What the common driver knows about tires could probably fill a napkin on one side: They’re round, black and you need four of them to make a car function.
But what the common driver doesn’t know about tires is what could save him or her in the long run. We’re talking both financially and in terms of safety for themselves and their passengers.
When Michelin asked us to take part in an event to learn and test the new LTX M/S2 tires, we jumped at the opportunity. The original LTX M/S tire has been a long-time consumer favorite of Michelin’s and has remained at the top of its category for years. So we knew that if the company was going to expand and improve on the LTX M/S, then they had to be introducing a quality product.
For the event, Michelin sent me (along with several media members) to North Carolina and South Carolina for a complete presentation on the LTX M/S2 tire. And since the company stands by what they believe in, they also allowed us to take a three-hour drive through the winding hills of the Carolinas and also complete a series of field tests that weren’t just informative, but incredibly enjoyable as well.
Did I mention former NFL and Hall of Fame great Ronnie Lott was going to be there to lend his expertise on the LTX M/S2 tire, too?
Ronnie teamed up with Michelin to help promote the new LTX M/S2 tire and also share his expertise with fantasy football players at www.ronnielottfantasyfootball.com.
For the promotion, Ronnie helps potential customers weigh their tire options as they participate in fantasy football leagues, so it’s really a win-win; not only do you get football advice from one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game, but you also get credible knowledge from a man that has a major interest in automobiles, as Lott owns multiple car dealerships on the West Coast.
You never know how athletes (former or present) are going to be in real person. Most of the times you can tell that they’re just at an event because their PR person told them they had to, so they mail in a quick speech and get out of dodge.
But Ronnie couldn’t have been more personable. On the first night we arrived, he spoke with all of the media members individually and as a group, dined with us and stayed afterwards to talk about his partnership with Michelin, his football days (he said Earl Campbell and Walter Payton were easily the two hardest backs to bring down, by the way) and anything else we wanted to talk about. To say that it was a pleasure to meet him would be an understatement.
One thing Ronnie focused on in terms of Michelin was the value of customer service. All companies say that customer service is No. 1, but how many follow through with it? I got the sense that Ronnie didn’t join Michelin just for something to promote, he chose them because of how they value the customer’s opinion and respect their wants as a consumer.
The Facts on the LTX M/S2
The morning after meeting the rest of the media members and dining with Ronnie, we were treated to breakfast and a presentation about the LTX M/S2.
The presentation focused on three things about the tire:
· Stopping Distance
The LTX M/S2 lasts up to 20,000 miles longer than the competition thanks to Michelin’s MaxTouch Construction, which is a unique shaping design that allows for long-lasting, even treadwear, and a 100,000 km manufacturer’s limited treadwear warranty.
Basically what all that means is that the LTX M/S2 will last longer, which also means you save more of your hard earned money and that you’ll have a more reliable vehicle.
The LTX M/S2 also stops up to seven inches shorter in wet conditions thanks to 3-D Active Sipes, which alternately lock together and open as needed to provide increased biting edges that grip the road for improved, all-season handling.
Granted, most of the time you don’t have to worry about stopping seven inches shorter in wet conditions if you’re driving cautiously as is. But it certainly helps your peace of mind knowing that you can protect yourself and your passengers in case a situation ever arises when you do have to slam on your breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. (We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.)
Traction is obviously vital to any tire – especially snow traction for those of us that live in the Midwest and on the East Coast. The LTX M/S2 has 8% more biting edges than the LTX M/S, meaning you have more control coming in and out of turns and driving on poor weather conditions like rain or snow.
These three factors – longevity, traction, stopping distance – are the key selling points for Michelin and the LTX M/S2.
After the presentation, we were paired and put into various kinds of SUVs (Expeditions, F-150s, etc.) so that we could drive the three hours down to Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds in Greenville, South Carolina. The point of the drive was for us to get a feel for how the LTX M/S2 felt in everyday road conditions by us, the drivers.
If Michelin wanted to hide anything from us, they certainly couldn’t do it on that day. It was rainy, slick and the drive was filled with as many twists and turns as a Quentin Tarantino movie. But guess what? The tires passed with flying colors. The drive was incredibly smooth as we drove up and down hills and through various parts of North and South Carolina.
But at one point I asked my partner David, “These have to be new tires right?”
“I would imagine they are – yeah,” he said.
“Well then of course this drive is going to be smooth – why wouldn’t it on brand new tires?”
The "Wet Track"
My question about the brand new tires peaked the interest of David, who then broached the topic to one of Michelin’s representatives in another presentation once we got to Laurens Proving Grounds.
“That’s a good point, which is why we’ve set up these series of tests for you today,” the rep said.
During the presentation I looked out the window and saw something that I could only compare to a small go-cart track. There were cones set up on the track and sprinklers were constantly spraying the track with water.
“I hope this place has insurance for when you and I flip one of these SUVs on that thing,” I joked with David while pointing to the track.
After the presentation and lunch, the media group was separated into two smaller groups and prepped for what we were about to embark on. I was in the first group, which got to test what Michelin called its “Wet Track.”
“Have you ever done one of these before,” Ronnie Lott (who had joined us for lunch) asked me.
“Not this exact test,” I responded.
“Have fun,” he said with a grin.
Great –Ronnie freaking Lott gave me the, you’re-going-to-wish-you-never-signed-up-to-do-this look.
After we signed some waivers (seriously), a Michelin driver took us on the track and went over the course. He also explained that we would each be testing two sets of tires – the LTX M/S2’s and a competitor’s version of the LTX M/S2’s – in a F-150 truck. We were told to test them both equally and not deviate in the way we drove in both vehicles. The point was to test the braking, handling and feel of the two sets of tires.
When it was my turn, I was hell bent on proving that there was no difference between the two (I’m not cynical mind you, I just like a challenge). So I put my helmet on (seriously) and got into the truck with my driver, who was there to give me instructions every step of the way.
I took off like a bat out of hell and started squealing around the turns as fast as I could. My driver kept telling me from the passenger seat, “Slow…now fast…now slow…turn…turn…now brake…brake…BRAKE!!”
Apparently when he said brake, he met to slam on the brake. No matter, even with my gentle braking the truck barely skid and I had just taken a sharp turn at about 35 mph.
After the first test run was over, he told me that I was using Michelin’s tires. Now it was time for the competitor’s tires.
Once we both got strapped into the other truck, I took off in the same bat-out-of-hell fashion and it only took me one turn to realize that the two sets of tires were entirely different – night and day different, in fact.
When I went into a turn in the competitor’s tires, the entire truck seemed like it was going to fly off the road. When I tried to speed up out of a turn, the back end would fly out, unlike when I tested Michelin’s tires. When I tried to brake in the same lazy fashion as I did in the first test, I almost completely skidded off the road.
“Wow – that really made a difference,” I said once I parked the truck.
“Absolutely,” was all my driver replied with a slight grin.
After I was done, I watched my partner in crime David do three, 360s in the competitor’s tires.
The Brake Test
After we got a turn scaring the living hell out ourselves and our drivers on the “Wet Track” our group gathered into a van and headed out to another part of the grounds.
For this test, we were going to compare the stopping distance between Michelin and two of its competitors by getting the F-150s up to 55mph and then slamming on the brake as hard as possible.
I won’t bore you with the details: Michelin’s LTX M/S2 tires stopped shorter by a couple of inches for everyone in our group, as well as the other group. That’s about 30-plus media members all doing the same test and getting the same results. That obviously says a lot.
The Right Tire Changes Everything
If you’ve watched a fair amount of TV in the past couple months, you’ve seen Michelin’s commercials and its new slogan: “The Right Tire Changes Everything.”
After the time I spent in the Carolinas, I would certainly agree.
Michelin hits the nail on the head when they say the right tire changes everything. Better traction keeps you on the road in comprising weather conditions. Better stopping ability keeps you and your passengers safe. And given how the economy is suffering, it’s important that your tires last so you’re not shelling out big money to replace them every couple of years.
The Michelin LTX M/S2 knocks these three key factors out of the park. Furthermore, they care about you the consumer and about matching the right tire to your auto needs. You can always go cheaper as a consumer, but is it worth it?
When it comes to buying tires for you vehicle, I would highly suggest that it isn’t.
Special thanks to Michelin’s Lynne Fowler, Lowell Eckart, Alicia Pflug and Tim Gilman for their hospitality during the trip.