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Tire test drive: Michelin MXV4

Michelin's new MXV4 promises good handling and long life

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Michelin Autocross Camry 1

Testing Michelin tires on the autocross course

Photo © Aaron Gold
Michelin brought a bunch of us motojournos to Birmingham, Alabama to try out a new car tire called the Michelin Primacy MXV4. If the MXV4 moniker sounds familiar, it's because this tire's predecessor -- the Energy MXV4 -- is the shoe of choice for dozens of new cars. The new Primacy MXV4 is designed to improve roadholding on both dry and wet surfaces, and to provide better value through longer treadlife -- Michelin will sell the new tire with a 60,000 mile limited warranty.

The test setup

Michelin set up braking and autocross courses on which we drove a pair of 2007 Toyota Camry LEs, one with a set of the new Primacy MXV4s and one with Bridgestone Turanzas with Serenity Technology. Both tests were on wet, sealed asphalt, which is a very slick surface. The point was to show how an average car with average all-season tires would respond under adverse conditions.

The braking test

The braking test -- which involved getting the Camrys up to 55 MPH then jamming full on the brakes and letting the antilock braking system do its thing -- was a numbers game. Neither car stopped particularly gracefully, but the Primacy-equipped car consistently stopped about a car-length shorter than the one with the Turanzas.

The autocross test

It was the autocross that really highlighted the difference between the two tires. An autocross course is basically a mini-racetrack set up in a parking lot, with the course marked out by cones. Michelin's autocross included both broad curves and narrow S-bends.

Both tires bit into the corners fairly well, but after the initial turn-in, the Turanzas pretty much gave up their grip and allowed the Camry to slide. The Primacy MXV4 did a much better job holding the road and allowing the driver to maintain control all the way through the curve.

Conclusions

With dozens and dozens of tires on the market, comparing the Michelin Primacy MXV4 to one other tire hardly makes for a conclusive test. But the test did clearly illustrate that not all tires are created equal, and that the tire you choose can make a significant difference in how your car steers and brakes during panic maneuvers. Whether you drive a Toyota Camry or a Porsche 911, the tires are the only components that attach your car to the road. Choosing a good-quality tire can make the difference between a bad accident and a near miss.

Lessons learned

One lesson is clear: Don't cheap out on tires. Price is not necessarily an indication of quality, but don't just buy the cheapest tires you can find.

Don't assume that the tire that came with the car when new is the best choice. Automakers generally choose a single tire for a given car, regardless of whether that car will be sold in Albuquerque or Anchorage. Your local tire dealer will be familiar with road and weather conditions in your local area; talk to her about different tire options, and ask which tire she trusts enough to use on her own family's car. Take the time to do research, shop around, and buy on quality, not price. If push ever comes to shove, you'll be glad you made the investment.

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