New test cars show up every week for evaluation of their performance, comfort, tech, and style. They usually come on weather-appropriate tires, which in Maine in winter means snow or similar tire models. A few weeks ago, I tested the 2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, and while doing my initial walkaround, I discovered it had Michelin Alpin PA4 tires. I’d never seen or experienced that tire model, so I had fun testing their performance alongside the car’s.
Like the Pirelli Cinturato Weatheractive tires we tested a few months back, the Alpin PA4s are three-peak mountain snowflake rated, meaning they are not considered full winter tires but perform better in snow, ice, and cold weather than others. At the same time, Michelin designed the tires to offer maximum performance in snow and even mud while maintaining pliable rubber throughout.
Michelin Alpin PA4 Performance
We’ll get to the performance momentarily, but the rubber compound deserves a few words. Michelin uses a full silica-based rubber compound that it calls Helios Compound. It helps the tire remain flexible and provide more grip in cold temperatures, and Michelin said they offer a 5 percent shorter stopping distance than the previous Alpin tire.
Testing these tires on a Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, their benefits quickly became apparent. They provide excellent traction on acceleration and braking, a hallmark of 3PMSF tires, but the level of grip is surprising. The powerful Cadillac has no trouble breaking its rear tires loose in warm, dry weather, so it was a welcome discovery to find that the car wasn’t overly tail-happy in winter conditions with the Alpin tires equipped.
This winter in Maine has been supremely erratic, with bitter cold and snow followed by rain and mild temperatures. While annoying, those conditions provided an excellent test ground for the Alpin tires on a performance car. Michelin promises excellent mud traction, which I experienced plenty of during the week I had the car. In the hours and days after a snowstorm, the roads are coated with slush, sand, and salt, and any unpaved surfaces can quickly turn into an all-terrain obstacle course.
There were times when I thought the Caddy could not possibly make it through, but judicious use of the throttle and the Alpin tires consistently and repeatedly clawed the sedan out of trouble. Remember, the CT4-V Blackwing is a rear-wheel drive car, which is inadvisable for most drivers in snow. Even in its normal driving mode, there was only one time during the week when I had to manage the car’s rear end, and that was because of a mindless stab of the throttle with the wheels turned slightly heading onto a highway onramp.
It’s important to note that the 3PMSF rating and Michelin’s promise of snow and mud traction do not make the Alpin PA4 a dedicated winter tire. Testing for the three-peak rating only involves acceleration and braking on packed snow, and the designation does not test for turning and other performance metrics. The Alpin PA4 performs just fine in those situations, but it’s best to drive with an understanding of the tire’s limitations.
Tire Comfort and Noise
The CT4-V Blackwing is a tightly-strung sports sedan, so noise and vibration are expected on less-than-perfect roads. The Alpin PA4 gives little indication of its winter traction and unique design on the road, especially at highway speeds, where it’s one of the quieter tires I’ve tested. They aren’t as quiet or as smooth as the Pirelli Cinturatos, but they are far quieter and more refined than they have to be, given their purpose and performance.
The Michelin Alpin PA4 is not a cheap tire, but there’s a good reason many people say, “just pay for the Michelins.” Beyond their performance, the company backs the tire with a 60-day satisfactory guarantee, roadside assistance, and a 30,000-mile warranty. That’s half the warranty of the Pirellis, but it’s on par with many performance tires. Michelin pitches these tires for Porsche, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-AMG vehicles, so the company likely expects them to be tortured regularly.
Frequently asked questions
What are three-peak mountain snowflake rated tires?
Three-peak mountain snowflake tires are tested to perform on packed snow in acceleration and braking tests but are not tested in other scenarios. See our guide to learn more.
What do tire speed ratings mean?
Tire manufacturers use letter designations to illustrate the speed at which a tire can safely travel. They range from ultra-low-speed tires with the A1 designation and a 3 mph speed rating to ZR-rated tires, which go beyond 186 mph.
Do any tires last 100,000 miles?
Hankook tires offers a model called the Optimo, which comes with a 100,000-mile warranty. The vast majority of other tires come with a much shorter rating. That said, so many factors impact tire life, including the driver’s style, road quality and conditions, and the vehicle’s setup, that it’s hard to predict how long a tire will last.
Do I need studded tires?
If you live in an area that receives regular ice and snow in winter, studded tires can provide ultimate peace of mind and traction. However, they are not the best on dry roads, and they tend to make a ton of noise, so there’s a tradeoff. Additionally, they aren’t allowed everywhere and are generally limited to winter months.