Michelin stands out as the gold standard in high-performance tires, capturing the admiration of car enthusiasts everywhere. It’s quite telling when leading manufacturers aim to either surpass or match the performance and comfort offered by Michelin, the undisputed leader according to general consensus. A significant leap was made a few years back with the introduction of the Pilot Sport 4 S, building on the legacy of its predecessor, the Pilot Super Sport — a tire that set high benchmarks for steering precision, grip in both dry and wet conditions, and low noise levels at speed.
The question then arises: how do you enhance an ultra-high performance summer tire that is already praised for its capabilities? For Michelin, the strategy involved a thorough analysis of the Pilot Super Sport, identifying potential areas for improvement by leveraging technological advancements and new tire compounds that were not available back in 2011 when the original tire was launched.
Driven by curiosity, I wanted to experience firsthand the progress made in the ultra-high-performance summer tire segment. Were the advancements going to be groundbreaking or merely a step forward in the tire’s evolution? To find out, I acquired a set of Pilot Super Sport tires manufactured in the 30th and 31st weeks of 2017, with tread depths of 9/32 for one set and 7/32 for the other — a fortunate find, perfectly suited for testing on the race track.
In my track test last year, I found the Pilot Sport 4 S (PS4S) tires to offer superb steering feedback, incredible grip, and outstanding stability at high speeds.
Here’s a comparison between the PS4S and the older Pilot Super Sport (PSS) tires:
- The PS4S tires significantly reduce noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), making for a much smoother ride.
- Comfort is noticeably enhanced with the PS4S.
- Road noise is quieter with the PS4S.
- Although the PS4S sacrifices a bit of turn-in sharpness for improved comfort, it’s a minor adjustment most drivers might not even detect.
- The PS4S features Michelin’s patented velvet sidewall finish, which the PSS lacks.
Despite these improvements, the enhanced NVH on the PS4S does slightly affect steering feel at the limit of grip, particularly under aggressive cornering. This means the PS4S’s softer sidewall offers better ride quality and less road noise than the PSS, with a slight decrease in feedback and turn-in response. However, this is something most drivers might not notice.
Comparing my lap times at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca using the PSS tires to those with the PS4S, the performance was remarkably similar. My fastest laps with both tire sets were within a fraction of a second of each other—I clocked a 1:55 with both.
The weather conditions on both testing days were nearly the same, with temperatures starting in the mid-60s in the morning and reaching the mid-70s by afternoon. I used an AiM Solo 2 data logger to track my lap times on both occasions.
Applying the 80/20 Rule
How often does a driver really push their tires to the max under normal street conditions? Probably around one percent of the time over the tire’s lifespan. If you’re lucky enough to have a thrilling drive close to home, maybe that number jumps to five percent. But for most of us, what we truly value is the boost in ride comfort and quality more than a tiny bit less grip at the very edge.
For those who crave the ultimate summer tire for dry track days, the top pick in the Michelin lineup is the Pilot Sport Cup 2. This tire not only gets you to the track and back home but also delivers amazing lap times and leaves you grinning from ear to ear. Thanks to its sticky grip in dry conditions and a lower treadwear rating, it’s perfect for when you spend 80% of your time on the track and 20% on regular roads.
The Pilot Super Sport and its successor, the Pilot Sport 4 S, stand out for everyday driving and the odd day on the track. I was amazed at how little tread I lost after a full day at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway. Despite eight 20-minute rounds, my driving buddy and I only wore down the tread by 1/32 of an inch.
In summary, the PS4S is an exceptional tire, making significant strides beyond the PSS. It’s evident that the Pilot Sport 4 S outperforms in nearly every aspect, making it a fitting successor to the Pilot Super Sport. If you’re behind the wheel of a high-performance car like a BMW M4, Audi S4, Mustang GT, or anything similar, and love exploring twisty backroads, choosing the PS4S is a smart move.