Do you live in an area that experiences harsh winters? Then you may already know the importance of pairing your car with the right set of snow tires. Only the best winter tires have what it takes to safely carry you from point A to point B in rough wintry conditions.
Which is precisely what the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 and Michelin X-Ice Snow do. Both models are equally adept at offering short braking distances on snow and ice. They also provide superior traction and handling in winter, thereby keeping your car and its passengers safe.
However, while both these tires are designed for similar conditions, they have their fair share of differences. For example, while the Michelin X-Ice snow comes with a considerable treadwear warranty, the Blizzak WS90 receives no such backing from its manufacturer.
Let’s have a detailed look at both tires to decide which is best suited for your needs.
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Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is a studless winter tire designed for extreme weather conditions. It is available in various sizes, ranging from 15- to 19-inch wheel diameter. As such, you’ll find it on sedans, compact and full-size crossovers, minivans, coupes, and sports cars.
In case you’re wondering, four features make the WS90 one of the best winter tires on the market. The first of which is the unique MultiCell structure that traps snow within the tread area. The resulting snow-on-snow contact gives this tire’s traction a much-needed boost.
Next comes its super-pliable tread compound. If you have made the mistake of driving in sub-zero temperatures with all-season tires, you may have noticed the tire’s rubber getting hard. This is one of the main reasons why A/S tires cannot perform in harsh conditions.
However, the WS90 doesn’t face this issue thanks to its tread compound. The third feature which makes this tire a reliable snow performer is the sipes within its tread area (they help it dig through snow and ice). So, if you want safe snow driving, opt for the Blizzak WS90.
Michelin X-Ice Snow
The Michelin X-Ice Snow is one of the French tire manufacturer’s flagship winter tires. It comes in almost as many sizes as the WS90 and thus covers the same number of vehicles. However, as I’ll explain later on in this article, these tires have more differences than similarities.
A V-shaped tread pattern is one of this model’s stand-out features. It has dedicated channels to evacuate water and slush from within the tread area. The result is improved wet and snow traction. The improvements, in turn, help shorten this model’s braking distances.
Another key feature of this model is the silica-based tread compound. It stays flexible in demanding conditions to help enhance this model’s traction and grip. Another thing that the tread compound does is help this tire roll easily, improving its tread life and fuel efficiency.
MaxTouch Construction (which evenly distributes pressure forces to encourage even wear) and a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty further enhance this model’s reputation.
The Main Differences
This section will help you decide whether the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 or the Michelin X-Ice Snow should go on your vehicle.
Comparing Off-Road Performance
While winter tires can do many things, off-roading isn’t one of them.
Off-roading involves driving on rough terrains like dirt, mud, and rocks. To excel in such conditions, you need tires with reinforced sidewalls, more aggressive tread patterns, and puncture-resistant tread compounds. All these are features that winter tires lack.
So, while you can technically use any tire you want for off-roading, I advise keeping the Blizzak WS90 and X-Ice Snow for highway use only.
Comparing Dry Road Performance
The Blizzak WS90 is a relatively better performer on dry roads.
One of the reasons why is its MultiCell structure we have already briefly talked about. In addition to trapping snow, this structure doesn’t let the rubber become inflexible in normal weather conditions. As you might guess, this enhances the WS90’s dry grip and handling.
Its directional tread pattern also makes the WS90 a better dry performer. Optimized for wet and dry traction, the tread pattern helps this tire maintain constant road contact at all times.
On the other hand, the X-Ice Snow has neither of these design elements. What it has is a V-shaped tread pattern designed for excellent snow traction. However, as soon as the tread design comes into contact with dry roads, its performance (and the tire’s grip) nosedives.
Winner: Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
How do they perform on wet roads?
Both these tires perform equally wet in wet conditions.
The Blizzak WS90 has the grooves needed for safe and quick water evacuation, enhancing this model’s wet traction. It also has a specialized tread compound optimized for wet and snow driving. As such, you can count on this model to deliver excellent performance in the rain.
The same could be said about the X-Ice Snow. Thanks to CrossZ Sipes Technology (which helps with water and slush evacuation) and Flex-Ice tread compound (which allows its rubber to adapt to different temperatures), this model won’t deceive you on wet roads.
Are they good in the handling department?
The Michelin X-Ice Snow fares better in the handling department.
This winter performance tire offers superior traction and grip on snow and slush. This enables its braking distances to be a little shorter, acceleration a little quicker, and steering response a little livelier. Many drivers I have spoken to state they don’t have to watch the speed when using this tire.
That isn’t to say that the Blizzak WS90 offers poor handling and braking on snow. This model’s tread compound and pattern, as well as the MultiCell structure, give it a superior grip in sub-zero temperatures. Its steering response and cornering are very good too.
However, the penny drops when you compare its handling with the X-Ice XI Snow’s. Sure, the difference isn’t huge. However, any expert driver who has used these tires on snow and ice can tell you that the X-Ice Snow gives a more stable and responsive feel.
Winner: Michelin X-Ice XI Snow
Comparing on Snow Performance
Unless you’re driving way below the speed limit, the X-Ice Snow will offer notably higher snow traction and grip vis-à-vis Blizzak WS90.
As a winter performance tire, the X-Ice Snow offers better braking capabilities at high speed. Its Flex-Ice tread compound, V-shaped tread pattern, and Cross Z Sipes enable this tire to stop your car quicker than the Blizzak WS90, especially when driving at speed.
Why am I mentioning the speed thing again and again?
Because the difference between these tires’ snow performance below 30 mph is negligible. Only when you push your car to its limits does the X-Ice Snow come across as a winner.
Winner: Michelin X-Ice Snow
Comparing on Treadwear and Durability
While most winter tires do not come with a treadwear warranty, Michelin made an exception for the X-Ice Snow, which comes with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.
This has given it an edge over the Blizzak WS90, which has only received a 6-month workmanship and defects guarantee from its manufacturer.
Winner: Michelin X-Ice Snow
Comparing on Comfort
To measure how comfortable a tire’s ride is, I always look at how much exposure people in a car’s cabin have to road noise and vibrations.
The X-Ice Snow offers a much quieter ride thanks to its V-shaped tread design. Its tread pattern is designed so that the inner grooves’ noise cancels out the road noise on its own. Even at high speeds, you won’t hear annoying sounds in the cabin.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true for vibrations. Since this model has a massive void ratio and a small contact patch (vis-à-vis WS90 which has a 5% larger contact patch than its predecessor). It exposes you to higher vibrations on hard surfaces.
Comparing on Price
Both the Blizzak WS90 and X-Ice Snow are pricey for winter tires.
However, it’s Michelin’s snow tire that is the pricier of the two. And the difference in pricing isn’t so small as to be negligible. At the time of writing, the Blizzak WS90’s entry models cost 10% to 30% lower than their counterparts from Michelin.
Winner: Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Pros and Cons
Let’s look at the areas where these tires excel as well as those where they disappoint.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 Pros & Cons
- Can be safely used in dry conditions
- Affordable asking price vis-à-vis X-Ice XI Snow
- Equally brilliant traction on snow and ice
- Slightly longer braking distances on hardpacked snow
Michelin X-Ice Snow Pros & Cons
- Offers better handling and traction at speed
- Comes with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Offers a much quieter ride on wet and snowy roads
- Asking price may blow a hole in your pocket
Which Tire Should You Choose?
If you aren’t on a tight budget, the Michelin X-Ice Snow is a no-brainer. This model offers superior snow and ice traction and delivers excellent feedback to the steering. Best of all, it comes with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.
However, if you want reliable snow performance and aren’t willing to pay the astronomical prices Michelin almost always charges for its tires, the Blizzak WS90 may be a better pick. Apart from the lack of warranty and average high-speed handling, there aren’t any areas where this tire disappoints.