Are your tires ready to take on climate change?
In February, the unthinkable happened in Austin, Texas. We had 8 solid days of snow, ice, freezing temperatures and immobility. Nobody went anywhere. Located in the Texas Hill Country, Austin is a hilly and usually warm place. But that week, even people with all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive were stuck. Only those with the right tires — in this case, not all season tires — were able to get out and tend to business while the rest of the city was paralyzed.
Sadly, Austin isn’t alone in the crazy weather category. Many places had huge amounts of rain and flooding (including Austin), extreme temperatures (both high and low) and yes, unusual amounts of snow and ice. These days, the weather isn’t something to be chatted about idly; it impacts our lives daily, and without the right preparation, it can impact us badly.
Tires are often the last thing we think about when it comes to prepping our cars for each season, but they are one of our most critical systems, especially when the weather turns extreme. Wouldn’t it be great to have tires that you don’t have to think about, that can handle any road condition? Well, Michelin thought so, too.
Hope is not a strategy. Thankfully, it’s easy to be prepared
Since most of the time the weather performs as expected, it lulls us into thinking that we don’t have to be prepared for extremes. In reality, though, extreme circumstances are more and more frequent. Still, when winter sets in we don’t all run out and put snow tires on our cars, even though maybe we should. Though if you’re running winter tires in the summer, you’ll replace them soon… they’ll simply wear out.
While we can’t just hope that our tires get us through unexpected sleet or snow, snow tires are expensive and can’t be driven in the summer, so most people simply drive on one set of all season tires all year long and, yes, hope that their tires will do the job if the weather turns messy.
That’s the reality and Michelin gets it. So, they’ve been working on the holy grail of tires: One that can perform well in extreme conditions, both winter and summer, and still provide quiet, comfortable daily driving and will last for 60K+ miles.
Can one tire really do it all?
Imagine I just offered you a pair of waterproof shoes that you can wear in the snow, at the beach in summer, for daily walks with the dog, fancy evenings out, that you can bike, hike, walk red carpets and that will be stylish for years to come. Yeah, right.
Just like understanding what you need from your shoes, understanding how you need your tires to perform is the start of getting the right ones.
For climates with a lot of snow and cold, messy weather, winter tires are a must. These typically have deeper tread that is softer and more pliable on cold, slick surfaces. Made of softer rubber, they can grip and even absorb snow into the grooves, giving your car traction in slippery conditions.
For climates with year round warm temperatures and a lot of rain, summer tires are popular. They have to stand up to super hot road temperatures. As the pavement heats up, rubber melts, so summer tires are made of a tougher compound that resists melting.
All season tires are designed to do pretty well in both conditions, but probably don’t do both really well. They tend to be less effective in winter driving and depending on the tire, may not do all that well after driving on hot summer roads.
All tires, when they wear, also lose their ability to grip, especially wet, rainy pavement. Tire tread is designed to channel water away from the pavement as the tire rolls over it, so all seasons, as well as summer and winter tires, should do pretty well in rain as long as the tread is performing as it’s supposed to, But as your tires wear down you’ll notice it takes longer to stop and in the rain, and the car may even slide a bit.
This tire is designed to do it all — but can it?
Michelin’s innovation here is that the CrossClimate2 combines a new tread pattern and rubber compounds that work well in both winter and summer conditions. Certified for winter performance, the thick tread and V shaped tread pattern allow pliability in snow and rain; the tread channels can flush away water as the tire rolls through it and still grip the pavement. They can flex to absorb snow for added traction. And the new rubber compound is designed not to wear down fast in hot weather, which also gives the CrossClimate2 a longer life expectancy; they are warranted for 60 miles of wear.
The CrossClimate2 tires hefty tread also has a very unusual appearance: Rather than the typical channels, grooves and sipes that ring the tire, the CrossClimate2 tire tread is composed of deep rubber channels running in a V pattern that covers the tire surface and wraps over the top of the sidewall. The tread pattern is designed to reduce road noise and increase ride comfort as the tire tackles road conditions.
Bad ass tires on my BMW? Yes, please!
I had the chance to try out Michelin’s CrossClimate2 tires and so far, they are impressive for a number of reasons, but being able to function in almost any weather is a huge bonus — a true head-turner in the tire world.
When I got the CrossClimate2 tires I took them to my local shop, Excalibur Auto Repair, to have them installed. The guys at the shop were wowed by these tires; they look more like hefty all terrain tires for off roading than something you’d see on a sports sedan (typically a run flat tire, which I am a fan of, but definitely not in the snow).
Since then, I’ve been driving them through a rainy spring and a hot summer and so far, I’m impressed. They deliver a comfortable, quiet ride and in the rain, which we’ve had a lot of this year, they have great stopping power, even on oil-slick roads. Normally, wet roads in Texas are a thing to fear, but I feel much more confident with these tires on my car.
Pricing for the CrossClimate2
Great tires aren’t so great if they are not affordable, and that is probably the main reason people opt for all seasons rather than summer and winter tires: cost.
The CrossClimate2, however, carries a pretty average price tag. I found them priced starting about $140 a tire on Amazon for 16” tires and going up from there based on wheel size and type of vehicle. With the 60,000 mile warranty and the ability to perform in multiple circumstances, the price is a small consideration when you consider that freak snowstorms and 1,000 year storms are the new normal. With all the extreme weather we face these days, it pays to be prepared.
Disclosure: Michelin provided a set of CrossClimate2 tires for this review; all opinions are my own.