Driving on snow and ice is never a pleasant experience. Traction in these conditions is severely limited, and the braking distances are very long. Fortunately, you can considerably mitigate these issues by opting for a set of winter tires.
That said, there is a difference even between various winter tires. Some cheaper options offer usable traction and braking on snow, but they are much worse on dry and wet surfaces, or vice-versa. If you want the best of both worlds, you will need to opt for premium winter tires.
The latest premium winter tire on the market is the Michelin X-Ice Snow. A successor to the best-selling X-Ice Xi3, the newest winter tire in Michelin’s arsenal, brings several improvements to the table. And, if we judge by the quality of the X-Ice Xi3, these improvements should launch the X-Ice Snow directly on the top of the category.
Let me give you some numbers. According to Michelin, the X-Ice Snow has reduced rolling resistance by 9% (better fuel economy), 7% higher hydroplaning resistance and slush performance, and up to 2.7 meters (9 feet) shorter braking distances on snow when compared to other tires in the category.
Meanwhile, Michelin also made improvements in the tread wear front. The X-Ice Snow is still the only winter tire that comes with a treadwear warranty, even when compared to other premium products, most of them priced almost equally.
Moreover, Michelin made the X-Ice Snow available in many sizes, covering most passenger cars in North America. You can fit this tire on compact cars, mid-size sedans, premium sedans, crossovers, SUVs, and even coupes. Some sizes can even be fitted to performance cars, but keep in mind that this tire isn’t designed for aggressive cornering.
But how does all that translate into the real world? The X-Ice Snow faces stiff competition, primarily from the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, which is a favorite of mine.
To beat that tire, the X-Ice Snow must be exceptional in every single category viable for winter tires, including snow, ice, and slush traction and braking, wet handling and braking, and dry handling and braking.
The only thing that we still can’t talk about is the price of the Michelin X-Ice Snow. I expect it to be very expensive, even when compared to other premium rivals, simply because the predecessor was already the costliest model in the category. Still, I’ll reserve my judgment on the price for later.
With that said, let’s see how the tire handles daily winter driving in my detailed Michelin X-Ice Snow review. Here, I’ll talk about the performance of the tire in freezing weather, the durability, and comfort levels.
Before we do that, though, let’s see what features Michelin built into the tire to make it perform as well as advertised.
- What are the features of the Michelin X-Ice Snow?
- What are the maintenance indicators?
- How does it behave on a dry tarmac?
- How is it over wet and slippery roads?
- With that being said, how is it on snowy roads?
- Is it suitable for off-road driving?
- Is it comfortable and refined?
- Should I buy the Michelin X-Ice Snow?
What are the features of the Michelin X-Ice Snow?
According to Michelin, the X-Ice Snow is a winter tire designed for maximum mobility and safety not just when it’s new, but also several years after the initial installation. That’s great because winter tires usually lose snow and ice traction over time.
Michelin also shares three key things about the X-Ice Snow. The first one is excellent snow braking and improved overall snow performance. The second one is that the X-Ice Snow is a leader in ice braking, with 2.7 shorter distances than the nearest competitor.
The third one is that the hydroplaning resistance and slush performance are greatly improved, even when the tread wears down. Michelin says that the X-Ice Snow lasts for one season longer than the nearest competitors, which is pretty astonishing, to be honest.
To achieve those things, Michelin utilized a completely new Flex-Ice 2.0 tread compound. According to Michelin, the engineers used a unique combination of rubber materials.
These include polymer-based inclusion and silica-enriched compounds, which ensure flexibility at very low temperatures, while also improving wear characteristics.
The compound also features micro-roughness on the surface, which improves traction on slippery surfaces even when the tread is worn down.
Furthermore, the directional V-shaped tread pattern is completely new for this generation. According to Michelin, the tread pattern improves stability on dry and wet roads, thanks to the optimal contact patch.
Meanwhile, Michelin utilized two different types of full-depth 3D sipes on the tread blocks for better traction on snow but also increased claw effect on the ice. These include notched sipes and variable-thickness sipes.
Finally, Michelin promises that the X-Ice Snow retains the excellent wintry traction throughout the life of the tire. To do that, the engineers designed the sipes to retain their shape even when worn-down to 5/32-inch (4 mm), and the minimum 4/32-inch (3 mm).
What are the maintenance indicators?
Even though the X-Ice Snow is literally the newest tire in Michelin’s portfolio, the French manufacturer still opted for the traditional TWI’s (tread wear indicators) to help the driver monitor the tread depth of the tire.
These indicators are narrow rubber bars built between the tread grooves of the tire. When the tire is new, the bars will be recessed in the tread grooves. However, they will become more visible as the tire wears down.
On the X-Ice Snow, the minimum tread depth is 4/32-inch. When the tire wears to this point, the rubber bars will be completely flush with the surface. And, to retain good snow and ice traction, it is recommended to immediately replace the tires.
Fortunately, if you opt for the X-Ice Snow, that won’t happen soon. Michelin was already the only company that provided a treadwear warranty on its winter tire at 40,000-miles.
With the X-Ice Snow, Michelin again provides a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty. That is certainly impressive, but even more impressive is the fact that the company is confident the X-Ice Snow will last one season longer than the predecessor.
So, when it comes to treadwear, the X-Ice Snow is clearly the best tire in its class. Even more glaring, no other tire comes even close!
How does it behave on a dry tarmac?
The Michelin X-Ice Snow isn’t designed for spirited driving – most winter tires aren’t. Still, the tire succeeds in providing the driver with usable traction for daily driving.
Cornering grip is very good for a winter tire, the braking distances aren’t overly long, and the highway stability is excellent. Moreover, the X-Ice Snow doesn’t feel as cumbersome to drive as other winter tires.
Just make sure that you don’t use the X-Ice Snow in hot summer weather. The tire becomes very soft, which makes the vehicle less stable, and also, the tread wears much faster.
How is it over wet and slippery roads?
The Michelin X-Ice Snow is one of the best winter tires for driving on wet surfaces, provided the weather is not very hot.
Thanks to the V-shaped and aggressive tread pattern, the X-Ice Snow has excellent hydroplaning resistance, even in very heavy rain. Moreover, traction in rainy conditions is excellent, and the braking distances are very short.
With that being said, how is it on snowy roads?
In a word, the X-Ice Snow is exceptional in wintry conditions. However, I still feel the need to elaborate on why.
First of all, the X-Ice Snow provides the driver with the best possible traction on packed and unpacked snow. With this tire, you will never get stranded anywhere. Moreover, the handling feels completely sure-footed, and the braking distances are record-breaking short.
The X-Ice Snow continues to impress on icy surfaces. I couldn’t believe myself the first time I tried this tire on ice. The vehicle immediately accelerates, and brakes without a lot of fuss. Sure, you will still need to be careful, but you will at least feel safe.
To sum it up, if you want the safest driving experience in harsh wintry conditions, the X-Ice Snow is the best winter tire at the moment.
Is it suitable for off-road driving?
The aggressive tread pattern of the X-Ice Snow might lead you to the conclusion that the tire is usable for off-roading. However, while the tire might provide you with better traction than all-season or summer tires, I suggest against doing that. Winter tires have a soft tread compound that can be easily chipped if you drive over sharp items, such as rocks.
Is it comfortable and refined?
The X-Ice Snow rides very comfortably over bumps, even in freezing weather, when the rubber usually becomes harder. Noise is also not a big issue, but you can still hear the tires at highway speeds.
Should I buy the Michelin X-Ice Snow?
Well, if you’re prepared for the extra cost, sure, you should buy the X-Ice Snow. Michelin’s newest winter tire not only sets new benchmarks for driving over snow, slush, and ice, but it also comes with an outstanding 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.
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