Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Review: Outstanding Tire for Driving Enthusiasts

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  • Exceptional cornering grip on dry roads
  • Simply outstanding braking and acceleration traction
  • Doesn’t require a long warm-up to achieve a good grip
  • Wet grip is extraordinary – the tire simply refuses to give up
  • Best-in-class wet braking
  • Super-easy to position the vehicle in the corners – the steering is precise and direct
  • Easy to control when you hit the grip limit
  • The tires communicate the loss of traction with the driver extremely well
  • Very comfortable for a max-performance tire
  • Surprisingly quiet for such a performance-oriented tire
  • Available in many popular sizes for sports cars
  • The steering responsiveness feels a bit subdued when compared to other max-performance tires
  • Narrower circumferential grooves contribute to slightly lower hydroplaning resistance in very heavy rain
  • Expensive, even for a max-performance tire

On our website, we mostly test passenger-car tires. When we do that, we often talk about some tires having “excellent” or “outstanding” performance on the road.

However, when we say those things, we refer to a performance that’s relative to other tires in the category. There is no single touring tire that will provide enthusiast drivers with the best possible cornering grip, traction, or braking. It’s impossible – these tires are made for durability and comfort first and foremost.

That’s where tires like the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S come in. Designed for enthusiast drivers and owners of performance cars, Michelin’s max-performance summer tire offers vastly better performance on the road than standard touring all-season tires. The difference is so vast that you will be able to feel it even at lower speeds.

Max-performance tires, as their name suggests, are primarily designed for performance. For that reason, all of the products in this category come exclusively with a summer tread compound. Sure, these tires also have some (glaring) disadvantages, but enthusiast drivers already know what they are getting into.

The question is – how does the Pilot Sport 4S fare against the competition? You might not know this, but many tire companies compete in the max-performance category. And, each of these companies positions the tires at different price points.

Michelin, like in almost every category, made the Pilot Sport 4S very expensive. Actually, this is one of the costliest max-performance tires. Most of the time, though, Michelin at least provides us with outstanding tires that offer everything the buyer hopes for.

Moreover, Michelin offers the Pilot Sport 4S in an astonishingly high number of sizes – no other competitor in the sector does that. You can have this tire in 17-inch wheel diameter and up to 22-inch wheel diameter.

The sizes cover a large variety of vehicles. You can install the Pilot Sport 4S on compact “hot-hatch” sports cars, such as VW Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta STI, and higher-performance versions compact cars like Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS. Furthermore, larger sizes are a great fit for muscle cars, such as Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger.

Meanwhile, 19-inch or greater sizes are an excellent choice for performance coupes, such as BMW M4 and Lexus RC-F, performance sedans like BMW M3 and Audi S4, and even sports cars like Porsche 911 and Toyota Supra. To sum it up, if you have a sports car, you will probably find a size that fits your vehicle in the Pilot Sport 4S lineup.

With that said, let’s see what Michelin says about its flagship road-performance tire before we delve into the details of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S review.

Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Review

According to Michelin, the Pilot Sport 4S is a tire born from endurance racing and one with “benchmark dry traction” and “ultimate wet traction.”

And, on the question of why you should consider this tire, Michelin states on its website: “Genuine Passion. Exceptional Drives. Derived from the legendary MICHELIN® PILOT® Super Sport, there is a new #1 in max performance summer tires.”

The French manufacturer continues to praise its product, saying that it can achieve the bet dry lap time, shortest dry braking distances, and also the best wet lap time and shortest wet braking distances in its category. That’s a very tall order that honestly is hard to believe. Still, I applaud Michelin’s self-confidence.

To achieve all those superlatives, Michelin developed the tire with some of the most demanding car manufacturers and their sports cars, including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. Meanwhile, the engineers tapped into the findings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Michelin team to produce a tire that not only provides excellent performance but one that lasts as well.

The tread compound is actually directly derived from the famous endurance race. It features a new dry-focused tread rubber that enhances handling and braking when compared to the predecessor, the Pilot Super Sport.

Meanwhile, the center ribs and inboard shoulders actually feature a silica-infused wet compound for better wet braking and handling. In other words, the tire features both dry and wet rubber compounds for excellent performance in both conditions.

The tread design features a computer-modeled Variable Contact Patch 3.0, which optimizes the pressure distribution across the contact patch, which improves wear performance.

Interestingly, Michelin even utilized its Acoustic Technology on some models, which involves a sound-absorbing foam in the tire to make it quieter on the road. Also, some sizes are available with the Limited Edition Premium Touch sidewall, which features a velvet-effect checkered sidewall for better appearance.

What are the maintenance indicators?

The Pilot Sport 4S features the regular tread wear indicators (TWI’s) built into the circumferential grooves of the tire. These indicators show the driver when it’s time to replace the tires.

More precisely, the indicators are narrow rubber bars that stay recessed into the grooves when the tire is new. As the tire wears down, the rubber bars become more visible, and when the tread falls down to 2/32-inch depth, they will be flush with the surface.

When this happens, the tire won’t be able to provide the driver with reliable traction on wet roads. For safety reasons, you should replace the tires immediately. Naturally, I recommend doing that even earlier.

Fortunately, the Pilot Sport 4S is the only max-performance summer tire offered with a treadwear warranty of 30,000-miles. Moreover, owners of the tire praise it for having excellent treadlife.

However, like with most max-performance summer tires, the sticky rubber will collect debris from the road, including sharp objects. To retain the warranty, you should take care of the tread to remain clean of debris.

How does it behave on a dry tarmac?

In one word – exceptionally. Michelin is no stranger to making outstanding max-performance tires, but the Pilot Sport 4S raises the bar even further.

Now, from the get-go, I must say that the tire feels a tad softer than I expected. Michelin probably made that decision to provide the passengers with better ride quality, and that’s fine.

Nonetheless, as soon as you press these tires hard, they reveal their true face. The Pilot Sport 4S lets you easily control the vehicle in the corners – the steering is very direct and precise.

Moreover, the grip levels are simply astonishing. You can push any sports car to its limits with a set of these tires, even on the race track, and not lose grip.

Furthermore, the traction for acceleration is outstanding, and the same can be said for high-speed stability. The braking? Excellent as well.

The thing that I most liked about the Pilot Sport 4S is that it doesn’t require warm-up time to excel on dry roads. And, also, the tire is very easy to control at the limit, which is great news for the drifters out there.

Overall, apart from the slightly softer sidewalls, the Pilot Sport 4S is the new benchmark in the max-performance summer category. It’s that good.

How is it over wet and slippery roads?

Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Review

Thanks to the super-sticky tread wet compound, the Pilot Sport 4S continues to impress on damp and wet surfaces.

The same things I said about dry performance apply here. The grip levels in the corners are simply exceptional, traction is sufficient even for some extremely powerful cars, and the braking distances are very short.

There is one area where the Pilot Sport 4 S suffers a bit, though, and that’s hydroplaning resistance. Probably due to the narrow circumferential grooves, the tire isn’t able to dissipate that much water in heavy rain scenarios. It’s not bad, but also not exceptional.

With that being said, how is it on snowy roads?

The Pilot Sport 4S is a max performance summer tire that shouldn’t be used in freezing weather, and especially not snow or ice.

Is it suitable for off-road driving?

If you want to damage your expensive Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires quickly, then go off-roading.

Is it comfortable and refined?

Michelin’s decision to make the sidewalls a tad softer really makes on-road driving more comfortable. The ride quality is perhaps the best in the category, and the Pilot Sport 4S is also not very loud for a performance tire. Not that enthusiasts care about this much, but it’s a welcome addition.

Should I buy the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S?

Well, if you own a sports car and want to extract the most performance out of it, you should definitely consider the Pilot Sport 4S.

Michelin’s flagship performance tire feels most mature and developed in its category – it offers outstanding performance in almost every measurable category.

And, sure, other premium companies also offer excellent max-performance tires – the Continental SportContact 6 is the first that comes to mind.

Nonetheless, the Pilot Sport 4S, despite the higher price, offers the most balanced set of qualities, including a 30,000-mile treadwear warranty, which makes it a winner in my book.

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