Michelin has been the pioneer for ultra high performance tires for decades in motorsports and street applications. Over the years I have extensively experienced each and every one of their ultra high performance tires and always become biased when a customer would ask what is the best tire to own. Performance driving can be very subjective I have found over the course of 27 years in the high performance segment of cars. Many owners who drive exotics and sports cars will not and do not track their vehicles or drive them aggressively enough to justify the investment. My theory is there are two important items you should never skimp on, tires and brakes because these combined can mean active safety that avoids a crash or even a fatality on the road or track. I learned my lessons with tires when I was a teenager. I did not have money to afford the P Zero or Michelin Pilots so I would buy a Goodyear, or General tire only to be let down with the performance, grip, braking and safety. When I turned 18 I just threw in the towel and spent the money to buy the Michelin’s and I never looked back since. Like car manufactures, tire manufactures also have proprietary designs and features that separate them in the abundance of tires offered on the public marketplace. What real high performance enthusiasts crave and sacrifice in road manners and tire wear the average consumer simply would never understand.
Throughout the progression of tire technology I have clocked thousands of miles on every brands ultra high performance tires through testing constantly. The most important sport attribute in any tire for a performance car is steering response. With all new cars using EPS systems the lack of feedback is the most common complaint today from BMW M owners and even Porsche 911 owners. Hydraulic assist steering just offered so much more direct feedback that truly added to the nature of a sporty driving experience. How does one gain steering response and sharpness back? The number one solution is installing a better set of tires.
Money is always an object these days even for people who have it. I hear it each and every day from clients all over the world about not wanting to spend the money or asking me if they would really notice the difference from a Continental tire versus a Michelin. My answer always is Yes 100% because it is true. If you are the type of driver who is in tune with your sensory nature you will notice the changes immediately. I can drive a customers car and within the first few minutes know how it will handle and perform and in many cases from experience I can even know what tires I am riding on just by overall feel.
When considering tires in the ultra high performance segment you have to really think about this. Cost, yes the Michelin’s are the most expensive but a comparable Continental, Dunlop or Pirelli may only be $50 less per tire. Do the math the difference in cost does not outweigh the degradation of performance and handling in my eyes. We are such a wasteful society who will spend money on phone aps or some other silly luxury we can all do without but safety and driving for us enthusiasts should be paramount for our lifestyle. Think about this difference in cost and the added value aspect from an investment bankers perspective and you will understand what I am trying to get across to you guys.
So many times over the years I would even be plagued with this scenario. For instance back in 2009 I had a E60 BMW M5, outstanding car which came with Michelin Pilot Sport 2’s. The car drove and handled incredible. I was planning to get rid of the car around 2010 and I needed to retire for a few more months. I did not want to spend the money on the Sport 2’s and went with a Continental since I was offered a 30 day free trial by Tire Rack Wholesale. We thew them on the car a few days later, roadforce balanced them to perfection and I hate the car now. The steering was squishy, the handling sucked, you could actually feel the car roll more due to the tire swap. I knew the cars dynamics quite well since I clocked over 23,000 miles driving it each day. I put 700 miles on these Conti Sport 3 tires trying to accept and like them only to anxiously call my rep at the Tire Rack to take them back. I had to pay the shipping, the time to dismount, pack and do the new install all over again. The difference I saved was only $234 and I now lost even greater with my time and labor involved.
Moral of this M5 story is even though I only was keeping my car for 5 more months I just could not justify driving on bad tires and ruining the enjoyment I would gain each day. To me the loss was simply not worth it and the $1500 in new tires I spent was money well spent because I got my joy back. I have customers each year go through this same scenario to only learn this very expensive lesson the hard way.
Now fast forward to late 2016 and the introduction of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tire came to market. I just had to buy a set to try and so far I have tested 11 sets of these tires on various cars all with great feedback and stuff to share with my clients and fans across the world. My 2017 Shelby GT350 came with Pilot Super Sports and I have so many miles on these tires from my daily driven cars since 2012 to my high end Pro Touring Mustang that I built. I knew the tires inside out and here is what I feel comes with the Pilot Super Sport. I feel this tire was the very best they offered to the street crowd and track guys and as OEM would install these on their high performance cars. Companies like Cadillac and Ford would develop their cars all around this set of tire which says something. The few things I disliked about the Pilot Super Sports were something I just accepted because the tires were so damn good 80% of the time. The Super Sports were noisy and got worse as they wore down. They also were sketchy in the rain and I flew off the road many times taking turns at higher than normal speeds. The tire also was harder to get you out of a spin out than I would have liked. They also had a terrible and jarring ride that most owners of sports cars and high performance super sedans disliked. All of these negatives were simply washed away with the dynamic and sharp steering, excellent grip and cornering and unmatched braking performance as the tire would claw into the asphalt. As soon as you removed these tires from your high performance car with the intent of alleviating any of the negatives, well you pretty much guaranteed throwing your cars performance in the toilet.
Here is the super car manufacture Koenigsegg full carbon fiber wheel being showcased in the Michelin exhibition at the Geneve Motor Show.
Me testing the P4S on my GT350 with a wider and lighter wheel package. Go to my Youtube channel to watch those testing videos.
With the new P4S Michelin has taken all of the things we come to love about the Pilot Super Sports but changed so many variables that makes this new ultra high performance tire more forgiving for a majority of us drivers. If we are tracking our cars we most likely have extra wheel set with Pilot Sport Cups, Pirelli Corsa or even Hoosiers. For the road and daily enjoyment of sports cars and super sedans the tire needed to be better in the rain, comfort and overall thread life. Michelin is now using a composite style construction that makes the tires lighter and the compounds combined cancel out NVH and harshness over bad roads. If anyone knows bad roads it is me living and driving over the worst NYC has to offer us.
So as I received hundreds of comments on these videos and emails everyone keeps asking is the P4S really better? Overall it is a better more “livable” and “safer” tire for most drivers BUT I still will say with confidence the Pilot Super Sports and Sport Cup2 will be a bit sharper in the front end response by design. Like anything this is all subjective to what each and every driver likes and demands in their car. For most the trade off is so minimal that they will never notice. The only caveat with the new Michelin P4s is lack of tires sizes for OEM specified vehicles but this will change as they phase out the Pilot Super Sports. I do see another version coming soon from this P4S variant and since OEM’s are still using the Pilot Super Sport for their chassis development it says something about how respected that tire truly has become. We shall wait and see what OEM car manufactures decide on their revised supercars and sports cars if they choose to stick with Michelin and develop their chassis with the P4S as the key ingredient. Regardless of how you feel about tires all I can say is spend the money, buy the best, buy a Michelin Pilot Sport tire and call it a day. You will thank me in the end with your new found glory of enjoying your drives from here on in.