Amid 20 inches of snowfall in the Canadian mountains north of Montreal, Michelin North America debuted its new winter tire for passenger cars and CUVs that covers more than 80% of vehicle fitments on the road today.
The X-Ice Snow, Michelin’s next-generation winter tire, features new compounding technology, an updated tread design and availability in a whopping 123 sizes that will be launched over the next two years.
“We were really looking to create a versatile product that has maximum mobility and safety in all winter conditions – snow, slush, wet and ice – and not just [when it’s] new, throughout the life of the tire as it wears,” said Sabrina Garafolo, operations marketing manager for Michelin’s Canadian operations.
Michelin invited tire dealers, distributors and members of the media to put the X-Ice Snow to the test through various courses at Circuit Mecaglisse, a motorsports complex about 80 miles north of Montreal. Participants careened through the snow-covered course experiencing the tire’s handling, braking and cornering in deep snow, packed snow and ice against its competitors. Using Hyundai Elantras and Ford Escapes in different tests, Michelin also shaved each tire to 4/32-in. of tread depth to show the Ice-X Snow’s lasting performance as the tire wears.
“We took the opportunity when designing this tire to optimize the contact patch so that it could better distribute the stresses across the tire to optimize wear,” said Dave Cowart, product manager for the X-Ice Snow.
Taking almost three years to develop, the X-Ice Snow was created based on feedback from tire dealers, distributors and consumers on what they wanted improved from the X-Ice 3, Cowart said. Their answer? A more aggressive tread pattern so that the tire’s look dictated its performance capabilities. Marco Troiano, key account manager involved in gaining that feedback, said it all made sense: “Tire dealers have a crunched window for selling winter tires and want one that screams, ‘I can handle the elements!’”
“A retailer is selling probably somewhere between 70-75% of their annualized winter volume in about eight weeks,” Troiano explained. “Because there’s so much volume going through those stores in a short period of time, the retailer themselves doesn’t have the time to go through all the tire’s features and benefits, so they wanted something where the consumer would come in, look and say, ‘Yes, it has the look as well as the performance.’”
Cowart said the tread pattern on the X-Ice Snow has a myriad of features that contribute to its performance throughout its life. Those include:
- A V-shaped tread pattern that increases the void in the tire compared to the X-Ice 3 and aids in evacuating water, slush and snow from the surface of the tread. The pattern helps use 100% of the tire’s contact patch for grip in wet and snow conditions.
- Increased groove widths that provide snow-to-snow traction and contribute to the tire’s increased void.
- Variable thickness sipes found on the shoulder of the tire that are cut down to 2/32-in. of tread depth to maintain the tire’s performance throughout its lifecycle. Both the tire’s variable thickness sipes and notched sipes, found on the inside of the tread, are 3-D interlocking sipes that help the tire’s tread blocks maintain their stability and provide extra biting edges to grab at the surface of the road.
The X-Ice Snow also offers enhanced compounding compared to the X-Ice 3 to achieve greater longevity in harsh temperatures, said Farell Scott, Michelin’s winter product manager for North America. The tire is made with Michelin’s proprietary Flex-Ice 2.0 compound, a silica-based compound that maintains its flexibility in severe cold temperatures while remaining firm in moderate temperatures. Scott said it also contains the company’s EverGrip Technology, rigid polymer-based inclusions in the tread compound that create a rough surface in the tread for additional snow-scraping edges and water-absorbing cavities on icy roads.
The compound, as well as the tire’s tread design, play a role in the 9% reduction in the X-Ice Snow’s rolling resistance, resulting in better fuel economy compared to the X-Ice 3, Scott said.
Garafolo said the 85% of the tire’s manufacturing and production will be done at Michelin’s plant in Nova Scotia, giving the tiremaker accessibility to the process and a better ability to react to market changes.
She said the X-Ice Snow, which comes with a 40,000-mile (60,000-kilometer) warranty, will initially come to market with 82 sizes and be available to order this spring for dealers to have in stock come winter 2020. An additional 41 sizes will be released by the end of 2021. She said 42 of the tire’s sizes fit 18-in. and above rim diameters.
“We really concentrated on the 18-in. and above. We didn’t have that in the previous X-Ice 3,” Garafolo said of the tire’s eight-year-old predecessor. “We all know that the OE market is bringing cars on bigger wheels and that’s what we need to fit those vehicles.”