All season: an evolving choice
An increasing number of drivers in Europe, driven by a growing market offer, chose all-season tires as a convenient solution for their mobility needs, practical and safe to travel with all year round.
In strict chronological order, Bridgestone is the last premium tire maker making it into the “all-season club" i.e. companies that produce All-Season tires. A well-pondered decision, the result of which is a first class product that stems from the painstaking efforts of a team of engineers (mostly Italian) at the Technical Centre of Castel Romano, as confirmed by tests carried out by independent bodies. Equally noteworthy, though, is how the new Weather Control A005 was born. As it often the case with Bridgestone, a thorough market research was carried out throughout the continent based on the expectations of a sample of 15,000 end users towards an all-season tire through a series of questions around the daily challenges each have to face when driving. “Drivers in general need to feel that their All-Season tires are able to cope with the most diverse weather conditions” says Stafano Parisi, CEO Bridgestone South Region, stressing that the new Weather Control A005 complies with all current regulations for all-year driving, displaying not just M+S markings but also a 3PMSF approval. “Research, in fact, has fully demonstrated that safety, especially in wet conditions, is the primary concern of all European motorists”.
Growing market shares
This sudden interest is obviously not accidental. Throughout Europe sales of All-Season tires are on the rise (in Italy they now make up 10-15% of tires sold as replacements), the reason being essentially of an economic and practical nature. If, on the one hand, not everyone can afford to buy, store and periodically change two sets of tires, on the other, unstable seasons - not to mention frequent sudden changes in weather patterns – make it increasingly difficult to pinpoint the right time for tire replacements. A sudden snowfall or a hailstorm, which can negatively affect our vehicle’s behaviour, are by no means rare nowadays.
Moreover, while for certain types of users All-Season products are far from being the best option, we must not forget that for a vast number of motorists - perhaps the majority – who travel over short and not particularly demanding distances, having two sets of tires may simply be too expensive.
Hence the growing market penetration of All-Season tires, whose characteristics are rapidly evolving so as to offer the best compromise between summer and winter products, despite the fact that the latter still represent the ideal technical solution to deal with extreme driving conditions or moving on a daily basis on snow-clad or even icy roads.
Furthermore, still according to Bridgestone’s research, more and more European drivers are looking for a product able to guarantee all-round mobility, which is the reason why they bought their vehicle, and enjoy any journey regardless of the season. "Our Weather Control A005 is an All-Season dedicated to all those drivers looking for safety in all conditions, sun, rain or even the occasional snowfall. This is precisely what we have achieved with our new All-Season”, continues Stefano Parisi.
News from Bridgestone
No sooner was the new All-Season tire unveiled, that Bridgestone top management started talking about "total mobility", as the work of the engineers at the Castel Romano Technical Centre and the comprehensive tests carried out in all possible and imaginable conditions were crucial in developing a product that does more than guarantee adequate safety throughout the year. The wide range already available on the market (68 sizes from 15" to 20", but more are in the pipeline) includes 4 models with DriveGuard technology (third generation of Bridgestone’s run-flat) able to move for 80 kilometres at 80 km/h even with a puncture. Not only. The new Weather Control A005 has been developed to offer ground-breaking performance also in terms of mileage, able to match, in this specific area, Bridgestone’s Turanza T005, the company’s summer Touring benchmark, launched at the beginning of 2018. Among other things, the tread is characterized by a "V" shaped directional design, an innovative "Z" shaped sipes, oversized grooves on the shoulder, a new casing construction to optimize the tire’s footprint as well as high-silica Bridgestone Nano Pro-Tech compound.
Main alternatives on the market
The growing interest towards All-Season products, as already stated in the opening word of this article, compelled several premium manufacturers to come up with their own idea of an All-Season tire. Among them we find Michelin’s CrossClimate, a summer tire with winter certification, which integrates summer and winter technologies, once thought incompatible, in a single tire. CrossClimate benefits from a combination of cutting-edge technologies on three inseparable components such as architecture (skeleton), structure and materials, with a special focus on compound, tread design and self-locking sipes.
When speaking of All Season tires one cannot fail to mention Goodyear, the first company to introduce this type of tire back in 1927 which was followed by other similar products leading up to the Vector series launched in 1985. The latest version, the Vector 4Seasons combines Goodyear’s SmartTRED design, an innovative thermodynamic compound with innovative 3D sipes designed to offer superior performance throughout the year and in all weather conditions. In summer, the special 3D grooves guarantee a significant improvement in handling and stability and ideal tread stiffness. On wet roads, instead, the tread’s "V" directional design provides resistance to aquaplaning and directional stability, with above average water and mud dispersion. Finally, in winter, traction on snow and ice is guaranteed by a high-silica compound and 3D sipes in the central section of the tread.
Another Japanese giant, Yokohama made its debut on the European All-Season market with its BluEarth-4S AW21. The tire also features a newly developed tread pattern that features an optimal balance of edge area and surface contact area. The use of several advanced technologies, such as Divergent V-grooves and Crossing Narrow Grooves, deliver superior performance on ice, snow and wet road surfaces. In addition to its wide tread, the tire’s large shoulder blocks and All-season Sipes deliver reliable performance on dry roads as well. The use of a silica end-locked polymer compound also enhances its performance on wet and snow-covered roads. In addition, its wide and flat profile contribute to its excellent dry performance and wear resistance.
Pirelli, on the other hand, in present on the market with two products, its Cinturato All Season Plus and Scorpion Zero All Season. The first is available in 8 sizes, able to cover 70% of the sector made up of 15" to 17" wheels, most commonly found on small and mid-sized vehicles, some of which equipped with Seal Inside technology. The second is a new UHP SUV All Season product developed as OEM for premium and prestigious car makers. The innovative compounds combined with an asymmetric and optimized pattern provide UHP performance during all seasons, with outstanding levels of safety, improved braking performance and water dispersion as well as superior handling due to conical tread blocks in the shoulder area.
Vredestein’s Quatrac5 also deserves a brief mention. First launched about twenty years ago, the Dutch tire combines an asymmetrical tread pattern with the same technologies used in the current summer and winter Apollo range.
Coming up soon
Premium products do not end here. The All Season market is in full swing. In September, Hankook’s brand new Kinergy 4S², now in its fifth version, is expected to make its way in the Italian market. “Our team of engineers was able to fall back on more than twenty years of expertise in the field of all-weather tires for the Kinergy 4S²”, as Klaus Krause, head of the Hankook European Development Centre in Hanover, emphasises. “The result is a completely new product which makes a particularly stable performance available with the aid of an innovative tire compound and the special tread design, independently of weather conditions and temperatures.”
The V-shaped interleaved tread blocks guarantee high driving stability. They are divided by extra-wide two-level grooves which disperse water ideally to the side even in heavy rain. The drainage system prevents hydro planning and even discharges slush out of the tread effectively. These tread characteristics are supported by the newly developed tire mixture from a high-density silica polymer compound which ensures very good wet grip thanks to a high share of natural renewable raw materials among other factors.
At market launch in June 2018, the Hankook Kinergy 4S² line-up will initially have 17 sizes available from 14 to 17 inches and tread widths from 175 to 255 with speed ratings T, H and V, W. From 2019 the line-up will be expanded to 66 sizes from 14 to 20 inches, some of which will be up to speed index Y.