Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 ReviewPosted by: Matt Iasenzaniro onDecember 13th, 2012
Every year, around October, the majority of Northern car enthusiasts are met with a dilemma. As the temperatures drop they’re forced to choose between leaving their summer tires on until it snows, leaving them stranded if caught off guard, or putting their winter tires on in advance, sacrificing performance and causing early wear. It’s a difficult decision, and one with no right answer, so Michelin is trying to help you avoid the issue altogether with their new Pilot Sport A/S 3 all-season tires.
The A/S 3 is the successor to the A/S Plus, with an emphasis on improving every aspect of the Ultra-High Performance All-season class of tires. Michelin claims the dry, wet and cold grip performance are all superior to the outgoing model while maintaining competitive comfort, noise and tread wear levels. I do think it is important to note at this point that Michelin will be marketing it for light snow and were very clear to us Canadians at the testing that this likely would not be suitable as a year-round tire in our climate.
The Pilot Sport A/S 3 manages this no-compromise advancement with four major technology changes. This section will read a bit like a brochure so if you’re only interested in how they performed, skip ahead to the tests.
Variable Contact Patch is based on the idea that if you can spread cornering load to as much of the contact patch as possible then you’re reducing the temperature on the edge of the outside tire. This dramatically reduces tire wear, keeps temperatures stable and improves grip during cornering. Coupled with an asymmetrical tread pattern, allowing complete tire rotations, tire lifetime is extended to a minimum of Michelin’s warrantied 70,000km.
Variable thickness sipes are a clever solution to a previously forced compromise. Sipes are the little slits on tires that improve grip in slippery conditions by increasing the number of edges the tire uses to bite into the surface. Higher number and flexibility of sipes will, to a point, give maximum traction on snow, mud and ice. The compromise comes in the fact that more and bigger sipes reduce the size of the contact patch, taking away grip on dry surfaces; while flexible sipes bend under load and give the tire a soft and mushy feeling. Michelin gets around this by interlocking their sipes. The extra edges are provided in slippery conditions, but in high grip scenarios the sipes bind together, keeping the tire rigid and the contact patch as large as possible.
The last two technology changes are found in the tire compound itself. The first is the Helio compound, named after a plant’s tendency to move with the direction of the sun. Why Helio? Because of the addition of sunflower oil to the mixture. Sunflower oil keeps the compound soft in colder temperatures and allows the A/S 3 to be a true all-season tire. Secondly is the Extreme Silica Technology. Silica isn’t anything new in tires, you’ll find it everywhere, but what Michelin has done is found a way to dramatically increase the amount of Silica in the tire, which is part of what gives it its grip in wet situations.
All of these elements come together to provide what Michelin claims is their ultimate UHP All-season tire.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 Comparison Tests
So, Michelin has talked a big game, can they back it up with big results? To find out, Michelin invited us to the NOLA Motorsport Park in New Orleans to put their tires through four tests along with some of their top competitors, including some summer tires, to give us our answers.
The tests include a dry autocross, wet autocross, road course and braking in both wet and dry around various parts of the facility. Before the tests began we got explore the NOLA facility on our own. The clubhouse looked great and was catered with some pretty fantastic food, but what interested everybody was the track and we were given the opportunity to take a lap around it with a professional driver in our choice of Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Murcielago or Porsche 911 Turbo S. I chose the Turbo S and was treated to an experience I’ll never forget. If they were trying to butter me up I don’t think they could try much harder.