March 29, 2007
Marangoni meteo HP. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Michael Clark
Winnipeg, Manitoba – When it comes to living ‘La Dolce Vita’, you need to exercise a certain level of restraint. Otherwise, you spiral out-of-control into the abyss. In Italy, the automotive equivalent of this conundrum would be to have the keys to a Ferrari Enzo tossed into your hands, and then pointed towards the Alps in January with summer tires. You’re going to crash – in every sense of the word.
To keep the film called ‘Your Life’ as a 3-hour epic instead of a short, you’ll need some equipment for the frosty scenes. So far this winter, the MX-minus-5 snow tire evaluation program has tested a wide range of compounds, tread patterns, and sipe arrangements. Much of this technology has obvious similarities, with each manufacturer trying to out-market each other with snappy abbreviations. Putting all of that silica and microspheres together requires tire building technology. Enter Marangoni.
The Marangoni name is relatively new to Canada, so new that this week’s test rubber was obtained by special order through Sturgeon Tire of Winnipeg. The Italian company is a major world-wide interest for rubber biscuits. Automotive tires are just one of the company’s holdings. Marangoni manufactures heavy equipment tires, develops retreading processes, and even produces the machinery required for tire construction by the competition. Bellissimo.
Sturgeon Tire supplied two sets of Marangoni winters for testing – if only I had two MX-5′s. The Mazda would receive the Meteo HP skins, V-rated 17-inchers for the factory alloys. With the lion’s share of Marangoni’s business in Europe, the availability of all sizes for all tire products is currently a little thin. With a proper 16-inch size unavailable for the Mazda steel rims, I grabbed the shovel and dug out my trusty (and not too rusty) ’95 Chevy Beretta from my motoring collection. This is what auto scribes call The Parking Lot Car. It gets left in the dealer parking lot to rot for a week while you evaluate the shiny press car flavour of the month. My Bowtie would be wearing aggressive Meteo Grip E+ shoes on its 15-inch steels.
Marangoni Meteo Grip E+. Click image to enlarge
There are more lines in the face of the Meteo HP than a Hollywood starlet before their monthly Botox. Every tread block is sipe-heavy, with variable angles for sticky grip. The tread pattern possesses subtle variations in the tread block sizing, to assist with the snow bite. The four interior longitudinal grooves should make for groovy performance in the removal of water, the obvious main ingredient for hydroplaning. The HP’s have a unique gash pattern, cut into the second-last row of the interior tread blocks. There’s no specific mention as to its benefit, though my suspicions are leaning towards an additional traction anchor for cornering in snow.
The HP’s are thick with technology. High concentrations of silica are standard issue for most snow tires. Marangoni takes the process a step further, with something called Filler Optimized Mixture-Improved Compound. (FOM-IC) It ultimately means a uniform mix of silica and carbon black throughout the tire compound, with the most noticeable traction improvements encountered under wet conditions. Solid Particles Encapsulation (SPE) is best described as a combination of miniature studs and suction cups. As the compound wears, small crystals no larger than a few microns are revealed. The crystals are beneficial for biting into icy surfaces. A little more wear, and the crystal leaves the tire, leaving microscopic holes that help to wick away moisture.
The Meteo Grip E+ makes the grade, with less concentration on compounds and more thought behind the tread pattern and availability for studs. Like the HP, the Grip E+ has multiple sipes, thick water removal channels, and a unique tread block pattern intent on keeping your intended path. The only compound feature listed is a high silica concentration. While studs were not tested in the Grip E+, the eight-direction array is noteworthy. In addition to interior tread block mounts, the shoulder blocks possess staggered stud mounting holes that are precariously close to the edge of the tread. This means a stud that should bite sooner in an icy corner.
Two different tires, two different cars, two different sets of driving dynamics. The HP’s mounted on the MX-5 have a slight leg up on the Pirelli Snowsport designs. That inner tread block slash mark does appear to grab traction sooner in cornering scenarios, though it’s safe to say that the SPE tech is worthy of an assist. The water removal properties are first-rate; the HP’s simply refused to break traction in the wet. Not bad for a lightweight roadster that still doesn’t have any weight in the trunk. The SPE compound shines during stops, with practically zero input from the ABS controller. Size availability meant the use of 225/45R17s for the HP’s. As a rule, it’s always advisable to run with factory fitment guidelines. The easiest checkpoint for this information is found on the tire load rating placard, usually affixed to the door frame.
The Bowtie wore 195/65R15 skins for the Grip E+. The traction experience mimicked that of the HP’s. Usually, the dynamics of a front-driver can result in a rear-end skid, even when the car is set up properly for corner entry. The Grips wouldn’t budge, with similar wet traction savvy found with the HP’s. They dig snow, literally. With studs, the Grip E+ would definitely be living up to its slogan, which seems a little loose on translation: ‘The Unstoppable’. Marangoni prides itself on low-rolling resistance technology. The HP’s were library-shush, while the Grip E+ failed to generate an annoying aural signature. (Studs would change that in a hurry.)
Like any quality Italian-made accessory, the Marangoni’s command a smidge more than the status quo. The 15-inch Grip E+ tires list at $180.87 per, while the 17-inchers tip the scales at $318.20 each. When one considers just how far Marangoni has its feet into the tire game, the last thing you should feel with such a purchase are feelings of traction inadequacy. Think of them as the good traction life.
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