Why winter tires are necessary even with Quattro

It’s officially winter and that means freezing temperatures and harsh weather in many climates around the globe. Here in the North American east coast, winters can be brutal. Single-digit temps, harsh winds and tons of snow can make for seriously treacherous travel. Most Americans are quite ignorant to the idea of prepping their cars for winter weather, thinking that they can get by just fine with the way their car is all year long. However, that isn’t the case and cars need to be ready for these harsh conditions. By far and away the most important part of winter prep, and the most overlooked, is a set of winter tires. And if you’re wondering if you need winter rubber if you have a Quattro all-wheel drive Audi, the answer is “Yes, of course”.

A typical car that you buy from a dealership comes with all-season tires on it. All-season tires flat-out won’t cut it in winter months and it has little to do with snow. All-season tires are often called no-season tires because they aren’t optimized for any specific temperature range, they’re just designed to not really suck in any temperatures. For those of you who don’t know, winter tires are not snow tires. They aren’t just tires with grippy tread so as to help in the snow. Winter tires are developed from a rubber compound that’s designed to work in freezing conditions. All-season tires are not capable of providing adequate grip in freezing temperatures, never mind snow or ice. Forget summer tires, they can barely grip in weather under 50-degrees Fahrenheit.

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Winter tires excel in freezing temperatures and snow alike. The reason is mostly thanks to their rubber compounds, which are specifically designed to handle the colder temperatures. While all-season tires will become hard, therefore losing their grip, in really cold temps, winter tires stay grippy. Also, their tread pattern is better at handling snow or ice. Far better, in fact. There’s a myth that winter tires aren’t any good on dry pavement. Nonsense. In fact, they’re excellent on dry cold pavement. There’s also a myth that winter tires can only be used in really, freezing temps. Not true again. Winter tires should be put on as temperatures start to drop in Autumn and can be kept on until spring.

Now, if you’re thinking that your Quattro-equipped Audi can deal with winter months wearing all-season tires just because it has all-wheel drive, you could be making a deadly mistake. While all-seasons might allow you to just get by, any sort of inclement weather could cause disaster for them and you and all-wheel drive won’t help you. It doesn’t matter how many driven wheels you have if you don’t have any grip from the tires. A dog in slippers will be considerably slower and sloppier than a human in ice cleats. Four-wheel drive means nothing if all four wheels are slipping.

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So having a dedicated set of winter tires to put on during cold months is a great idea for anyone who lives in a cold winter climate. A set of good winter tires will set you back $500 – $600, which isn’t really a lot when you consider the fact that they can save your life in treacherous conditions. With just a set of dedicated winter tires, you’ll also have to spend money you mount and balance them to your current wheels every winter and then have them taken off every spring. However, you could spend a bit of extra money and get a spare set of wheels with winter tires and then just swap the wheels in minutes.

As for which tires to get, we’d recommend either Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 tires (or R9 if you need studded tires for really extreme conditions) or Michelin X-Ice-series tires. We’ve had really excellent experiences with the Nokians but the Michelins are also great. There are great sets from Continental and Bridgestone as well but the Nokians and Michelins are our favorites.

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Picking the right tires for winter is no joke and winter rubber is necessary in harsh climates, even with Quattro all-wheel drive.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.