The ideal tire width is often hotly debated and opinions often differ depending on the season, driver and location. Also, there is no simple answer - it depends a lot on how the car is used - if you live in the mountains and drive a van, you may need a different width than a sports car that mostly drives on highways. Instead of my own opinion, I will therefore try to summarize the opinions of the ADAC and the tire manufacturer Continental for you.
The ADAC did not test the winter tires directly, but they did Summer tires in widths 185 to 225. The driveability (with the exception of aquaplaning) gradually improved as the tire width increased, and the best tire in terms of driveability was the 225/40 R18. Only with aquaplaning was it exactly the other way round: the best tire was the 185/65 R15T, the worst the aforementioned 225/40 R18. The narrower tires are also more comfortable, less loud and have lower rolling resistance, according to the ADAC test.
That makes sense: the wider the contact patch of the tire, the better the grip. More grip means shorter braking distances and better handling, a lower sidewall means less tire deformation in corners. The only exception where the wider tire performs better on the road is when there is water involved - in this case the tread needs to get rid of the water as quickly as possible, and with a larger footprint that's more difficult compared to what narrower tires result in aquaplaning at lower speeds.
Michael Müller, head of the ADAC test department, also comments on winter tires. In his opinion, it is not possible to produce ideal winter tires on a commercial basis, as the conditions in winter tend to be different. In a test of 255/45 R17 tires with a speed index of 240 km / h, he also looked at the width of winter tires. Due to its width, driving in slush and on a road covered with water was almost dangerous as a layer of water formed under the tire and the car became uncontrollable. That's why he recommends ADAC narrower tires for the winterbecause they are better able to withstand the dangerous situations that can arise in winter.
The tire manufacturer Continental, on the other hand, does it the other way round: wider tires have a larger contact area on the road and therefore better grip. Continental is also extending this to winter tires - because when a vehicle drives over frozen snow and ice, grip is crucial. Wider tires have more block edges and sipes, which increases friction. That means more grip and thus better handling, acceleration and braking. According to Continental, this leads to better overall tire performance, especially in corners and in snow. On the other hand, Continental admits that the traction in deep, fresh snow is always better with a narrower tire, as it can “dig” itself out of the snow much better with a smaller tire area.
Both ADAC and Continental agree: narrower tires are simply better in deep snow. So it is up to you how often you encounter such conditions in winter. Wider tires perform better in normal driving situations, but narrower tires are better in deep snow or aquaplaning.
Of course, that wasn't the end of it!
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