Michelin is highly regarded as the benchmark in high-performance tires in the eyes of most car guys and gals. It says something when all the tier one manufacturers are trying to topple or come close to matching the top dog’s performance and ride qualities—which happens to be Michelin by popular vote. A few years ago, Michelin upped the game by coming out with a successor to the much-vaunted Pilot Super Sport — the Pilot Sport 4 S.
So how do you improve upon an ultra-high performance summer tire that already gets high marks in steering response, handling in dry and wet conditions, and commendable low noise levels at highway speeds? For Michelin, it meant closely examining the Pilot Super Sport’s strengths and looking for areas of improvement using advances in technology and tire compounds that weren’t available when the original tire debuted in 2011.
I was curious to see how far the new generation of ultra-high performance summer tires has come. Would the improvements be dramatic or just a forward step in tire evolution? For this test, I found a lightly used set of Pilot Super Sport tires with the manufacture date of 3017 and 3117. In other words, production happened in the 30th and 31st week of 2017. Tread depth when I got them was at 9/32 for one pair and 7/32 for the second pair. Overall, a pretty good find and ideal for tearing up at the race track.
Do the Pilot Sport 4 S tires perform better than Pilot Super Sport?
As reported in my track test the previous year, the Pilot Sport 4 S tires deliver excellent feedback and steering control, tremendous grip, and incredible high-speed stability.
To summarize what I found about the PS4S compared to the PSS:
- NVH improved significantly
- Comfort level is noticeably better
- Road noise levels are more subdued
- A tiny bit of turn-in performance was sacrificed for better overall comfort
- The PS4S has the Michelin patented velvet sidewall finish, whereas the older Super Sport sidewall does not
Significant improvements to NVH did compromise steering feel when driving near or at the limit of grip, say at 8/10 or 9/10. For context, this was discovered under hard cornering on a closed course. It appears that the compliant sidewall of the PS4S, delivers a superior ride quality and lower road noise, than the PSS. The trade-off is tiny less feedback and turn-in response that a majority of drivers will never notice.
A review of my lap times at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with the older PSS tires showed they were comparable to the PS4S. In fact, my best lap times with the Pilot Super Sports were within a couple of tenths of a second than the newer PS4S. I ran a 1:55 around the track with both sets of tires.
Weather conditions that day were nearly identical to my day at Laguna Seca last year with the PS4S. Temperatures in the morning were the mid-60s, then warming up to mid-70s in the afternoon. On both days, I used an AiM Solo 2 data logger to record my lap times.
Applying the 80/20 rule
How often will a driver demand this much from a tire under street conditions? Maybe one percent during the life of the tire. Five percent if you’re one of the fortunate few to have a challenging and exciting route near your home. Otherwise, that extra shot in ride quality and comfort is appreciated a lot more than a smidgen less grip at the limit.
If you want the ultimate summer tire for dry track days, the clear choice in the Michelin comp is the Pilot Sport Cup 2. This tire will get you to the track, turn in some terrific lap times, put an enormous smile on your face and get you home. Because of PSC2 tacky grip in dry conditions and low treadwear rating, it works out well on dry pavement when used 80% on the track and 20% on the street.
The Pilot Super Sport and it’s successor, the Pilot Sport 4 S, are ideal for daily driving and the occasional track day. I was surprised how much tread was left after a full day at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway. After eight 20-minute sessions, my driving partner and I only shaved off 1/32 of an inch off the tread.
The bottom line, the PS4S is a fantastic tire and a major step up forward from the PSS. Clearly, the Pilot Sport 4 S performs better in almost every category and a worthy successor to the Pilot Super Sport. It’s a wise choice if you drive a high-performance vehicle like a BMW M4, Audi S4, Mustang GT or anything in-between and enjoy romping on the backroads.