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Winter tyres are going to be on a lot of minds this year – Britain could face a particularly harsh winter this year, with snow falling from as early as November. If you’ve got a four-wheel drive car, you probably think you’re properly prepared – but are you?
We went up to Tamworth Snowdome to find out if a front-wheel drive car with winter tyres has more traction in the snow than a 4×4 with summer tyres fitted. We used two Ford Kugas, both with 2.0-litre diesel engines and manual gearboxes – but one is front-wheel drive, and the other all-wheel drive. The 4×4 Ford Kuga costs £1500 more than the normal model.
In snowy conditions the rubber in summer tyres gets harder and less grippy. Winter tyres use a softer compound, and a tread pattern that’s designed to pick up snow – improving grip in these harsh conditions.
In our first test we saw that the front-wheel drive car on summer tyres was hopeless in the snow – but when fitted with winter tyres, it obviously did much better. However we also tested the 4×4 on summer tyres – and the results might surprise you.
With winter tyres, the normal Kuga went 110 metres up the slope, while the 4×4 car only made it 13 metres up, before sliding back down 9 metres. in the end, it ended up no further than the standard did with summer tyres.
We also tested the four-wheel drive Ford Kuga with winter tyres – and the difference was astonishing. There was plenty of grip and the car drove all the way to the top of the steep ski slope without a problem.
Obviously, the best solution for driving on snow is to have a 4×4 on winter tyres – without the right rubber, a 4×4 is just as useless as a two wheel drive car.
Having four-wheel drive won’t help with braking, though – and that’s much more important.