Realizing that Valeo goes to great lengths in developing, testing and evaluating all performance aspects of its wiper products, I was very interested to see how the Ultimate Blades would measure up in a varying range of conditions and cold temperatures.
Installing these blades requires very little effort and Valeo appears to have the system well in hand. The only minor glitch that I did run across was with the plastic hinged cover which snaps the hook arm into place. On the day that I installed it, the ambient temperature was -25°C (-13°F) and the cover stubbornly refused to stay put. After a bit of fidgeting I finally managed to secure it in place. Since then, it has never become an issue and I can’t really see this as ever being a problem for the majority of users. I would, however, think that fewer moving plastic parts would likely be beneficial in extreme temperatures.
The low profile blades lack frame joints that conventional wipers possess which makes them very stealthy in preventing snow and ice buildup that affects conventional wiper blades. The plastic housing of the Valeo blade, in particular, is completely encased and lacking any cavities that would normally allow penetration. The slim design also makes these flat blades less bulky and more aesthetically appealing than the rubber covered versions that the dealers usually sell. This is quite apparent when viewing them from inside of the car.
Road Test Evaluation
At -5°C (23°F), both blades on either side functioned near to perfect and left very little trace of residual water and no streaks behind on both up and downstrokes. From what I could tell, neither wiper experienced any ‘lift off’ effect at highway speeds even during activation. I did manage to get the XC up to 140kph (87mph) despite the deteriorating highway conditions. At much higher velocities, I could imagine Valeo’s built-in spoiler coming into good use, but at normal highway driving speeds the difference would likely be negligible.
Several hours later, with the mercury hovering around -15°C (5°F) and with snow falling lightly, I took the car out for another test spin to see how the wipers would react. Remarkably, they performed quite well despite the frigid temperature. However, the blade on the driver side appeared to smudge a bit further into the test. I ended up having to exit the car and shake off a thin layer of ice that had accumulated on a portion of the rubber blade during the snowfall. Once I cranked the heat up, the windshield became clear once again. I then turned down the defroster a notch or two to stabilize the degree of heat output. This method clearly worked to the advantage of the rubber blades.
A few days after, with the mercury dropping to -25°C (-13°F), I tested the wipers once again by leaving the XC parked outside. The next morning, I brushed the snow away that was left from the previous night and then dialed up the defroster setting to high. Once the ice melted away, I turned the wipers on and within two passes the windshield was spotless.
When facing average winter conditions, I would definitely give the Valeo blades the upper hand over the OEM blades. At more extreme temperatures, -15°C (5°F) and lower, I found that the execution of the Valeo wipers could be a bit finicky, though this was likely due in part to the surface temperature of the windshield. Fine tuning the defroster would likely eliminate this problem. One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was how much quieter the blades operated compared to the OEM versions, even at higher wiper speeds.
As overall performance goes, the Valeo blades are a pretty decent product if it were not for their premium price. The true test for these wipers will come in the spring after they have been tortured by the cold and dry winter here and perhaps a long term test would also provide more definitive results relative to durability.