Tire Tech: What You Know About Performance Tires is Wrong

 

Please welcome our newest contributor, Mr. Roger Garbow. Roger is a marketing professional who tests tons of cars each month on the street and track, so he knows what he’s talking about.

For his first contribution, he’d like to share with you some information about the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 he’s been testing recently.

An all-season tire on a race track? Yup.

Like most serious auto enthusiasts, I’ve avoided all-season tires like the plague, going so far as to drive a brand new car from a dealership directly to a tire store to replace the OEM all-seasons. Up until two months ago, my Audi (and previous daily drivers) have been shod with max-performance summer tires until the annual switch to snows in December, in my belief that high-performance all-season rubber was a compromise. Adequate at most things, but great at none.

But, this past December, Michelin invited me down to NOLA Motorsports Park outside of New Orleans to test their all-new Pilot Sport A/S 3 tire. Through a series of aggressive wet and dry tests against the leading summer performance rubber, the Michelin kept outperforming the others. This new tire handled better and stopped shorter than all of the competitors, including the summer performance tires I was currently running on my car. On the wet autocross, the test cars tracked and gripped as if on dry pavement, nearly lifting the inside rear tire on tight turns (see photo). Phenomenal.

You want wet weather grip? Check this out.

Having got caught out last year in an early season snowfall, an extra measure of safety before my switch to snows would be nice. And with no compromise in overall performance, there was no longer downside to a high-performance all-season. I liked the A/S 3 so much, I started hounding Michelin’s reps to buy a set as soon as production ramped up. When the 225/40 18 size finally became available, the good folks at Michelin offered to send me a set, gratis. I guess they were tired of my harassing emails and phone calls.

Anyway, it’s been just over two months since I had them mounted up, and I could not be happier. In addition to the abuses of my local pot-marked streets, I’ve taken the car on the sweet little autocross at Lime Rock Park and on Monticello Motor Club’s 3.6 mile road circuit. And through heavy rain. And on a couple of 300-mile road trips. The verdict? I would buy these tires in a heartbeat. In fact, I had to buy one, since I picked up a nail in the tread on a trip to Fenway Park in Boston. As a Yankees fan, I assume it was some sort of Red Sox curse for wearing my NY hat to the game.

The new Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 on the left even looks like a real performance tire, compared to their old Pilot Sport All Season tire on the right.

With a combination of Michelin’s new Helio Compound and aggressive tread patterns, the A/S 3 delivers serious grip in the dry and wet. As an added bonus, they are eerily quiet compared to my previous tire. My advice? If you live in an area that sees snow or cold temps, but you think an all-season tire cannot deliver the performance you require, it’s time to open your mind to something new. The game has changed.

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[Photos and text by Roger Garbow]

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