A Tire Adventure in N’awlins
This past December I received an email that at first I thought was a hoax. It was an invitation from Michelin Tire to be part of their ‘Influencer Community’. They wanted to send me to the NOLA Motorsport Park in New Orleans where I would test drive their new ‘Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3’ ultra-high performance all-season tires that will be available May 2013. Without even looking at my schedule I replied: “YES!” and immediately started packing my suitcase.
I always enjoy driving cars on test tracks under extreme driving conditions. Experience has taught me that tires are the most important part of a vehicle that keeps you safely on the road. If tires are worn, warped, not balanced, or are the wrong type of tire for current driving conditions, you are taking a huge risk. Think about this: you can be driving a car with a fresh tune-up, new brakes, four wheel drive, traction control, and every other automotive widget known to mankind, but if your tires are inferior, you could get into an accident. If you are lucky your fender bender would only damage your vehicle, but there is the possibility you could wreck someone else’s car or worse yet hurt yourself or another person.
After landing at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, I was whisked away to meet the group of other drivers who all had one thing in common: a love of driving.
The first thing I noticed as we pulled into the NOLA Motorsport Park was four beautiful sports cars sitting on the track with their engines purring. As a special treat, we were offered a ‘Hot Lap’ with a professional driver. I had to make the difficult decision of riding in a Porsche 911 Turbo, a Lamborghini Murcielago, a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 or a Ferrari 458 Italia.
I chose the Ferrari and jumped in the passenger seat to get a ride with professional driver Tommy Milner at the wheel. With the engine screaming, we zoomed down the straightaway at 150 mph. The brakes squealed going around multiple twist and turns, then we skyrocketed back up the track and braked again hugging those extremely tight curves. When my ride was over Tommy asked me what I thought and I answered without thinking, “Holy Sh*#t Batman, that was awesome! Can we go around again?”
The Pilot Sport A/S 3 falls under the heading of ‘Ultra High Performance All Season Tires.’ The UHP category of tires is designed for sport cars and such that have tires with higher speed ratings. While these tires give the driver extra road grip, better handling, and superior stopping; they tend have shorter tread life and a less comfortable ride. What Michelin claimed they had concocted was a tire with the highest level of performance and grip that also had long tread wear and a comfortable ride in 4 seasons of driving conditions. That is a very big claim to be making.
Now It’s My Turn to Drive
There were four test stations. Each station had four identical cars, but each car had on a different brand of tires, one of them being a set of the new Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3. We were given the chance to drive in each car so we could compare the new Michelin tire to their top competitor’s tire. With a personal driving instructor at hand, we were directed to take the cars and tires to their limit.
1. Wet Autocross Course: Driving Audi A4 front wheel drive sedans: We drove two aggressive laps per car which gave us ample time to sample and compare. The course consisted of a lot of turning and hard braking. The wet autocross course was my first drive of the day. It took me a while to get my bearings. While trying to find my groove, most of my attention was directed at staying in the lanes and not knocking down any day-glow orange cones. I could feel a difference in how the various tires made the cars handle and overall I found the new Michelin tire provided a consistent, smooth, gripping, yet quiet ride.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3
Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position
Continental ExtremeContact DWS
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All Season
2. Wet & Dry Braking: Driving Infiniti G37 sedans: This was a very educational exercise for me. We were instructed to drive down a dry straight-away at highway speeds and then slam on the brakes to a complete stop. Then we drove down a wet track and slammed on the brakes to a complete stop. The stopping distance was measured by a Racelogic GPS box installed in each car. I know that it takes longer to stop on a wet road then on a dry road, and that different tires handle wet roads better, but getting to experience this back to back was eye opening.
This is where I think the Pilot Sport 3 really shined. The Racelogic GPS gave us immediate results of our stopping distances. Being a competitive bunch, we all compared our stopping distances with each other, and the Michelin Pilot A/S 3 consistently was in the top two shortest stopping distance on the dry run, and had the best stopping distance on the wet run! The difference to some of the tires was a whole car’s length. That was HUGE! What it translates for the consumer is the difference of being able to make a sudden stop instead of having an accident on a wet road.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3
Yokohama AVID ENVigor
Bridgestone Potenza G019 Grid
Goodyear Eagle GT
3. Dry Autocross Course: Driving Subaru WRX STI 5-speed hatchbacks: I drove on this course after lunch. I was fortified and completely awake. This was my favorite course mostly because we got to drive a 5 speed manual Subaru WRX STI. I liked this car so much, that I am seriously thinking of buying one.
The driving instructors pushed us to drive as hard as possible through the twisty course two times per car. Michelin was pretty ballzy with this test, as the comparison tires were all ultra high-performance summer tires. I have to say that the Pilot sport A/S 3 ‘kicked-butt’ the three high performance summer tires. Who would have thunk that? This tire provided excellent control and will be wicked economical as the tread life of an all-season VS a summer UHP tire is huge, and it will provide better grip during a rain or snow storm – which is a Bonus!
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3
Continental ExtremeContact DW
Pirelli P ZERO
Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position
4. Normal Road Course: Driving Cadillac CTS sedans: This was my last test course. The Cadillac CTS is an incredibly comfortable car and driving around and around a course of normal driving conditions made me distracted and sleepy. All I can tell you is it was a good thing they had good tires on the Cadillac.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 97Y
Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season 97W
Continental ExtremeContact DWS 97W
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All Season 97W
Although nobody has yet come up with a tire that can do everything in all conditions, based on the four different tests I was able to perform I can tell you that Michelin has set a new high standard for ultra high performance all-season tires with their new Pilot Sport A/S 3.
Here are the reasons why this is a Superior Tire:
Asymetric Tread Design puts more rubber on the outside shoulder combines with Variable Contact Patch 2.0 design – result in strong dry performance combined with long tread life.
Extreme amounts of Silica mixed into the rubber provides superior wet grip and resistance to hydroplaning.
Helio compound with Sunflower Oil helps to increase traction at low temperatures.
Variable Thickness Sipes provides additional biting edges in low-grip conditions to improve wet and snow traction, but lock together in dry condition s to provide crisp handling and longer treadwear.
Michelin is able to stand behind this tire and will offer a 45,000 Mile Manufacturer's Tread wear Limited Warranty.
being said, I still recommend that folks living in “Snow Country,”
swap this fabulous all-season tire for a dedicated winter tire
once the snow starts falling.
The Pilot A/S 3 is engineered and manufactured in North America. It will be available in 65 sizes ranging from 175/65/R15 to 285/35/ZR20 with 4, 5 and 6 ribs. The release date is set for May 2013.
Safe and Happy Motoring,