Rubber. Synthetic compounds. Fibres. These are the common core components that make up a tire, used by several companies in the highly competitive industry. Legendary manufacturer Michelin says it has generously added one more unique, and critical, ingredient to the mix when creating the brand new Pilot Sport 4S (PS4S) ultra-high-performance tire: passion.
To demonstrate said passion, several dozen writers, social media influencers, racing personalities and more were invited to Palm Springs for a unique product launch in mid-January. Dubbed the Michelin Pilot Experience, the event was broken up into several waves and encompassed everything from driving supercars shod with the tires through the desert, to trying out the fresh rubber on the track at the nearby members-only Thermal Club.
“You’re going to enjoy really putting yourself into the driver’s seat because that is Michelin’s whole point about this. This tire worldwide has, in testing and results, been basically dominating and it’s number one in every set of parameters you can apply to a new tire. It’s created the benchmark for itself against the benchmark that it set itself with its predecessor, and that’s saying something, says Justin Bell, former racecar driver and motorsports personality during the opening ceremonies.
“The whole genesis of this event was don’t take their word for it, they wanted you to experience it. For Michelin, it’s about that genuine passion. They share it, they feel it and that’s what you’re going to get from this event.”
A quick briefer on the PS4S — the model replaces the outgoing Pilot Super Sport, made with high output sedans and sports cars in mind and boasts a Y speed rating with a top speed capability of 300 km/h.
Three big claims the tiremaker makes about the PS4S is that it is first in dry braking, first in wet braking and first in dry lap times, determined through third party evaluation done in Germany.
The reason we were brought was to see whether these claims held up. Funny enough, on drive day, Southern California experienced an uncharacteristic torrential downpour that made it difficult to see just how the model performed in dry conditions. Nevertheless, spirits remained undampened, and we set off on the journey’s first leg driving various fast cars equipped with PS4S’ including an Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG C63 S, and, fittingly, a Ferrari California T.
With normally baked roads leading to our destination slick with rain and runoff, Joshua Tree National Park, speeds were kept at a safe level. A new proprietary construction containing high levels of silica concentrated on the inboard side of the tread allowed the vehicles we drove to stay composed even while cornering through and braking in the water pooled up on the pavement.
Fortunately, by the time we got to Thermal Club in the afternoon, the sky was slowly clearing up. There, a part of the track was sectioned off into a decently sized slalom and BMW 340is were ready and waiting, wearing not only PS4S but also comparable competitor rubber like Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position. Around the slightly damp course, the Michelins definitely provided more grip when taking turns at speed. The biggest surprise, however, was the markedly shorter stopping distance at the end of the run after slamming on the brakes.
The rest of the day was spent following an instructor, in small groups, around a proper section of the track, piloting a selection of BMW M2, M3 and M4 sedans to see how the tires truly behaved when pushed. We were reminded that while ultra high performance in nature, the PS4S is not intended for dedicated race applications. This became evident when I entered a long sweeping turn a little too close to the limit and spun out (disclaimer: my technique, or lack thereof, was mostly to blame).
The proverbial cherry topping the event was actually not vehicle-related. For each wave of the event, a different Michelin Star chef made an appearance to prepare the evening dinner. Curtis Duffy was our star guest, owner of Chicago fine dining establishment Grace. Dish after dish featured fancy-sounding ingredients like heart of palm, hato mugi and black truffle, all, of course, delicious and beautifully plated. Fun fact: the annual guidebook that publishes Michelin Star-awarded restaurants started in the early 20th century as a strictly automotive publication.
The Michelin PS4S is already on sale in Europe and will make a North American debut next month, initially available in 35 different sizes for wheels 18 to 20 inches in diameter.