The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S has been the benchmark among drivers of performance vehicles, from sports sedans to supercars. The tire is almost mythical in the car world almost half a decade after its inception, and deservedly so.
However, the competition didn’t sleep and launched some excellent max-performance summer tires in the last few years. So, does the Pilot Sport 4S have what it takes to continue competing at the highest level? Let’s have an in-depth look at how Michelin’s beloved max-performance summer tire performs and see if it still deserves to sit on your shiny wheels in our Michelin Pilot Sport 4S review.
What are the Specifications and Maintenance Indicators?
The Pilot Sport 4S is available in numerous sizes, ranging from 17-inch to 23-inch wheel diameter. Hence, Michelin covers a large portion of vehicles on roads today, from compact hatchbacks and crossovers to some supercars and even SUVs.
Like every other max-performance tire, the Pilot Sport 4S features the industry-standard tread wear indicators (TWIs), which can tell you when the tread depth reaches 2/32-inch, which is the minimum that’s legal in North America.
Fortunately, you won’t need to look at the TWIs anytime soon, as the Pilot Sport 4S has an exceptional treadlife for a max-performance summer tire – better than any competitor, in fact. Before doing this review, I had 8,000 miles on these tires and the wear appears to be very minimal. Of course, I did rotate the tires every 5,000 miles.
Michelin is also the only brand to provide a treadwear warranty (30,000 miles) on a max-performance tire, which is a big plus.
Features and Performance of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
Being Michelin’s max-performance offering, the Pilot Sport 4S features some very advanced technologies developed on tracks around the world. Do they make a difference, though? Let’s have a look at all those features and see if they make a difference in the real world.
1. Dry Grip and Traction
Michelin is a tire company that’s very serious about motorsports, where it develops most of its technologies that then find a way in regular car tires.
Normally, the Pilot Sport 4S was developed at racing circuits around the world while borrowing technology from Michelin’s 24 Hours of Le Mans’ tires. Particularly, the company says this tire features a low-void outer shoulder with a new dry-focused hybrid tread rubber, aiming to improve grip and traction.
Furthermore, the computer-modeled Variable Contact Patch 3.0 ensures the pressure distribution is equal across the contact patch. This increases lateral grip while also helping with better heat distribution during track use.
Finally, the tread compound is of the asymmetric type, with large continuous tread blocks for increased lateral grip and high-speed stability.
The Pilot Sport 4S certainly looks impressive on paper, but does it deliver? Well, there is a reason why it’s so popular among drivers of performance sedans and coupes – this is a tire that provides exceptional levels of grip in dry and hot climates, even when compared to some track-only summer tires.
And our testing has proven just that, you really need to be going very fast to lose grip with this tire, as the lateral grip is a step above most of the competitors, but the longitudinal traction is excellent as well. I had no issues with the wheels slipping during acceleration, and the braking distances are among the shortest of any tire, period.
The high-speed cornering is also impressive (Average cornering is higher than most competitors such as the Bridgestone Potenza Sport, Continental ExtremeContact Sport and Pirelli P-Zero (PZ4)) – this tire impresses on fast and sweeping turns. As a result, your vehicle will also feel immensely stable on the highway, but that’s not really a surprise.
As for the handling, Michelin went with the balanced output; the Pilot Sport 4S produces slight understeer at the corner entry, but that diminishes when you exit a corner.
Furthermore, just like most other Michelin tires, the Pilot Sport 4S is easy to control at the limit. Namely, the tire loses grip progressively, which means that you’ll have time to catch the slide and get your vehicle back in line.
Finally, the Pilot Sport 4S is one of the few max-performance summer tires that doesn’t require a lot of heat to function properly. Hence, it will function well in lower temperatures but also right out of the gate, i.e., immediately after you start driving. With most of the competitors, you’d first need to put heat into the tires for the highest amount of grip and traction.
2. Handling and Steering Feel
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S has all the ingredients to provide the driver with responsive and sharp steering. Notably, the tire’s internal construction features hybrid Aramid and nylon belt, ensuring lightness, high-speed stability, and responsive handling.
Indeed, compare the Pilot Sport 4S to any regular tire, and you’ll immediately feel that it responds to the driver’s input more quickly. Moreover, the steering is linear, and the on-center feel is excellent. You also shouldn’t have an issue with straight-line tracking, even at extremely high speeds on the track.
However, compare Michelin’s max-performance tire to other such products, and the story changes. Tires like the Bridgestone Potenza Sport and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 feel much sharper to drive, with much better response and communication with the driver.
Compared to those tires, the Pilot Sport 4S exhibits a slight delay when you turn the steering wheel, making the whole experience of driving less fun. Besides, due to the slower responses, Michelin’s performance tire doesn’t feel very communicative and isn’t very enjoyable to play with.
The tire will still provide you with outstanding levels of grip and traction, but you won’t have as much fun behind the wheel as you would with other tires.
3. Wet Grip, Traction, and Braking
People think that max-performance summer tires will be more dangerous to drive in wet conditions than a set of all-season tires, but that’s actually not the case. Thanks to the sticky tread compound, these tires can easily grip the road in wet conditions, despite the lower number of grooves and sipes.
But Michelin also used a special silica-infused wet compound on the center ribs, aiming to further improve the wet grip without sacrificing performance in the dry.
As a result, the Pilot Sport 4S is one of the best wet tires in its category, which means it’s one of the best wet tires, period. Thanks to the wide circumferential grooves, the hydroplaning resistance is excellent, even when you drive through deep puddles of water.
But it’s the handling that really impresses here. The Pilot Sport 4S has so much grip in wet conditions that it feels like you are driving on dry tarmac. The handling balance is also superb – after the front tires start gripping and enter the corner, there is no understeer or oversteer unless you really want to provoke the tires.
In addition, the braking distances are among the shortest of any max-performance tire, and the acceleration traction is superb, too.
Overall, the Pilot Sport 4S is the best wet tire in its category, sharing first place with the Bridgestone Potenza Sport. However, some trusty European publications claim that the newly-launched Continental SportContact 7 destroys the competition in rainy conditions, though we can never be sure before seeing it in North America.
Comfort and Road Noise
Most max-performance tires aren’t designed to be comfortable or quiet. However, owners of performance sedans and grand-touring coupes are becoming increasingly conscious about comfort, and consequently, these qualities are becoming much more important in the category.
Michelin is one of the first tire brands to spend resources on making its performance tire comfortable, and that’s evident with the Pilot Sport 4S. The tire features the brand’s Acoustic Technology (not available in all sizes), which consists of a sound-absorbing foam that ensures less noise enters the cabin.
Indeed, this is one of the quietest performance tires I’ve tried and certainly the quietest among tires with similar grip levels. The tread growl is there if you search for it, but on most premium sedans and GTs, the sound insulation will be enough to take care of it.
Besides, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is very comfortable over smaller and larger imperfections. That delayed response that I mentioned earlier is probably due to the slightly softer sidewalls, which really do provide a smoother ride.
You can see more Michelin Pilot Sport 4S review here: Video created by Fitment Industries
Should I Buy the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S?
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is not the clear class leader as it once was, but it still competes, even six years after its launch. The tire has a blend of unique characteristics that make it the most balanced max-performance summer tire. Michelin has managed to design a tire that’s both comfortable and high-performing, and for most drivers, it will be the perfect performance tire.
However, the Pilot Sport 4S lacks the sharpness and directness for those that want more fun while tackling the track. So, if you plan on using your vehicle on the track, I’d suggest going for the razor-sharp Bridgestone Potenza Sport or the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2.