Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S Long-Term Tire Review: First Impressions

How do these compare to the Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires?

Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tire, Neuspeed RSe10 wheel, 2012 VW Golf R
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires reporting for duty. [Photos: TFLcar]

Tires are tires, right? They’re black, round, and keep you rolling along day after day. Occasionally, we add air to them and typically replace them after several years of use. Otherwise, I can guess most people don’t realize how important those four ebony-colored, squishy donuts are responsible for the ride quality, handling, braking and overall safety of our well-being each time we drive off to the next destination—however near or far it happens to be.

For this next long-term review, Michelin provided a set of Pilot Sport 4 S tires — which falls under the max or ultra-high performance summer category. Since the long-term test of the Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires recently wrapped, expect some direct comparison between the two max summer performance competitors.

2012 VW Golf R with new Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires and Neuspeed RSe10 wheels.
New Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires ready for long-term testing on VW Golf R

First impressions

Dry traction is absolutely stunning. The only place where I could imagine reaching the limits of the Pilot Sport 4 S is on a closed course. The turn-in is impressively crisp. Grip is unreal under dry conditions, and the Michelins transmit everything from the road surface — in the right way. The tires precisely communicate what is going on underneath you. In turn, that tells you whether the front end is plowing into a corner or nicely planted while hitting an apex.

The big revelation was how much more comfortable the Pilot Sport 4 S tires feel after switching over from the Continential ExtremeSport Contact. The Michelins seem to absorb small bumps and vibrations in divine fashion. Consequently, making a noticeable improvement in ride quality.

Like all summer tires, wet traction is a heavy factor in the same regard as dry traction. Northern California’s rainy season is coming up soon. Thus, I’ll report back in a few months how the Pilot Sport 4 S handles in wet weather and how far I can push them on a world-class race track.

Max summer tires

Want it all in a tire you can drive and live with on the street? Max summer tires offer the highest adhesion in dry and wet conditions by way of the latest tire compounds and tread design. Michelin is the benchmark, but plenty of options exist if you look at Continental ExtremeSport Contact, Pirelli P Zero Nero, Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymetric, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx, Kumho ECSTA, and Bridgestone Potenza RE050 series tires.

About the Pilot Sport 4 S

The PS4S features a number of Michelin technologies, including multi-compound tread patterns and aramid-reinforced casing design. The sophisticated tread compound uses a synthesis of distinct rubber compounds on different tread sections to optimize performance. 

For example, the outer shoulder maintains exceptional grip and wear resistance during cornering, intermediate ribs are formulated for steering and handling, and the inner shoulder is designed to break through the water and lend grip on wet roads.

Construction of a tire

According to Michelin, the Pilot Sport 4 S has an ultra-reactive tread pattern that adapts continuously to the road, and a hybrid belt of aramid and nylon ensures optimum transmission of steering input. A hybrid elastomer forms its outer rib and delivers exceptional dry grip to help relieve stress under hard cornering. A middle rib, along with an inner rib with a new mix of functional elastomers and silica, delivers superb wet grip for improved braking.

Available in 87 sizes with OEM and replacement applications, the Pilot Sport 4 S has a Y speed rating (186+ mph) and comes with a limited 30,000 warranty. You can find tire diameters from 17 to 22 inches, widths ranging from 215mm to 345mm, and aspect ratios from 25 to 50.

Here’s how the tires compare to the nearest competition on paper:

Treadwear Traction Temperature
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S 300 AA A
Continental ExtremeContact Sport 340 AA A
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 300 AA A
Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position 280 AA A
Kumho ECSTA PS91 260 AA A
Toyo Proxes T1 Sport 240 AA A
Pirelli P Zero 220 AA A