Winter may have been a bit of a bust here in Southern Ontario this year, at least as far as snowfall goes, but other parts of the continent have not gotten off so lightly. As Winter tire advocates for years, we are always the first to point out that cold temperatures and icy roads pose as much of a challenge to all season tires as the deep, white stuff does.
Despite the fact that Winter driver training options abound, some drivers continue to be caught out by the challenges of the season. In Quebec, and a couple of other provinces, the use of snow tires is mandatory during the Winter months. Sadly, other provinces like Ontario still don’t require their use.
For years, Michelin’s X-Ice lineup has been the cream of the crop of Winter boots. For the 2012 season, Michelin launched the X-Ice 3, the latest addition to their stable of snow season tires. To get the word out about, Michelin brought us to the incredible Mecaglisse winter driving facility in rural Quebec. On this trip, we stayed at the magnificent Esterel Suites hotel, which served up a mean burger when I arrived early the day before.
The idea was to have us compare the Xi3 to some of the competition, in a controlled setting. A cast of Canada’s top driving instructors including Philippe Letourneau from Canada’s Worst Driver, led by racing legend Richard Spenard, were charged with keeping the more unruly scribes from damaging themselves.
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The tests included a super slippery acceleration and braking test, on ice so polished that walking was nearly impossible. From their we went to a mixed snow and ice covered handling track, where the front wheel drive Mazda’s had been equipped with a variety of tire brands that had been shaved to duplicate a couple of seasons worth of wear. Next up was a shorter handling course with all new tires, on a hard pack snow surface. We finished up our day on the super icy skid pad, flogging some rear wheel drive cars and trucks from The General.
Not surprisingly, the new X-Ice 3 was the class of the field in each and every test. Perhaps the most impressive, was the test that simulated tires in the real world. While every car equipped with other brands became a real handful on the course, the Michelin shod Mazda3 felt as if it was wearing new boots.
Of course that particular session was where the laughter in our little group began to take over and yours truly began to run out of talent as the speeds increased beyond the, umm recommended range. Naturally, the back seat driver was quick to catch my failure on camera!