Strictly speaking, Michelin didn’t need to improve upon its Pilot Supersport tyre in order for sales to remain healthy. Indeed, even as its replacement, the Pilot Sport 4S, enters the market, the Supersport is still rated by many independent testers and performance car drivers as the best Ultra High Performance road tyre on sale.
FEB 08th 2017
Review: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
So if market forces aren’t pushing new product development, what is? For that, you can look towards Michelin’s deep-seated roots in motorsport, and its current involvement in the World Rally Championship, Formula E and Le Mans, where last year it took its 25th
This, in turn, is how Goodwood Road and Racing finds itself at the Thermal Club circuit in California, about to test the new tyre against two of its competitors. For those unfamiliar with Thermal, it is an ultra-exclusive private race resort where membership entails buying a plot of land next to the circuit and building your own house. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the calibre of cars dotted about the place is second only to the Michelin Supercar Paddock at FoS. On our visit we spotted an Aston Martin Vulcan, a Ferrari F12 TdF, and not one but two Porsche 911s reimagined by Singer.
It was something of a bump back down to earth, therefore, when it was revealed that our tyre test would take place in a trio of BMW 340i saloons. The reality, of course, is that for this kind of activity you need consistency and predictability, and so a reasonably powerful BMW was actually ideal – or so I kept telling myself as the Vulcan’s V12 shrieked in the distance.The challenge was to test the new tyre around a course that allowed cornering grip on both wet and dry surfaces to be assessed, as well as dry braking (recorded via a GPS-based V-Box).
Our first laps were on a Pirelli P Zero Nero GT (as with all the tyres in 235/35 size, wrapped around 19-inch wheels). Cornering grip in both the wet and the dry was good, with just a touch of understeer when pushed, and our shortest stop in the 62-0mph brake test was 34.68 metres.
Next we switched to the Michelin, which immediately turned in more crisply and held on to its line for longer before any understeer occurred. In the brake test it recorded 33.98m.
The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3, tested last, felt the least performance oriented of the three, slipping more easily – and noisily – into understeer in both the wet and the dry, and taking 35.26m to stop in the brake test. The theme of these results has been replicated by the German independent test organisation TÜV SUD, which found the Pilot Sport 4S to be ahead of the competition in dry and wet braking, as well as lap times around a 2.6km circuit. Meanwhile, the Dekra Test Centre also found that it trumped rivals for longevity by at least 5 per cent and as much as 43 per cent.
The secret to this, according to Hermann Götz, who is in charge of overall development of the Pilot Sport 4S, is to “master the contact patch of the tyre in every situation”, which means evenly distributing not only forces, but temperatures, too. In this regard the dual compound of the Pilot Sport 4S– it literally uses one compound for the outer edge of the tyre and another for the inner– and the shape of the tyre’s shoulders (influenced by the track-focused Cup Sport 2) mean that it can do this more effectively than the Superport that it replaces. Other improvements said to prolong tyre life include the angle of the tread groove and the chamfer at the edge of the tread blocks.
Motorsport influences come in the form of things you can see, such as a tread pattern derived from a Formula E tyre, and those that you can’t, like the construction methods and materials developed from those used for Le Mans.
The result of all this, says Michelin, is not only that the Pilot Sport 4S outperforms competitors, but that it has also improved in every significant area compared with the Supersport that it replaces. It was a shame, therefore, that it didn’t have any Supersports at Thermal to prove that claim, although tests conducted by TÜV SUD did show a reduction in 62-0mph braking distances of 1.07m in the dry and 1.04m in wet, as well as a 0.16sec improvement in dry lap time.
At present the Pilot Sport 4S is offered as original equipment fitment on the Porsche Panamera, Mercedes E-class AMG models and the Ferrari GTC Lusso, with more models soon to be rolled out.
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