The majority of automobiles in the U.S. carry all-season tires. Enthusiasts sometimes refer to them by another name — no-season tires — as most don’t perform particularly well in either the summer or the winter, sacrificing top-level performance in order to work marginally well in all conditions.
In Europe, it’s all about summer tires. If you live where it gets cold and snowy, you buy a second set of dedicated winter tires. But there’s growing demand in certain European countries with certain climates for tires that can be used year-around.
Many European drivers wouldn’t put up with the typical U.S-spec all-season tire’s braking and handling characteristics in warmer weather but still need a proper winter-rated tire. Michelin claims to have the answer with their latest European-market CrossClimate (and the updated CrossClimate+). I hit up the Michelin North America (NA) communications team for further information and to see if this new tire has a place on our side of the Atlantic.
Technical communications director for product planning at Michelin NA, Tom Carter, with the assistance of product marketing director Cyrille Roget, provided some interesting information.
“The CrossClimate is defined as a summer tire homologated for winter conditions,” said Carter. “It carries the ‘Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake’ (3PMSF) symbol, showing that it’s fully winter capable. It is not, however, a winter tire like the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 or Pilot Alpin PA4, which are recommended for climates with severe cold and/or precipitation (snow).”
Clearly Michelin doesn’t see the CrossClimate as a true ‘do everything’ tire.
“Most all-weather tires don’t necessarily offer the safety benefits needed in summer conditions or when conditions get warmer as far as dry braking or handling as well as wet braking and handling,” noted Carter.
Carter’s further assessment on how the CrossClimate fits in with the winter tire world helps clarify its positioning.
“Having CrossClimate tires on your vehicle, even if you switch to true winter tires in the winter, gives you the ultimate flexibility to decide when to change tires,” he noted. “If the winter is warmer than usual, you could keep your CrossClimate tires (installed) and be safe in the eventuality of a sudden winter storm. No waiting in line at the tire store with the first snow arrives or when the date of mandatory switching to 3PMSF tires arrives (as in certain areas of Canada, for example). At the end of the winter season, you can also decide when to go back to your CrossClimate Tires and still be safe even if a spring snow storm arrives.”
Reading into this further, it sounds like the CrossClimate outperforms your typical U.S-spec all-season tire in the summer. It’s also stamped with the ‘3PMSF’, making it both legal and capable in winter conditions. If that’s indeed the case, the CrossClimate seems to widen the breadth of capability of typical all-season tires and could work well for some as a year-around option in certain areas of the U.S. that only see modest amounts of snow.
Carter went on to say, “We would expect the CrossClimate to perform very well in both handling and wear in the warm/hot temperatures that we see in much of North America. This is definitely not the case for some of the other (European) all-weather tires we’ve tested.”
When pushed further on what worldwide markets could take advantage of the CrossClimate tire, Carter explained, “The ideal target market is European countries that have snow and require the 3PMSF marking in winter but also have demanding drivers — and driving conditions: speeds, vehicles, curves and mountains — who have an expectation of summer tire performance in warmer weather. Germany and the northern France are ideal but there are other parts of Europe that are excellent target markets for this tire, including parts of Great Britain.”
Carter continued, “There seems to always be a place for tires with breakthrough performances like the CrossClimate in the North American market. And there certainly are places in the United States and Canada that are similar to the markets described above.”
The new Michelin CrossClimate is clearly an interesting tire and one that I’m eager to test in Europe — and, hopefully, the U.S. We’ll see if Michelin sees a business case for the CrossClimate tire in our market. Carter summarized the tire by saying, “The CrossClimate is not a performance summer tire and it’s not a fully-capable winter tire like the X-Ice Xi3. However, it does perform extremely well in snow.”