In the UK, where heavy snow is an infrequent occurrence, people all too often assume all or four-wheel drive will make them invincible during harsh winter conditions. Tyre Reviews effectively showed the issue with this thinking last year, by running a two-wheel drive BMW X1 on winter tyres against an all-wheel drive version running summer boots.
The winter-shod front-driven X1 bested its 4WD counterpart convincingly, but some YouTube commenters had a follow-up question - what if you swapped those summer tyres for US-market ‘all-seasons’? Jon Benson of Tyre Reviews has since found out, using a pair of VW Amaroks - which handily have a switchable four-wheel drive system - plus General Grabber Arctic (winter) and HTS60 (all-season) shoes.
This tips the balance to the way of the all-wheel drive-running Amarok, but in the nuanced world of tyres, it’s not all that simple. As Benson explains in the video, there are still areas in which the rear-drive/winter combination is superior, and of course, winter tyres/four-wheel drive outperforms the 4WD/all-season combo significantly.
A look at the tread patterns of each shows why this is. The all-season boot’s tread resembles a summer tyre much more closely, with far fewer of the wavy ‘sipes’ that help displace water and snow being driven over. Depending on where you live and the prevailing conditions, you may still be better off making the switch to winters when it gets especially chilly out.