The idea of all-season tires is always a compelling one. Having tires that can be kept on your car year-round, that work well in both the winter and summer is generally a whole lot easier and cheaper than switching between winter and summer tires. The thing is, the requirements for tires designed for summer performance and tires designed to function in snow are extremely different even down to the rubber compounds, which makes it very difficult to make a tire that excels in all regimes. This means that designing all-season tires has always involved some very important tradeoffs. Only a few “all-season” tires are really designed to perform in snow and ice, and these tires generally must give up some dry performance to do so. I tend to call these “winter-biased” all-season tires. Most all-season tires are really three-season tires, giving up true snow performance for great wet and dry grip. These I call “performance” all-seasons. Compiling a list of the best all-season tires is therefore kind of a difficult process, because “all-season” is a very wide category without a lot of definition. So to do justice to the entirety of the all-season category requires two lists; one for winter-biased and one for performance all-season tires. To be clear, these are entirely my definitions: If you go to a tire shop asking for a “winter-biased all-season”, you may get some blank looks. If what you want is superior grip for a high-performance car in both dry and wet conditions, and you plan to either switch out to pure winter tires or not drive the car in the snow, one of these “performance” all-seasons may be just your cup of Texas tea. In general, these tires are excellent for driving from spring through fall, or year-round in climates where you just don't get all that much snow.
General's tires have a well-deserved reputation for great quality at good prices, and the G-MAX AS-03 is a highly functional if not superlative UHP tire at a daily-driver price. Do not, however, trust them in any kind of snow.
Another high-quality, high-speed tire at an excellent price, the Kumho Ecsta 4X is a perennial Tire Rack favorite, based both on their own testing and customer surveys. Testers particularly enjoyed the quick and precise steering response. Lots of grooves for hydroplaning resistance and a wide variety of siping patterns enhance the grip in bad weather.
The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season, besides being quite a mouthful, is an update of the earlier Eagle F1, which had a directional tread. The change to an asymmetric tread design seems to have greatly helped its performance in snow and wet conditions, while keeping its UHP flair. While it doesn't quite measure up to the Bridgestone or Michelin UHP all-season offerings, it's still an excellent high-performance tire with what appears to be better winter performance than most tires in this niche. As such it seems as if this tire might also fit into the “winter-biased” category, but it's such a good performance tire that I place it here.
Before driving the Pilot Sport A/S 3, I would have said that the Potenza RE970AS was the best performance all-season tire available, and frankly there is not all that much daylight between the two. The Potenza is crisp and precise, with a highly progressive grip that is very controllable even while breaking loose and a great, “Three Bears” steering feel that is quick, precise and juuuust right - not too springy and not too soft.
1. Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3
Available this summer, the new Pilot Sport A/S 3 is a ripsnorting performance tire with grip and responsiveness that equals or betters some of the best summer-only tires on the market while adding excellent wet grip to the mix. This is not by any means a daily-driver tire, this is a tire for pushing a hot car to the limits of its ability in changing conditions. As I said in my review, these are definitely bleeding-edge tires at the very top of their class, and boy are they fun to drive.