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Down into the bayou for a look at Michelin’s latest high-performance tire tech

Jeff Glucker December 18, 2012 All Things Hoon, Featured, Reviews 36 Comments

Michelin PS AS3

Hey Jeff, this is Michelin – we wanted to know if you’d be interested in flying out to New Orleans to drive some cars?

“What type of driving?”

Oh, we’re going to bring you out to the new NOLA Motorsports Park for some track-related activities? Have you been out there yet?

Maybe… but yes, I’m definitely interested.”

Oh, and we’re going to talk to you about tires, specifically our new all-season ultra-high performance tire. It’s called the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 and we really think- hello? Jeff, are you still there?

Yes, I was still on the line but my eyes started to glaze over. Track time and a trip to the Big Easy are always enjoyable. Sitting through a talk on new tire technology however, doesn’t rate super high on my BOOKITNOW-Trip-o-meter (patent pending). Even worse, I was going to have to pay attention to a talk related to an all-season tire. If tires went to high school, the all-season would be the quiet bookworm who watched the summer tires score touchdowns and lay tracks with the prom queen.

Can an all-season really be considered an ultra-high-performance tire? Time to hop on a plane bound for ‘Nawlins to find out.

Michelin PS AS3 3

The day began with a bus ride out to NOLA Motorsports Park, the new half-completed playground outside of New Orleans. The 45-minute ride was a less-than-perfect way to shake off the Bourbon Street cobwebs formed the night prior. Michelin had something in mind, however, to fix this.

Waiting at the track with engines blaring were a Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche 911 Turbo, and a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. No, they weren’t letting us loose with these high-dollar machines. Instead, Patrick Long, Tommy Milner, and a handful of other very competent hot shoes waiting in the wings. I sat shotgun while Mr. Long did his thing, and it helped enforce the notion of just how terrible the rest of us are behind the wheel. That dude… can drive.

After the very Hoon-worthy wake-up call, we assembled for breakfast inside and we were given a break down on just why we were here. Michelin has created a brand-new tire called the Pilot Sport AS/3. It’s an extension of the Pilot Sport family, which was created in 1999, and runs all the way up to the oh-so-awesome Pilot Sport Cup tires that coddled the wheels of the Centennial Edition Z06 I drove earlier in the year.

Michelin believes both the all-season and ultra-high-performance segments are growing. It would make sense to them that the time is right for a new tire combining the best of both worlds. Does it actually make sense though? Can an all-season offer up true levels of high performance to make the enthusiast driver happy?

Michelin set up four stations throughout the NOLA complex. The first being a wet and dry braking zone involving an Infiniti G37 sedan and a stop from 60-0 miles per hour. The Infiniti would be shod in the AS/3 and also competitor tires, and each car was wired with a Racelogic box to record accurate braking distances. The driving instructor riding shotgun was from an independent company, and was not a Michelin worker.

I ran down the tarmac in the Michelin-shod G37, and the results were impressive. I managed to come to a stop in just 115.8 feet on the dry section, and I needed only 118.7 in the wet. It was time to hop into a car wearing the competition, so I set off and recorded a dry braking run of 122.2 courtesy of a set of Goodyear Eagle GT tires. Next up was the wet… where I broke the car. I went to leave the dry section, and the car was in some sort of limp mode. No warning lights, no chimes, just no power. We shut it off, turned it back on, tried again… and nothing. The car didn’t want to take another run. I was in the first group of the day, and I was already breaking shit.

So, we hopped into another competitor-wearing car. This time, the G37 was wearing Bridgestone Potenza G019 Grid tires. Set off, line it up and go, and then bring it to a stop. OK great, let’s do the wet, wait, did I just break this one too? .

…Yes. I managed to do the same exact thing. Whoops, sorry everyone else who wanted to try out the competition. There was one competitor car left, and I decided to leave it be. Later at lunch, I found out the problem happened to a few other folks, as it seems the brake sensor became overheated and reverted to a stuck on position which resulted in the decreased throttle. Not Michelin’s fault, just a weird Infiniti thing that I “helped” them discover.


Michelin PS AS3 2

Enough braking tests though, I came here to drive a little and Michelin was ready to oblige. There were two autocross courses set up, one wet and one dry. The wet one was alright, but the cars were boring. At this station we were piloting Audi A4 sedans around the course, and I’m not talking about 6MT Quattros. These were of the front-driving CVT-equipped variety. Still, with each car being similar and wearing different tires, it again became clear that the Michelin AS/3 was the correct choice in rubber. It felt like there was a lot less slip happening under heavy throttle, and the transition from grip to less grip was far more clear and progressive.

The dry autocross was far more entertaining. This was a larger course and the burbling group of Subaru WRX STI hatchbacks seemed eager to play. I may have pushed my way to the front to go first. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t regret it either. It was here with the Subies that the strengths of the Pilot Sport AS/3 came to shine most brightly. Michelin wasn’t supplying the other cars with all-seasons here, but rather the ultra-high-performance summer tires of its competition.

Wait… what?

Alongside the AS/3 sat Subarus wearing the Pirelli P-Zero Nero, Bridgestone S-04 Pole Position, and the Continental ExtremeContact DW. This should be a quick loss for the Michelin. It was, in fact, the stunning opposite. I came in expecting the Pirelli to walk all over the competition and to see the Continental come in for a close second. The Michelin handed all three their respective rubber asses. As a matter of fact, the Pirelli felt a bit sloppy on course. Entering a turn, it needed an extra second to set, and it felt like it wanted to push a lot more than the others. The AS/3 was far more crisp and responsive, and allowed me to feel more comfortable pushing harder and faster. I was so shocked that I grabbed a nearby GoPro to record back to back runs with my thoughts. Unfortunately, the audio is a bit crap… but hopefully you can hear what I’m saying:

After the revelation that was the dry autocross, we headed over to the rear section of the big track for some laps in a Cadillac CTS. Not a V, but the 3.6. Still, there’s enough grunt to have some fun, and the entire exercise only served to drive the point home that the Michelin truly is a high-performance all-season. I pushed it in both the wet and dry with confidence. I stopped shorter in both the wet and dry compared to the rest of the competition. Finally, I was absolutely floored when the tire not only hung with the summer tires, but kicked their asses as well.

The summer tires stayed home and became townies, while the bookworm all-season went off to college and hit the gym. Forget the prom queen… the Michelin Pilot Sport AS/3 is ready to date supermodels, er – super cars.

[Disclaimer: Michelin flew me to New Orleans, put me up in a lovely hotel, and served me food at K. Pauls (I gained 37 pounds, worth it though). After that I was let loose on Bourbon St with a few other writers… something something *blank spot* alarm clock.]

Michelin PS AS3 4

  • I was invited to a similar event for their Pilot Super Sports at California Speedway and came away just as impressed, although I would be even more stunned by an all season tire whooping the other summer tires' asses.

    The performance of the tires was so good that I'm seriously considering a set of PSSes for my car, but it's a hard pill to swallow when they're close to twice the price of the other tires I am looking at.

    • I'm glad you had similar results.

      It was, quite frankly, a bit shocking. I went in thinking I would barely be able to find a difference… and I left with a clear sensation of why the Michelin's are better tires. Still, the all-season vs summer tire autocross was insane.

      This is a great new tire.

      • Did they focus on tire wear at all? With the PSS, they were touting their tread wear warranty and overall longer expected life compared to their competitors. I saw this first hand in comparison with the Contis that they were running in the autocross section. The Contis looked pretty ragged by the end of one day, whereas the Michelins were in much better shape, despite feeling MUCH better.

  • I just remembered how much I love the current STI hatchy.

    • Dean Bigglesworth

      I hated it when it debuted, but it has really grown on me lately. Too bad the high CO2 emissions make it hideously expensive, i think i've seen a total of one 08+ STI in traffic.

      • "high CO2 emissions make it hideously expensive"

        I guessing you're not in the U.S.?

        Explain this CO2 cost please.

        • Dean Bigglesworth

          You sent me a Nissan usb-stick when i won the Forza 3 Nürburgring challenge, though i had just then registered for an ID account and changed my username shortly after 😉 I should send you some Peugeot press material sometime…

          I'll try to keep this short because it gives me a headache. Take the base price without any taxes, then add VAT of 23%, then add the actual car tax on top of the base price vat. So you pay taxes on taxes. It's paid once, when the car is registered. A basic Focus of Golf has about 4000-5000eur car tax and prices are generally somewhat comparable to the US, only we get less equipment and smaller engines. get something slighltly more expensive with higher emissions though….

          Minimum is 5% for cars emitting 0 grams of CO2(so basically EVs), max is 50% for cars emitting 360grams or more. Every gram of CO2 produced increases the tax by a small amount.

          I tried calculating some examples, but i just spent half an hour just calculating two simple examples and screwed them up anyway.

          I'll just take some actual examples from price lists, and stick with Subarus.

          Forester 2.0 petrol, 150hp, CO2 173g/km. Engine options 2.0 NA petrol, or 2.0 turbodiesel. that's it.
          Tax free: 25200eur

          the STI sedan(only impreza sold here currently, before the new on arrives)
          tax-free: 45400eur.
          CO2: 243g/km.
          taxes: 30382,95eur
          Out the door price is 75782,95eur

          Now i've actually spent over an hour on this. On the plus side, the sauna is now nice and hot and the beer nice and cold.

          • Holy. Shit.

            I love you, America!

            • bhtooefr

              Although, a system like that creates incredible incentives for fuel efficiency. (Remember, CO2 emissions are directly connected to fuel energy burned.)

              Good for those of us that like slow car fast (I wish we had such aggressive pushes for fuel efficiency here, really), bad for those that want big cars and/or big power.

          • Also, ah yea, that makes sense… hi! * waves *

            • Dean Bigglesworth

              *waves back* We should have some kind of challenge again, only this time with some 60's kei-kars or 2CVs. No upgrades of course. Or maybe i should just start it in the forums.

              • We have a few cool prizes in store, stay tuned.

  • Preludacris

    Just went to look up what these would cost in 205/50-15, and they're not available.

    So question, what is the closest equivalent for someone who DDs a '90s Honda or Miata in an area where it rains frequently?

    • Scoutdude

      You don't need All Season tires if you want wet performance many ultra high performance tires do great in the wet as long as the temps do not drop into the 30's. Go to Tire Rack and look at some of their tests and you'll find lots of "Summer tires" that do great in the rain.

      All Season tires are for giving you a little better traction in light snow, at least for the first few 32nd's of tread wear. The Conti ExtremeContact DWS spells it right out in the tread for you. If you can read the S in the tread it's good for snow still, If you can read the W then it's still good for the wet and once all you can read is the D it's really only suitable for use on dry roads. The ExtremeContact DW does the same thing though with out the snow S in the tread blocks.

      • Preludacris

        This is good to know. Really good, actually! I always assumed summer tires would slide off the road at the first hint of damp (exaggerated but you get the idea). I think I will try some, when it's time to replace my all-seasons.

        • Scoutdude

          Just a little comparison from Tire Rack
          Ultra High performance summer cornering G's
          BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW 2 ,96 dry .90 wet
          Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 .96 dry .93 wet
          Ultra High performance all-season
          BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S (W-Speed Rated) . .94 dry .86 wet.
          Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus .93 dry. .85 wet

          Note different cars were used and this of course is just a couple of examples but in these tires the summer tire lost less cornering force than the all season in the wet. note different cars were used in those tests so you can't make direct comparisons but it still gives you an idea.

        • Dean Bigglesworth

          Summer tires generally work better in every situation, wet or dry, unless there's snow or ice. If the road is icy you will die wrapped around a pole, on fire.

          • Preludacris

            That's it, you've made up my mind. Anything increasing one's chances of fiery death is cool. Today I watched the episode of Top Gear USA where they drive a Pinto, Samurai, and Corvair in several challenges. Watching the Corvair spin repeatedly on track made me want one in the strangest way.

  • My left nutt for another decent 195/xx-14 tire. The Fuzion HRi was an AWESOME and cheap shoe, but got discontinued. Everything else kinda sucks, are easily flat-spotted all-out racing tires (Star-Spec & 615K), or costs an arm and a leg.

    Plus it seems all the great all-round tires are now for rims between 17 and 400 inches in diameter. (only slightly kidding about the 400").

    • Yup. Now try finding 13" or 12" tires. So. Few. Choices.

      • Vavon

        13" is still really easy (over here in Europe that is). 12" however is starting to become difficult.
        With dwindling numbers of old Micras, Fiestas and Metros the demand is near nonexistent!

        • The last sets of 12" tires for the Metro and for the Freeway I ended up ordering through a Mini (no, not MINI) specialist. Even so I found myself with precisely one DOT-legal option. The specialty outfits in Great Britain don't have much these days, either. Sad.

          • bhtooefr

            There's always going for not-so-DOT-legal options.

            Also, the Continental eContact is available in 125/80R13, which needs bigger wheels, but is 1.2% smaller diameter than the stock Metro 145R12. It'd be narrower, but it'd maximize fuel economy, and could make it more tossable (at the expense of grip).

            Not sure I'd do that on the Freeway, though, simply because the narrower tire could seriously affect handling given that it's a 3-wheeler.

    • Super-spouse may have something to say about that.

  • jtk2

    As a person who lives in Chicago and does not have a place to store winter tires, I am hoping they make these in my car's size when the awful Bridgestone OEMs either wear out or scare me into replacing them.

  • Van_Sarockin

    A lot of great information here. New tires are the easiest and most dramatic way to change your car's handling and behavior, and usually the cheapest way. This test seemed optimized for handling and braking, which is core. Other folks might want to optimize for ride softness, or economy, low noise, or even long tire wear. I'm not familiar with the types being compared here, and my only concern might be whether the comparison choices were made to optimize for the test vehicles, and to show the Michelin's in the best light?

    I've been thrilled with the performance of the Bridgestone Potenza something-somethings I bought a few years back. Like these Michelins, I was looking for great handling, braking and wet weather characteristics, and also for good fuel economy. The tradeoffs were at the expense of a bit more additional noise and really poor capability in the snow. So I've got a full set of dedicated snows for the winter. As mentioned above, the Tire Rack's online comparison tool and feedback comments was extremely helpful.

    • Rover1

      You are completely right. But unfortunately many people see tyres as just round black things to be purchased as cheap as possible. Probably not so much the readers of Hooniverse but undoubtably the greater population.

  • Off topic, sort of.

    I'm not the right person to inform you on car tires now a days but on motorcycle tires I'm kind of expert, I've tried them all, Bridgestone BT series, Pirelli's , Metzeler's and some Michelin. In the early days the Michelin's Macadame used to be the worst motorcycle tire around, no grip at all.
    The first Pilot series were much better but IMO not on par with the Bridgestone BT. The BT's though don't last much and become square before half of the thread wear. Were the Pirelli's and the Metzelers work better, they last longer and keep round and grippy until the tread is gone, but again there is a but. The Pirelli and Metzeler are very good on dry tarmac but when it's wet they can be scary. At last when Michelin rolled out the multi-compound Pilot Road 3, for me they hit the nail. excellent grip on dry or wet, excelent wear resistance and excelent wear pattern.
    <img src="http://www.solmotosbc.com.br/imagem/index/1239790/G/michelin.jpg&quot; width="400">

    OK Michelin, when are you gonna buy me a trip to test some tires? 😉

  • chrystlubitshi

    so, umm… can they handle a banked corner?

    (I was at all of the F1 USGPs in Indianpolis….)

  • Vavon

    How about some ancient Michelin test track footage?
    [youtube qaxixlzmruQ&feature=relmfu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaxixlzmruQ&feature=relmfu youtube]

    • Ol'Shel'

      ^Why I hate FWD^

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    If they can make an all season that good, a summer tire should be even better. No one drives on all seasons over here though, winter tires are mandated by law, and though any MS marked tire is legal everyone runs dedicated winter tires.

    As for video from tyre test days… here's a good one from a Pirelli event with some amazing classic rally cars. I think i would rather be a passenger in a Stratos or Delta S4 driven by rally legends than drive normal cars around myself.
    [youtube mXgWWNJVdYA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXgWWNJVdYA youtube]