Winter tyres are relatively new to the UK market and I have long been sceptical about their benefits. The UK is hardly continental Europe and we have historically tended to avoid the long periods of winter snow and ice that such tyres are designed to combat. So when the big tyre and car manufactures began to push winter tyres a few years ago I thought it was nothing but a fairly shameless attempt to get consumers to buy something they did not really need. However the last 4 or so years have produced unusually cold and long winters with much snow and low temperatures from December till March, even in the warmer southern lowlands of the country where I live. When I was young snow in winter was almost unheard of, now it’s a yearly occurrence. So much for global warming! The change in weather and the public authorities’ inability to cope with it has contributed to the boom in the sales of SUVs in the UK. My family would certainly not be without our X5 now.

It’s fair to say that the XKR, magnificent machine though it is, has not in the past coped very well with harsh winter weather. Even when it’s Dunlops were new wet roads, let alone those covered in ice or snow, would induce wheel spin and under steer that could at times be alarming. When the roads were icy or snowy the car was undriveable. I therefore read with some interest an account by a journalist at Autocar of how he improved the road holding of their long term test XKRS by fitting winter tyres. As my Dunlops were near the end of their life I bought a set of the recommended Pirelli Sottozero winter tyres from my tyre dealer. They were eye wateringly expensive at £1500 for the four but my dealer will look after my summer tyres in a “tyre hotel” until March when I can swap them back over for a nominal charge.

The Sottozeros are not a pretty tyre and look like they would be better on a SUV than a GT, but what they lack in appearance they more than make up for in performance. Levels of grip are now staggering – wheel spin and under steer have been banished and stopping distances much reduced. And with winter mode engaged the car is even driveable on icy roads. In the last few days we have experienced heavy and destructive storms accompanied by a lot of flooding. The XKR took it all in its stride never losing grip even when other cars were aqua planning into roadside ditches. I can’t wait to see how the Sottozeros do in snow!

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Wild tread patterns make for fine grip.

I am now a winter tyre convert and will certainly think about getting a set for the X5. As they will cost up to £2000 (gulp) I will have to save up a bit first!

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