Not all tires are the same: the black gold often plays a decisive role not only in sport, but in everyday life the tire can also be decisive in dangerous situations. While most motorists rarely unintentionally explore the limit of their tires when it is dry, the weather-related lower coefficients of friction in winter can cause danger even at considerably low speeds.
Especially on wet asphalt and on snow-covered roads, there are sometimes blatant differences between the manufacturers in terms of braking distances and cornering forces – even if most motorists never want to experience these limits and are not aware of their importance, a good or poor winter tire can run out in a second the other being exactly that element in your own car that you would rather not have saved.
Without fear: good winter tires take the horror out of winter demons
At the Michelin Winter Essentials 2012 we had the opportunity to convince ourselves of the capabilities of Michelin’s new generation of winter tires on the Bikernieki test track at the end of last winter. The focus was on the variants Michelin Latitude Alpin LA2 for SUVs and Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 for drivers who want to be sporty in winter too.
Since in normal life you never have the chance to experience similar tires on comparable vehicles in direct comparison, even the braking test completed at the beginning from 50 km / h turns out to be interesting: On an Audi A5 Sportback, you can straighten up when braking in snow Really “experience” differences between different tires? It is difficult to give a clear answer because the first impression is similar for all the tires tested: In an emergency, it takes too much time before the vehicle is finally stationary. Only a look at the measuring devices reveals that the new Michelin tires are able to perform up to three meters better than their main competitors with total braking distances of around 30 meters.
However, the capabilities of a good tire were much more tangible only a few minutes later: Modern SUVs are generally not considered suitable for off-road use and hardly suitable for off-road use, which of course is primarily due to the wishes of the customer: They want compromises when driving on asphalt after all, hardly anyone will die who almost never leaves this underground anyway.
A typical representative of this type of vehicle, ridiculed by off-road fans, is the Range Rover Evoque, which scores above all with its dynamic design and British lifestyle flair, but is rarely bought because of its off-road capabilities. Nevertheless, Michelin chose exactly this car to take the forests in the east of Riga under the wheels with Michelin Latitude Alpin LA2 tires.
Anyone who expected a fight for traction on the snowy and muddy forest paths was mistaken, however. The Evoque mastered the off-road trip with flying colors and was moved by us in a way that at least 99 percent of Evoque customers would never expect from their car. Even on steep climbs, the SUV shone with unexpectedly good traction – and dealt with deliberately set pitfalls such as stopping and then starting off in the middle of a slippery incline with no problems.
Even if the Evoque can be moved in an entertaining way, many drivers are looking for significantly more power and dynamism in everyday life. A popular alternative to the BMW M5 is the Mercedes E 63 AMG. The sportiest variant of the E-Class from Stuttgart was also available in Bikernieki to show us the other advantages of good winter tires.
The focus here is on a good balance between three particularly important aspects: a tire must enable short braking distances on the one hand, and enable high cornering speeds even on poor surfaces, and finally offer a profile that even a rear-wheel drive sedan with a certain overpowered 525 hp can quickly get into Can bring speed.
To achieve this squaring of the circle, tire manufacturers are constantly working with new methods. The individual tread blocks of the tires are becoming more and more numerous, and there are more and more sipes in them. So the tire has more places where it can interlock with the ground. Just a few years ago, today’s designs would not have been possible without having to accept considerable problems with driving behavior on dry surfaces and low mileage.
One of the keys to success at Michelin is sunflower oil, because by adding this natural resource, the researchers have created a rubber compound that is soft enough for good traction even at low temperatures, without being noticeable with increased wear at higher temperatures. Compared to the previous Pilot Alpin 3 tire, the new Michelin PA4 could therefore be designed with around a quarter more tread blocks and almost 75 percent more effective tread edges.
The advantages of this technology can also be experienced at the wheel of a Porsche 911 Carrera S: The sports car legend, which is blessed with superior traction thanks to the rear engine, conveys a very safe driving experience even on snow and shines with its direct steering behavior. It is true that the 911 was not allowed to completely rely on the helping – or was it rather the disturbing one? – Hand of the ESP mentioned at Porsche PSM, but in comparison with the competition a difference was noticeable: The speed at which the PSM was forced to intervene was significantly higher with the Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 than in those vehicles different tires – a result of the joint work of Porsche and Michelin, because both companies worked hand in hand on the right tires for various purposes during the development of the vehicle.
Nonetheless, others made a more impression on that day: Both the drifting exercises with the Mercedes E 63 AMG – what was not wanted at the factory, the Michelin technicians succeeded in a roundabout way: ESP OFF! – as well as the off-road drive with the Range Rover Evoque showed in an entertaining way how controlled and safe you can be on snow with good tires. While we were able to convince ourselves of the fun consequences of good traction and high cornering forces in Bikernieki, safety is usually the focus in everyday life. The right tire can make all the difference here and there!
We thank Michelin for inviting us to the Michelin Winter Essentials 2012!