Do all-season tyres really work? And can they transform a rear-wheel drive electric BMW iX3 into a car that can go anywhere in the snow? We’ve tested the Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyre in real-life snow conditions; you may be surprised at what we discovered.
All-season tyres aim to provide a solution that does what they say on the tin, ie. they work in all seasons, from summer to winter. So they’re designed to eliminate the need to swap standard tyres to winter tyres for the relatively few days each year when the UK has snow or ice.
We’ve already tested Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyres on a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and they ensured that the car’s all-wheel drive system delivered excellent traction on snow and ice.
But can CrossClimate all-season tyres really enable a rear-wheel drive electric BMW iX3 to cope with driving in snow through the hills for mile after mile?
At this point we should explain that the BMW iX3 is an excellent electric car, with many positive features, including very comfortable ride quality. However the iX3 is only rear-wheel drive, rather than all-wheel drive as you would expect with an SUV. And combined with this, the standard tyres on the iX3 have a very on-road focused tread pattern. So although the iX3 is a great product, like many cars, it wouldn’t cope well with snow.
Therefore we swapped the iX3’s standard rubber for Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyres. We were intrigued to find out if they could transform a rear-wheel drive car, and then the time arrived when the weekend’s news reports were dominated by pictures of long lines of cars being stuck for hours in the snow in Cumbria. If all cars, even two-wheel drive models, were fitted with all-season tyres, could such news stories be a thing of the past?
So we set off to see if we could reach the top of the Peak District after a heavy snowfall. It wasn’t long before the tarmac disappeared on the road winding up the hillside as it became completely covered in snow. Surprise number one: the iX3 kept going as the tarmac turned to snow, with no wheelspin, no scary slides.
The road got steeper. Surprise number two: progress was amazingly still maintained even with a combination of snow and steep hills.
Then the snow became deeper and deeper. Surprise number three: despite only being rear-wheel drive, the iX3 still kept going, even though the snow was now over six inches deep in places. At no stage was there any drama or anxious moments; the BMW felt unstoppable. Except of course when you had to brake, when the tyres brought the car to a halt safely.
Over the years we’ve received messages from many visitors to the site saying that they love their rear-wheel drive BMW but that the car can’t move anywhere when it’s snowy or icy. Our test proves that it’s not the car that’s the problem, it’s the tyres.
So what’s the secret to the Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyre? Well, it has a number of clever innovations.
Firstly it has a V-shaped tread pattern which maximises the clawing effect on snow, and it continues to do this throughout the tyre’s life. The tyre also has 3D self-locking sipes, which are small slits in the tyre’s tread block that create additional tread surface area for increased grip in icy and snowy conditions. We’ve also tested the tyres in very wet conditions and they feel extremely reassuring, with no experiences of aquaplaning.
The CrossClimate has a special rubber compound which is sufficiently supple to provide flexibility and enable indentation in the ground, to provide maximum grip, whatever the temperature.
All the above results in the all-season tyre having the braking performance and traction of a winter tyre on cold, wet or snow-covered roads, and so it has the ‘3PMSF’ (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) marking, which means a guaranteed minimum level of safety and mobility performance on snow.
The SUV version of the CrossClimate tyre has a reinforced sidewall and double casing to ensure it can cope with light off-road use. We’ve also tested the CrossClimates in mud and once again the tyres are highly effective compared to the iX3’s standard tyres, which even struggle for grip on wet grass.
So if Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyres can completely transform a rear-wheel drive car into a snowmobile, surely there are downsides? The obvious concern with swapping the manufacturer’s standard specification tyres on an electric car for all-season tyres is that the car’s electric driving range will suffer. Well, we’ve seen no evidence of this.
So what about negative impacts on the driving experience? The iX3’s ride quality on standard tyres is excellent, do CrossClimate all-season tyres make this worse? No, if anything, the ride quality feels even better with the CrossClimates.
What about noise – do the all-season tyres create more road noise? Again, there’s no evidence to support this.
Surely all-season tyres must wear more quickly? Well, we can’t provide any data on this for the iX3 yet, but the CrossClimates lasted 35,000 miles on the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which suggests that increased wear isn’t an issue.
We’ve previously spent a day with Porsche testing summer tyres against winter tyres (rather than all-season tyres), and the only downside of the winter tyres was that during high-speed handling tests the cars didn’t feel quite as planted to the road as they did with standard tyres. For most drivers, a very slight loss in steering and handling precision when cornering at 70mph probably isn’t an issue.
What about price? The Michelin CrossClimate – which is Europe’s best selling all-season tyre, and is available in 40 dimensions from 17 to 20 inches – ranges from around £158 to around £222 per tyre, depending on the size.
So the conclusion of our Michelin CrossClimate SUV all-season tyre review is this: the tyres transformed the rear-wheel drive electric BMW iX3 from a car that wouldn’t be able to get off the drive in snow with its standard tyres into a car that was able to tackle anything that winter in the Peak District could throw at it. There are virtually no downsides, so we don’t understand why more manufacturers, especially of SUVs and 4x4s, don’t fit all-season tyres as standard (aside from the concern about impact on electric range), and so help to avoid the weekend’s news headlines of people being stuck in their cars in the snow for over 12 hours.