Winter tires are big business. Having long proven their worth and ability compared to all-season tires, winter rubber has become a staple in markets where the weather gets cold and the roads turn nasty during the winter months.
Naturally, the winter tire market has become a highly competitive place. Tire manufacturers are constantly introducing new products designed to be the best on ice, or in deep snow, or in extremely cold temperatures. But last year Michelin introduced the brand’s latest X-Ice tire, the X-Ice Xi3 and made some pretty bold claims. Not only will this tire excel at the usual winter tire duties like snow, ice and cold temperatures, but it will also be fuel efficient and long lasting.
The All Around Winter Tire
The new Michelin X-Ice Xi3 tire combines four technologies in its tread block design. The first is what Michelin calls a Cross Z sipe that enables stable handling in wet conditions. Next, the tire’s sidewall edge is a block design that provides more grip on snow and ice by digging into the surface. Then there are the “Micro-Pumps” that actually absorb water and expel it during as the tire rotates. Finally, Michelin uses a rubber silica-based compound called “FleX-Ice” designed to stick to ice and snow for improved braking.
- The new Michelin X-Ice Xi3 tire combines four technologies in its tread block design for optimal winter weather performance
- The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is available in 33 sizes, ranging from 14 to 18 inch rim diameters.
- The preliminary tread depth measured at 11/32nds upon installation onto our test vehicle.
To achieve long tread life, a unique contact-patch shape has been created that is said to evenly distribute acceleration, braking and cornering loads. To back this claim up, Michelin has given the tire a 40,000 mile limited tread wear warranty. Michelin has also given it the “Green X” marking to suggest that this tire will be one of the most fuel efficient winter tires on the market.
Real World Testing
As with any statement that sounds too good to be true, we had to get a set of these Xi3 tires and put them to the test. Our test vehicle is a 2008 Suzuki SX4. Now, you may be wondering why we would choose a car that is nearly six-years old and not a newer vehicle. The answer is simple; the SX4 lacks traction control and stability control. All traction and stability achieved during our test would come from the tires alone without modern technologies compensating for any shortcomings the tires might exhibit.
See Also: AutoGuide.com Tire Reviews
Since we will be posting real-world wear and tear results of this tire, we took a preliminary tread depth measurement of 11/32nds upon installation. Having driven dozens of different winter tires over the years, we were immediately impressed by how quiet the Xi3 is for a snow tire. With blockier tread compounds and suction-cup-like sipes, winter tires usually produce more road noise than their all-season counterparts but that isn’t the case with these tires. Dry weather braking and dry weather cornering are also very good as this tire lacks the soft rubber squishiness that plagues some winter tires. The tire really feels like an average all-season tire when the roads are clear.
Early Winter Arrival
But then the weather took a turn for the worse. An uncharacteristically early December snowstorm dumped 10 inches of the white stuff around the city. While many rushed to the local tire shop to get winter tires installed, we were ready for the Michelins first real test. Initial traction in deep snow is great. Short of stabbing the throttle like a heavy footed lunatic, the Xi3 will grip and pull the car away from a rest without any drama. Cornering and braking are equally stable as the tire performs admirably within normal limits.
What if things are pushed too far though? We set up a test to simulate a driver taking a corner too quickly for the conditions in a slushy snow and ice mix. At 35 mph we started a moderate left-hand corner followed immediately by a moderate right hander. As we switched direction, the tail-end of the Suzuki began to slide out. Instead of losing all traction and spinning out, the blocky sidewalls fought hard to retain grip and kept the car manageable. With a minor counter-steer correction, the Suzuki was once again pointing in the right direction and continued on. Unlike our SX4 test car, all new cars come equipped with stability control designed to help straighten a driver out automatically if he/she finds themselves in a slide like this, but if the tires lack the grip the Xi3s were able to retain, the system is useless.
A few weeks later, a massive ice storm coated everything in an inch and a half of ice. Once again the X-Ice tires handled this foul weather like it was a sunny day on the beach. Steep driveways too slippery to walk on were of little worry for our Michelin shod Suzuki. With a little bit of momentum the car drove up the driveway and more importantly, stayed there once the parking brake was applied (I however slid arse-first back down said driveway after exiting the vehicle).
The Early Verdict
These are just preliminary tests, but it does appear the Xi3 lives up to its claimed winter weather abilities. But truthfully, most winter tires do these days. What sets this tire apart is how quiet and comfortable it is on the road and the claimed efficiency and longevity. Over the next few months we will continue to monitor the slippery weather performance of these tires as well as our test vehicles observed fuel economy. Look for an update this spring on how the tires durability and performance measured after an entire winter of testing.
The X-Ice Xi3’s main competitors are the Pirelli Winter Carving Edge, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 and Dunlop Winter Sport. Depending on rim size, sidewall height and retail outlet, pricing will vary for the X-Ice Xi3 but is competitive with its main competitors; our 195/65R15 set of tires costs $101.00 each on tirerack.com. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is available in 33 sizes, ranging from 14 to 18 inch rim diameters and is available at several retail stores and online sites.