Our Cars: Audi A6 3.0 TDI

16 December 2011: The A6 gets ready for winter

The Details

Current mileage 6840
Claimed economy 47.9mpg
Actual economy 41.3mpg

Remember last winter? My lasting memory is trying (and failing) to get along a country lane near where I live which hadn't been gritted. It was in a SEAT Leon - a front wheel drive car which was fitted with normal tyres. My progress that day is probably best described as 'leisurely' with some occasional trips to the grass verge.

So I'm determined to be full prepared for another cold winter with the likelihood of the white stuff. Last week I gave the A6 a little pre-winter check. I topped up the washer fluid, which was actually running low anyway. It's not that easy to do as the reservoir is at the top of the engine bay and so the bonnet gets in the way. I'm not organised enough to have a funnel, so inevitably there's a bit of a spillage.

I've also put some de-icer and an ice scraper in the car and made sure I've got a spare coat in the back in case I do get stranded somewhere. There's even an emergency Kit Kat in the glovebox. But the big thing that I hope will make a difference is winter tyres.

I actually ordered mine a few months ago but hadn't got round to organising the fitting. The experts say you should put them on around November, but basically it's as soon as temperatures are regularly dropping below 7C as that's when they're effective. Off came the 20-inch wheels I love so much with their Pirelli P-Zero tyres to be replaced by 17-inch wheels fitted with Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D tyres.

This was all done by the local Audi dealer. And if you're thinking that it might be cheaper going somewhere like Kwik-Fit think again. I shopped around and found the main dealer was the best option. I'm not alone either. We've had lots of positive feedback about Audi dealers and what good value they are when it comes to winter tyres.

You can either have winter tyres fitted in place of your existing tyres or alternatively you can buy a dedicated set of winter wheels and tyres. I had to swap mine for a complete set because my 20-inch whees are too big for winter tyres. The Audi dealer is also helpfully storing my wheels for me, so swapping back in the Spring will be easy.

Audi A6 Winter Tyres (1)

They may not look the best on our A6, not helped by the fact it's an S line so has the bodykit fitted, but they will prove invaluable should it snow. And as soon as the temperatures start dropping they'll be working. The common misconception is that winter tyres are only effective in the snow. But that's not the case. Winter tyres are also more effective in cold weather and wet conditions than standard tyres.

That's down to the thicker tread but also the actual make-up of the tyre. The problem with normal (or summer) tyres is that when it gets cold the rubber loses its flexibility. It’s all to do with the compound of the tyre. Cold weather tyres have a higher ratio of natural rubber and silica in the compound which doesn't stiffen up as much as synthetic rubber in cold conditions. Therefore the tyre is more flexible and able to perform like a tyre should. Summer tyres simply go hard in the cold temperatures.

I've certainly noticed the difference after swapping. The ride of the A6 is smoother and it's better over rough roads, thanks to the extra rubber and smaller wheels. As you'd expect, in corners it's not as positive, plus there's more tyre noise on the motorway. But these are only minor inconveniences for what could be lifesavers in the snow and ice. Literally. With the quattro four-wheel drive of the A6, this Audi should be pretty unstoppable in the snow - now all I have to do is pray the weather gets worse!

Audi A6 Winter Tyres (4)

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Updates
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16 December 2011: The A6 gets ready for winter
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