location to see if all-season tyres are the cure-all their makers claim.
Recent years have seen a spike in interest in winter tyres and the proven benefits in grip and control they bring in cold, slippy and snowy weather.
However, winter tyres operate best at below 7 degrees and not only does their performance suffer when the weather improves but they wear out quicker. This means they’re not always at their best during the UK’s wildly varying winter weather. There’s also the time and money needed to swap them for regular tyres as conditions improve in spring.
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As an alternative, many tyre makers are now promoting all-season tyres which claim to balance the benefits of a winter tyre with the all-round abilities of a regular fair weather one - ideal in our ever-changing climate.
To see if you really can have the best of both worlds, we spent a few weeks putting the new Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 through its paces in a typically varied winter. Predictably, this is the third generation of Goodyear’s all-season tyre, with improved structure to aid dry braking (a claimed five per cent improvement) and changes to the tread to offer better performance in wet and snowy conditions.
Goodyear says that the new tread design with more sipes - the narrow gaps that “bite” the snow - creates a five per cent improvement in handling on snow compared with the previous generation.
I didn’t have the facilities to test this claim accurately but the weather played ball and after a decent snow fall the Vector 4Seasons proved adept at tackling snowy rural roads. Compared with the winter tyres fitted to our family car, the Goodyears offered a similar amount of grip on freshly fallen snow, biting well and responding to steering inputs predictably for a feeling of security that summer tyres can’t match. They also coped well and consistently with a constantly changing surface where snow gave way to deep slush, puddles and patches of cold, clear Tarmac. And as the snow melt turned to standing water, the tyres’ deep, wide tread did a good job of negating aquaplaning.
Like the joke says, you can’t expect the weather to stay the same for long and before the snow, we’d “enjoyed” several dry days where the temperature yo-yoed from a pleasant 10 degrees to hovering just about freezing. This at least allowed us to test the tyre in more temperate conditions as well as the cold and dry settings below 7 degrees that winter tyres are designed to handle.
Here again the watchword was consistency. We didn’t put the tyres to the extremes of testing that the makers do but in everyday real-world use at higher temperatures it was hard to determine much difference between the Vector 4Seasons and regular summer tyres. Handling on true winter tyres feels a little vague in warmer conditions, but the Goodyears maintained decent feel and grip in “warm” and dry conditions, which continued as the mercury plummeted into winter tyres' sub-7-degrees sweet spot.
The idea of an all-season tyre is to be an acceptable compromise between the specific strengths of summer and winter tyres. You sacrifice a little of the dry weather grip and braking of a summer compound and the most extreme abilities of a winter tyre for the convenience of not having to change your tyres twice a year. But the latest Vector 4Seasons show that this isn’t much of a compromise, with strong performance in warmer and drier conditions and confidence-inspiring abilities when the weather turns cold and wet.