Words: Sammy Chan
Photography: Sammy Chan
Published: February 9, 2023
Canada has one of the harshest winters of any country in the world, and irrespective of how unusually warm this winter has been, a huge dump of snow at the end of January was a cruel reminder that winter is no joke. For motorists, a set of winter tires is not only recommended but also mandatory by law in some provinces like Quebec and British Columbia.
Despite what their name implies, all-weather and all-season tires do not hold up very well in frigid conditions. Once the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius, their rubber compounds become harder and stiffer to the point where they completely lose their ability to grip the road.
Winter tires on the other hand are made from specific compounds to maintain a certain level of softness in severe cold. That way, it doesn’t lose its ability to cling to road surfaces. Unique tread patterns also allow the tires to effectively overcome snow, slush, and ice. The ‘Alpine and Snow’ marking on winter tires ensures that they meet snow traction performance specifications established by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.
With a myriad of options to choose from, there's no straight answer as to which make of winter tire will best fit your vehicle. For perspective on this issue, we conduct snow tire testing regularly every year. This time, we turned to Michelin for a set of snows, and they sent us one of their best - the Michelin X-Ice Snow.
A French company with a long-standing foothold in North America, Michelin has always been known for its commitment to developing high-quality and high-performance tires. They offer a wide selection of winter tires with each catering to the type of vehicle you drive, your performance needs, and the weather conditions you are in. The X-Ice Snow is the latest, joining the ranks of their Pilot Alpin 5, Pilot Alpin 5 SUV, Agilis Alpin, Michelin X-Ice North 4, X-Ice XI3, Latitude Alpin, Latitude Alpin LA2, and Pilot Alpin PA4.
Available from 15 inches to as large as 22 inches, you will have no difficulty finding one that fits your SUV, passenger car, or minivan. Prices start from under $200 Canadian for each 175/65R15 size but can set you back a hefty $700 if your rubber happens to wear 285/45R22.
Unique features of Michelin X-ICE Snow:
V-shaped tread pattern: The next-generation V-shaped tread design uses 100% of the tire contact patch for optimal grip performance on snow and ice, increases tire clearance and helps water drainage for exceptional slush performance. Maintains its shape when worn to continue providing grip for winters to come.
Full-depth, interlocking 3-D sipes: two types of full-depth, interlocking 3-D sipes for an increased claw effect, help the tire's tread blocks to maintain stability and provide long-lasting biting edges.
FLEX-ICE 2.0 tread compound: A high silica-based compound maintains the flexibility of the tire at extremely low temperatures, thereby ensuring optimal braking and acceleration performance on ice and snow.
EverGrip technologies: an innovative tread compound with rigid polymer-based inclusions for improved grip on snow and ice for the duration of the tire life.
With SUVs dominating the market these days, our current-generation Volvo XC60 is exactly the kind of vehicle that Michelin designed this tire for. Our Volvo was equipped with the rubber in 235/60R18 spec. Though snow was sparse in December, the roads were quite slippery and icy in the early morning hours. It was here that the X-Ice tires excelled and exceeded our expectations. Acceleration and braking were hardly impacted when the road was anything but dry, and there were hardly any moments where traction felt compromised. The bite from the tires felt strong and responsive to our pedal inputs.
A severe snowstorm in January caught a lot of motorists off-guard. The southern USA border was closed and many cars were left stranded on the roads. But not our Volvo. Not only was our commute down the 401 a breeze, but the surprising amount of traction inspired us to trek off the beaten path for some photos and sideways fun.
Even with the roads caked in so much snow that we couldn’t even see the lane markings, the Volvo’s steering stayed straight and remained neutral through corners. Braking and stopping distances were short and barely required any electronic assistance from my Volvo’s stability and traction control systems. Having said that, the XC60’s AWD system did seem to capitalize on the tires' outstanding grip. Even better, we discovered that the tires were extremely quiet and remained consistently so on highways going at triple-digit speeds.
Backed by the Michelin Promise Plan of a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, roadside assistance and a 60,000-mileage warranty, the Michelin X-Ice Snow tires are an impressive value-for-money offering, and it gave us the confidence to trek outdoors no matter the weather condition. It is also worth mentioning that 85% of these Michelins are made in Nova Scotia - here’s to supporting our economy!