Long Term Update: 2009 Audi A5 3.2 quattro S-line – (Non) Winter Tire Dilemma
When we took delivery of our Long Term A5 in November 2008 we had a decision to make. With the car based on Colorado we would, in all likelihood, be encountering snow throughout the winter months. Just like the boots we might don on a snowy day or the running shoes worn for a jog, we typically ensure that our cars have the right “shoes” for the season.
A combination (perfect storm?) conspired against the overall plan for snow tires. First and foremost, by November we were all feeling the pinch of the global economic slowdown. Whereas in the past we might think nothing of dropping the cash to buy snow tires, this year was different. Just like every other consumer we needed to determine if they were absolutely necessary.
Second, we generally abhor winter steel wheels (or even just cheaper alloys) on a car as beautiful as the A5. The most logical solution, then, would be mounting snow tires on the stock Y-design wheels and then upgrading to high end, dedicated summer wheels. This also became problematic, however, since mounting 19″ snow tires starts to undermine some of the benefits of having snows in the first place, not to mention the fact that it would also mean allocating budget for much more expensive aftermarket summer wheels.
Although many products are available to us at reduced prices, we decided to treat our Long Term A5 as if we were the actual owners faced with the dilemmas described above. Since we are non-skiers we knew that the A5 would not be making trips west on I-70 to the resorts. We also knew that, in actuality, the percentage of drivers on the road who go to dedicated snow tires is fairly small. Whether through ignorance, budget constraints or just feeling that snow tires are unnecessary, we decided to stick with the OEM wheels and tires through the winter.
To be fair we should talk about the Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT tires’ dry performance. In our opinion they are some of the best stock tires we’ve ever been provided on a brand new car. The qualities of paramount importance for everyday driving – driving performance and road noise – are stellar. Getting the Dunlops to squeal requires concerted aggressive driving, the sidewalls never feel soft and we cannot remember the last time we were aware of road noise of any kind. Part of that must be attributed to the A5’s overall fit and finish; it is super quiet in the interior any way you look at it. There’s been no opportunity to put these tires through more aggressive performance testing (i.e. a track environment), but we’d guess they would do as well as any OEM tire out there.
Now, switch to a snowy, slippery Colorado day and our friendly Dunlop tires have pulled the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde switcheroo. All the confidence of the dry is suddenly replaced by a very slick feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. This is of course if we choose to drive the car AS IF we were on dry pavement. And that brings us to the point: the SP Sport MAXX GT tires are high performance tires engineered precisely to do their thing in the warm and dry, not in the cold and wet. So while it should come as no surprise that they are miserable in the snow, the question is whether the average luxury coupe owner has the sense to “switch off” the aggressive driving based on their choice of rubber?
Also of interest is the fact that quattro does little to alleviate the conditions created by the summer tires. It just means that all four tires can easily break loose instead of just one set.
Our advice to A5 owners, or actually to any Audi owner who has opted for high performance summer tires, is to stay ultra conscious of conditions. In a perfect world it would be affordable and easy to purchase, change out and store a second set of wheels and tires based on the season, but we understand that that isn’t feasible for everyone. In the cases where it is not there is certainly an added level of responsibility – as we well found out every time we had our Long Term A5 out in wet – to drive more carefully.