To evaluate improvements in modelling Arctic sea ice, we compare results from two regional models at 1/12° horizontal resolution. The first is a coupled ice-ocean model of the Arctic Ocean, consisting of an ocean model (adapted from the Parallel Ocean Program, Los Alamos National Laboratory [LANL]) and the “old” sea ice model. The second model uses the same grid but consists of an improved “new” sea ice model (LANL/CICE) with a simple ocean mixed layer. Both models are forced with European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts reanalysis data for 1979–1993. A comparison of the two sea ice models focuses on the winter of 1987 to emphasize the internal ice stress and to minimize biases towards a particular Arctic climate regime. The “new” sea ice model gives improved ice deformation and drift fields. These improvements are associated at least in part with the multi-category representation of the ice thickness distribution and more realistic parameterization of the ice strength. Long, narrow features in ice divergence and shear fields resemble those observed in SAR imagery, except that their average width is overestimated, possibly due to insufficient horizontal resolution. We also compare the mean sea ice drift and its decadal variability in two “old” sea ice models at different horizontal resolutions: 18-km and 9-km. We find no significant change in ice drift between the two models, except in areas of significant ice-ocean interactions due to more realistic ocean currents and water mass properties in the 9-km model.