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Our Mazda MPV minivan vs a Dodge Ram 1500 on all-seasons...who wins?


Michelin X-Ice Xi3 Snow Tires: Just How Good are They?

by Pablo Mazlumian

“I do fine in the snow because I have all-wheel drive!”

(Uh huh…)

I hear this every winter here in Kansas City.  The problem with this comment is the individual is usually only considering acceleration.  Sure, an AWD car will almost always have better acceleration in the snow than a RWD or FWD car, and the FWD car will be easier to handle in this situation due to its tendency to power-understeer.  However, the number of drive-tires has little to do with braking performance.  And let’s consider how most people get into accidents in the snow—is it when they have a hard time accelerating or slowing down?  That answer is the latter, and the difference is all in the tires.

In the U.S. we don’t get penalized for driving a vehicle without snow tires during the winter months, even if we cause a wreck.  In most of the Northern European countries, stretching as far down as Germany and Austria, however, you get fined a hefty amount of money if you’re caught without snow tires between the months of December and March.  Even worse, causing a wreck that leads to a traffic jam equipped with the wrong tires could not only get you fined in the thousands—your insurance may not cover you! 

In North America (except in Quebec, Canada, which passed a snow tire law in 2008), we don’t worry about this.  Having grown up most of my life in Southern California, I recall the “chains-only” sections when driving up a snowy mountain, but if it snows elsewhere—like in Kansas City, where I live now with snow on the ground, even as I type—we are, by law, okay without snow tires.  But they are badly needed.

I was first exposed to winter tires at a test by a big tire manufacturer in 2006, in Mont Tremblant, Canada.  I could not believe how good true winter tires performed.  Here we were in large BMW and Mercedes SUVs, trying not to slip on the ice when exiting our cars, and yet we were performing emergency lane change maneuvers on the same surface.  It was an eye-opening experience and a perfectly timed event, having just moved to the Midwest a month prior.  I was instantly sold on snow tires.

 


Anticipating our first snow storm in KC, which happened a few weeks ago, I ordered a set of Michelin X-Ice Xi3 snow tires for the wife’s daily family hauler, a 2004 Mazda MPV minivan.

 


The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is a snow-rated winter tire, which replaces the previously acclaimed X-Ice Xi2, with a reported 17% stronger grip and 7% shorter stopping distances than its predecessor on ice; and 6% better traction and 3% shorter stops in the snow. 

 

The Xi3's fall under the "Studless snow and tire" category.  Michelin also offers "performance winter and snow" tires, like the Alpin PA4, for high performance cars requiring larger wheel diameter tire fitments.

Instead of mounting the Xi3’s and simply telling you subjectively how good they are (that would be a boring article to write), I enlisted the help of a couple of friends and their big, hefty snow-treading trucks for a comparison.  First, let’s find out the difference between the minivan and the 2-wheel drive truck.

 

My neighbor Chad has a Dodge Ram 1500 with a Hemi V8.  Chad’s from this area and relies on his truck to get him about year-round, and claims to get along fine in the snow as long as he's careful.
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Monkius
Monkiuslink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:07 AM
You can show me a bunch of numbers and marketing horse$#!& until you are blue in the face, but the fact is that you did these tests on ice and/or snow. I live in a city, the roads here are covered with snow for maybe 5 days out of the winter. I just don't drive on those days.

Moreover, these tests were done on /new/ snow tires, while the all-seasons were an unknown (or maybe not, I'll admit I kind of skimmed this article). I'm willing to bet that when they wear past those micro-sipes, the grip starts dropping off.

Try showing us an all-season vs. snow comparison with both tires at half-tread on dry or slightly damp tarmac (which are the conditions throughout 93.67243894% of winter) instead of the same old fear-mongering garbage I see on every winter tire commercial.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 7:29 AM
Well, I don't know about the X-Ices, but I'm running a WRX on Contintental ExtremeWinterContacts; previous winter vehicles included the same car on all seasons, a 4WD Ranger on all seasons, Integra on all seasons, a Miata on snows, and possibly a few others. I live in Wisconsin, which may have more of a winter than KC, and have been driving here for the last 15 years or so.

First off, compounds... all seasons are like rocks; people run them for a hundred thousand miles. Even if the sipes were worn away there'd still be a major difference in compounding. But I don't know how long it takes the sipes to wear away; I'm on my 3rd year for the EWCs, about 20k miles on them (would have to check my logs) and they're still fine. Even in just cold though, I doubt (haven't done accelerometer data, maybe I should) that on dry roads all seasons would stick as well as snows.

Secondly, if the roads are only covered with snow 5 days out of the winter and you're not willing to drive on them then, well fine. I wouldn't expect people in Florida to have meaningful experience driving in snow and a need to optimize for it either. I can honestly say that in the month of December here, I've had 5 days where there was over two inches of snow on the roads pretty much everywhere, and another 10 days where there were significant patches of hardpack snow and ice in various places - maybe not everywhere, but enough to be noticeable. And personally I can't afford to take days off of work.

Thirdly, think in terms of the unexpected; winter driving isn't just about "oh hey, it's snowy all over, I'll be careful" it's also about "clear roads clear roads oh crap a snowdrift packed down in the middle of a curve with trees", or by a stop sign or stop light or whatever. There's a lot less difference between dry and snow performance in snow tires than all seasons, and for that matter a lot of difference in how predictable they lose traction.

Like I said though, if you live somewhere where the roads are constantly plowed and you can just avoid going anywhere if they are or might be bad, then you probably have the luxury of ignoring anything like this. Some of us don't.

Food for thought.
stoves
stoveslink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 8:13 AM
I feel like this was a pretty poor comparison overall. How can a 5000+lb truck on all seasons compare to a 3700lb minivan on snow tires? Apples to Oranges.
The best test would have been with a set of brand new snow tires on the MPV, a set of brand new all seasons on the MPV, and then repeat the testing with sets of half worn snows and all seasons.

That said, I have had snow tires on several cars I've owned and have been pleased with their performance.
Protodad
Protodadlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 8:25 AM
For the record, the MPV should be significantly slower on dry ground than both the 2wd Ram and the AWD (4x4?) F-150.

Also, oddly enough, I am looking forward to project MPV. Our Odyssey likely needs a complete brake refresh and I wonder how the MPV will do.

(But don't skimp on Project E46)
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 9:36 AM
Tempted to go out by my folks place in the country and do an A to B with snows vs other. Only have summers to swap over though, which would be silly for snow.
jeffball610
jeffball610link
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 10:16 AM
From first-hand experience, don't ever use summer tires in the snow. I nearly lost my life crossing a mountain pass last year when an unexpected snow hit. All of the data collected seems accurate to my life experiences in Colorado weather. Never take for granted what that white stuff can do while you're driving on it.
Nick B
Nick Blink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 11:17 AM
@Monk - I completely agree! Testing Ice/Snow tires in ice and snow is absolutely ridiculous! Ice/Snow tires should always be tested on dry/damp tarmac. It's like testing slicks on a road course, I don't live on a road course, they should be tested in the rain on the freeway! And then testing them against all seasons which most people use year round thinking they don't need snow tires is rubbish. Why would you want to show people the detriment of all seasons in the snow and the benefit of switching to snow tires? Waste of time if you ask me.
Monkius
Monkiuslink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 11:57 AM
@Nick B: I said /comparing/ snow tires to all-seasons on dry tarmac (indicative of the usual winter road conditions in populated areas away from water, like where I am), not testing the snow tires per se. Read a little more carefully next time, smartass.

@Jeffball: If you mean /summer/ tires, then yes. I agree, grip drops off significantly around freezing. With all-seasons I find it doesn't happen until it's stupid-cold (ie, -20 or -30º)

@ Dan D.
I don't have experience with all-seasons that are "like rocks", I have never bought a tire that is >450-treadwear in my life. The ones I have are about 400- or 420-treadwear; at half tread, they feel about the same as the used winter tires (of the same section width, 195) that I had a couple of winters ago (I also don't have accelerometer data, and am tempted to do a test).

And sometimes I don't have the "luxury of ignoring" snowfalls. I worked for a rental-car agency during one winter, and most of their cars were on all-seasons. I came out of every "oh crap" situation alive and collision-free simply because I was driving carefully, /just like almost everyone with snow tires/. I think those situations have equally to do with the driver than the tires involved.
lastminutepanic
lastminutepaniclink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 12:31 PM
@Monkius: Maybe the cars you've driven have soft suspensions, so the harder tires weren't that noticeable. I have Continental ExtremeContact DWS on my car (very good all seasons) with 10k miles of wear that were just put on this summer and I see a huge difference in the feeling of wheel impact over bumps. I have coilovers setup reasonably soft on a Honda Element. This morning when the temp was 5 degrees, the ride on pavement was terrible compared to the soft ride of yesterday afternoon's 40 degrees. I have had snow tires in the past and I think comfort alone helps justify getting winter tires. I drove my sister's car in our recent snowstorm and found better grip with her snow tires that are on their third year than my relatively new all season. It's not a great comparison because our cars are so different (Mini vs Element), although they are both fwd.

I know getting two sets of tires is more money up front, but if you only use each set for half the year, you're putting half the miles on each. If you get a cheap set of wheels for your car, you only have to mount the winter tires once (as opposed to switching twice a year and paying $65 each summer and winter). I guess if you don't drive much and the rubber dries out before you would run down the tread on a set only used for half a year, that's a different consideration.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 12:38 PM
If you drive carefully, you can use slick DOT Rs in rain too. It's not ideal though but if you're careful you can avoid death or other accidents. If you have to do significant driving in snow then what the hell? You're the one who said there's only 5 days with snowy roads a winter and on those days you just don't drive.

It's all of $400 for a set of tires that give a much larger margin of error in conditions that are pretty common here. Call it $3 per crappy icy/snowy day to buy more grip. Bargain in my books.
Pablo Mazlumian
Pablo Mazlumianlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 12:50 PM
thanks for reading, everyone! I've added a Page6 with a last-minute test late last night, which I was only able to update a couple of hours ago, only this time against a Subaru Outback AWD. I found the results rather interesting!!

@Monkius: perhaps the snow plows in your area magically make the snow disappear while it's still snowing. Sadly, that's not always the case here when it snows good and hard. This was in the conditions I've been commuting 40mi each way in for the past couple of weeks, so call it what you like. I can't control the conditions nor the snow plows. Driving on all-seasons isn't as good as driving on snow tires in the dry in weather below 0F, sure. But you can get away with a lot more there, not being equipped with snow tires, as opposed to when there's actually snow or ice on the ground. That's the test I wanted to do.

@Dan: yes the other mentioned "snow tire" I'd tested was indeed the EWC. It was on a BMW M3 with no traction control and the difference was awesome--never had a close-call. Also tested Blizzaks on another BMW and those proved well over the all-seasons Bridgestones as well.

@stoves: Flip to page6 for the Subaru Outback. Still, this was more about a test of a vehicle--that is NOT the ideal snow-carver--equipped with the proper tire, against what people seem to deem as the "norm" (i.e. large trucks, AWD trucks, AWD cars, etc..but all on all-season tires). What I wanted to show was the difference a snow tire-equipped car's performance is over the "norm". This "norm" is what I'm out there driving with, too. People need to know that all-seasons and AWD will NOT be as safe, not even clearly, than snow-tires. Check out the Subi test..

@Protodad: you are correct and that's a good point. These vehicles would out-accelerate the MPV on the dry. It was all about the grip, which we were testing.
And yes I can't wait to strap this thing to a dyno and see what the maintenance refresh gives in terms of hp--I'm hoping for about 10whp total. I'll be testing the brakes with all-season Michelin Pilot 3s as well!
Project E46 M3 is getting its next update on the AEM Infinity :)

@Jeff: That's similar to what happened to me. An unanticipated snow came through when I was at a friends house with the fam, not paying attention to the news. We had an M3 sedan, and no traction control, and summer tires, and it was in a hilly area. I thought I could make it through the top of one hill, which was an intersection, and ran out of momemtum--couldn't brake, couldn't accelerate out of the way, just slid into the path of a monstrous municipal snow plow, which missed us (my wife and 2 girls, now 3) by inches.
I'm sure all-seasons would have been "better", but after my experience with now 3 different snow tire companies, I'm sold. Is it with it to anyone else? that's up to them, but we're on the road with you, too.

While this test was fun to perform, it wasn't a "just for fun" test, guys. This is serious, potentially life-threatening stuff. One can call it what they want (marketing, etc--shoot, I wasn't even sent any marketing info from Michelin, come to think of it). In my experience, if a tire buys you 10feet in a 60-0 ft braking test, that is awesome. But here, we get 12x(!) that at 20mph LESS. Oh, did I just give the Subi test away?...
Again, thanks for reading!
Monkius
Monkiuslink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:15 PM
@Pablo: By no means are the ploughs around here "magical", but a combination of them and tire friction usually mean that roads are bare pavement the same or next day. Snowfalls happen probably every week or two, with only a couple of really heavy ones per year. Your area may be different; by no means am I saying snow tires are useless. I'm just saying that every city/densely populated area of substantial size I've been to in the winter usually has dry roads most of the time, due largely to traffic volume.

This site is known for more interesting, technical articles like in-depth looks at 10 000hp Top-Fuel dragsters; I have seen these "ermagerd, snow tires work better on snow than other tires? Not like snow tires are built solely for snow traction or anything..."
"Ya, and all-wheel drive doesn't make you invincible in winter, either"
"Nowai! You are blowing my mind!"
types of test at least three other places by now, and figured this site would be a little more creative.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:28 PM
Monkius,

I don't know crap about these kind of tires because it never snows and hardly ever rains here in southern CA but I can say this. If you don't like our evaluation, do your own and if I like it and agree with the methodology I will publish it here.
Monkius
Monkiuslink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:36 PM
Really? Cool! I need to go find me an accelerometer...
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:41 PM
Be sure and take lots of good quality pictures. Let me know what your test methodology is first.
Protodad
Protodadlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:50 PM
This test doesn't just prove that snow tires work well in the snow. It proves that a set of snow tires on a slow minivan can make it outperform 2 V8 trucks and an AWD subie that are on M&S tires. 3 vehicles that would normally dominate it in normal conditions. This is straight to the point information that anyone wanting more info on snow tires would actually appreciate.

Tests like this are the whole reason I come to this site. It isn't just lets test 1 car with 15 sets of tires and see which is best. I could go anywhere for that.

(And Pablo, are you sure it is an Outback? I didn't know they came with a Hybrid option).
Pablo Mazlumian
Pablo Mazlumianlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:07 PM
@Monkius: I understand where you are coming from, and appreciate the NHRA comment. But do you really think all of our readers live in a big city? Or never see snow? Some up north see at least some snow in their outer-city commutes between 50-80% of their winter days!

So what's wrong with tapping SIGNIFICANTLY more performance or, heaven-forbid, greater and potentially life-altering safety, in these conditions? And if that's not your cup of tea then why read the article when you know what it will be about?

I'll say this though: Having snow tires now makes my commute WAY more fun, "keeping up" (okay, we know what the means) with the guys with the big AWD trucks in either a minivan or my previous "snow sleeper", a little snow-tire equipped Mazda MX-3 hatchback. It's like a street legal drag race at the light or highway, only I'm the big-time underdog. It's a blast to pass them up (whoops okay I said it). :).
Pablo Mazlumian
Pablo Mazlumianlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:10 PM
@ Protodad: Agreed and thanks for the comments! Although I consider myself a big HP kind of guy, I was very excited to do this test because the numbers are simply ming-boggling (to me).
And yes, 2013 Subaru Outback Hybrid (you made me double check though), ;).
EDIT: Whoops, I think you are correct--not a hybrid. I was told it was, was dark/quick, thought I found it later online, but I was incorrect. My bad, will change that in the text!
Nick B
Nick Blink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:43 PM
@Monk - yeah I'm a smart ass, it's just who I am. All said and done, and not being a smart ass, thanks for being a reader of the site.
smoketreegarage
smoketreegaragelink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 3:06 PM
Canadian here (currently sitting in a three day ice/snow/wind/cold ass storm)... I enjoyed this article!
SM_Clay72
SM_Clay72link
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 6:27 PM
Also Canadian, but that's besides the point.

@Mokius, if you are unable to read that and take away some valuable information from it, that is your shortcoming, not that of the test.

Winter tires work. They can save lives ultimately. End of story. If this test is not applicable to your life, that's fine too.

We don't get a lot of snow here in the winter at sea level, but I go up the ski hill a lot in my girlfriends Matrix. Her winter tires make a massive difference. They are on their second winter. Their first winter was in Fort St.John where you are driving on snow for easily over 100 days per year.

nissannx
nissannxlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 7:06 PM
I enjoyed this article too. Great writing. I can see the points that making comparisons in same type of vehicle, new tires on both vehicles would make for a better scientific comparison BUT I read the article as a light hearted yet serious view of how tires impact winter driving. And looking at how many truck people view their pick up truck as out-performing everyone else so it's good to show how a mini-van can out-perform a truck.

I was just out in my RX-8 on snow tires on snow packed roads and -10F temperatures. Necessary equipment - and still work even though this is their third winter. When I used to drive my Nissan NX1600 through the winter (that was before the GTi-R swap) on snow tires I would consistently drive around all types of vehicles when the snow happened.

Snow tires make sense. You may only need them a couple of times a year, but when you need them they're awesome. Airbags make sense. You may never need them, but when you do they're awesome. Seat belts make sense ... you get the point. Personally, I'd like to see more northern states and Canadian provinces make snow tires mandatory.
Samuel
Samuellink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 8:21 PM
I live in Quebec, Canada. I mount my winter tire on my AWD RAV4 in November and remove them in April. They won't make your car on on snow handle like dry pavement but they are way better.
We also have studded winter tires. If you ever do another test you should try a set.
I would hate being hit by another car in the winter who is equipper with all-season tires.

538
538link
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 9:09 PM
From personal experience driving my civic around in the snow in Wisconsin (non-stock suspension with stiffer springs from an integra type-r, tokico HTS dampers, and poly bushings), my all season tires have no grip at all in light snow. Anytime there is fresh snow on the roads, even if it has not accumulated deeply, the car is nearly undriveable.
Mike @FIGS Engineering
Mike @FIGS Engineeringlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 11:55 PM
snow tires are awesome. Used to drive the IS-F year round on x-ice tires.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2530/4156626707_6573d88cde_o.jpg
spdracerut
spdracerutlink
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 11:59 PM
Very good data! Your car sure is friendly too saying "N ICE" to you.
Burninator
Burninatorlink
Wednesday, January 08, 2014 1:09 PM
With more performance oriented cars you should check out some high performance winter tires too. Rather than the snow and ice tires that are more commonly thought of. They are mostly meant for clear roads in freezing temps, but have a few features that help in the snow and ice too. The guys at the tire shop might look at you funny when you ask about them though. I ended up ordering them online because nobody new what I was talking about or cared to find out. Here in Montana we get plenty of snow and it doesn't always melt off so fast, but I admit the roads are dry most of the time (at least the highways/interstates, my neighborhood is snow covered all winter for the most part). So I wanted something that would handle the snow and ice well, but still be fun on dry roads.
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Sunday, January 12, 2014 2:48 AM
Having driven in snowy mountain conditions in 4wd trucks (4wd donuts FTMFW!), summer-tire-equipped SE-Rs with stiff suspensions, and one lowly Taurus wagon on winter tires in STL after a freezing rain/snow storm, I will put the snow tired Taurus up against any of these machines in any contest of speed. ;-p

The SE-R? Erm, completely undriveable springs to mind, and one of those "it just started snowing and we've only got 2 more miles to the cabin" type deals at Mammoth Mountain, CA. Ended up parking it across the street that night because I couldn't drive up the moderate incline in the cabin's driveway. Took that thing at least 200' to stop from 15mph, and it probably would've been better to install a Flintstones hole in the thing and stop that way. "Driving careful" brings about a whole new, and ridiculous, meaning. Tires were literally rocks (never were the same either). Ski conditions (got 4' of snow over the next day, car was buried) were insanely good that week though. :)
destrux
destruxlink
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 3:53 PM
Test like this always bring out the hurt feelings from the people who feel the need to justify why they don't spend the money on snow tires and spare wheels. It is unjustified if it snows 5 days a year where you live and you have the luxury of staying home. If you live where I do though, and it snows 30+ days a year you have no excuse to make due with all season tires if you can afford snow tires (if you're reading this on your iPhone, you can afford snow tires).

I drive a large variety of vehicle and tire combinations at work. I have to test drive cars after I fix them. I get a feel for everything and how it works in all different weather.

I choose to run 4 snow tires on every vehicle I own, except for my offroad truck (because snow tires are not rock resistant enough) which runs tires that I know from my experience are good in snow (but not as good as my wife's car with snow tires, ironically). Before I adopted this strategy I had been in two car accidents in the snow... neither were caused by me but rather by my inability to avoid another person who lost control.

One thing many people don't consider when they say "just drive carefully and all season tires are fine" is that you might be driving carefully, but not everyone is. You might need the extra traction the snow tires give you in order to avoid an unexpected collision.
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