Review: Michelin Premier A/S All Season

Posted by: Shelton Kwan onFebruary 18th, 2014

I’m considered a minority when it comes to tires. I use winter tires in the winter, and performance summer tires in the summer. While people like myself make up of a very small percentage of drivers, most of our readers will agree that my summer tire choice is overkill for the average driver, and can be much better served by using all-season tires. Granted, performance summer tires will give you an edge at high lateral loads in dry weather, but realistically, those kind of tire performances are really not possible (or legal) in everyday driving.

With that being said, the number of people that rely on all-season tires are staggering. In the US, most passenger cars are fitted from the factory with all-seasons, and 97.5% of replacement tires are all seasons. While the numbers in Canada are lower due to drivers choosing to use winter tires in the winter (not to mention mandating winter tires in some provinces), the fact remains that all-season tires are the de facto standard in North America.

Michelin has been working hard at improving their entire range of tires. They’ve introduced an all season tire in the Pilot Sport A/S 3 last year that’s geared towards performance for people like myself, and this year, they’re rolling out the Premier A/S tires with Evergrip technology to ensure that they remain the class of the field. We have been invited to Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds in South Carolina to try the Premier A/S in simulated real world conditions.

Much like the X-Ice XI3’s design introduced in 2012, the focus of the Premier A/S was to improve performance throughout the life of the tire. The marketing language speaks for itself, with the tagline “Safe When New, Safe When Worn” plastered all over the media kit. The tread design features hidden grooves that are exposed as the tire wears down to improve wet performance as tread depth diminishes. The standard rain grooves were not overlooked either. In your average tire, as the rubber wear down, the grooves become shallower, and the ability to move water diminishes. The Premier A/S grooves feature a shape that expands wider as the tire wears to maintain similar groove volume which allows it to maintain its water excavation abilities. In tread pattern analysis, both new and worn tread has a 30% “void” in the tread to maintain even wet handling throughout its life. Similar to the Pilot Sport AS/3, a new proprietary rubber compound with high amounts of silica and sunflower oil provides high traction in wet and lower temperature conditions. These 3 technologies is grouped together and named Evergrip.

For our testing, the Michelin Premier A/S was pitted against the Bridgestone Turanza and the Goodyear Assurance all-season tires. In the wet braking test, we tested 3 identical Cadillac CTS’s, one with worn Michelins, and 2 with new Bridgestones and Goodyears. I didn’t need the numbers to figure out that the Michelin’s outperformed the others, as it was blatantly obvious from the driver’s seat that the Michelins easily generated more braking G forces than its competitors. The numbers concurred, with the Michelin stopping in 96.6ft at 50mph, the Goodyears at 108.5ft, and the Bridgestones at 108.7ft. I had to make sure that all cars were similar after the test because it felt like such a huge gap, and even fuel levels were identical. Impressive for a worn tire on the Michelin shod car.

In the wet handling test, we had the Michelin’s in both new and used to compare to the competition. An autocross track was setup with sprinklers keeping the surface nice and soaked with standing water to get some hydroplane moments on our drive. We started off with the worn Michelins, and I used that to learn the track, and set a benchmark for the others. Next up was the Bridgestones, and it was evident from the braking zones and especially the hairpin that outright grip levels were quite a bit lower than the worn Michelins. Hydroplane performance was OK, but I had to back off quite a bit when driving through standing water. The Goodyears were a mess, albeit the most fun. The car would not track straight on power, oversteering whenever I’m on the throttle. Even in steady state cornering, the car would suddenly oversteer when driving through standing water. The last test were with new Michelins, and I was blown away at how well it performed. While hydroplane performance was similar to the worn Michelins, the grip level was quite a bit higher, which allowed me to take the tricky tight slalom section flat out. I figured its learning the track, so I got back into the first car with the worn Michelins to confirm my suspicion, and I was right. I could not take the slalom flat out, and proceeded to drag a cone with me back to the pits. The overall stability of the Michelins, both new and worn, were excellent, and the Bridgestones deserve a not “too shabby rating”.

We never had a chance to test dry performance (we were distracted by running the dry course in a Mustang with Pilot AS/3’s), but as Michelin pointed out at the event, this is an all-season tire designed for the average driver. And with average drivers, they rarely demand the levels of grip at the limits in the dry, so their focus was strictly on wet weather performance, where it’s more often that average drivers “get in trouble” by not paying attention to driving conditions. I came away fairly impressed, as I’ve honestly only felt this level of wet traction with high performance summer tires in the rain on an autocross track.

With that being said, would I buy a set of Michelin Premier A/S for my cars? I’ll have to avoid that question by saying that I’m not the target market for this tire. My car choices concur, as the Premier A/S is not available in the larger sizes that my vehicles demand. Would I recommend this tire? Absolutely. It gives a larger margin of error for when things go wrong in the rain, a hidden puddle of water under the overpass, or other situations where it’s the difference between staying on the road versus ending up in a ditch. With a 100,000 km warranty, it would also be the last set of tires you would buy for several years.

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