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The Max Performance tire category is reserved for the technologically advanced tires that combine highly developed materials with precision manufacturing techniques to provide superior dry and wet traction, handling and high speed capabilities. Included in this category are the tires that offer the maximum level of performance in a single focus (dry traction, wet traction or hydroplaning resistance), or those that do an extraordinary job of blending a variety of performance characteristics (dry traction, wet traction and hydroplaning resistance).
While this makes Max Performance tires ideal for powerful sports cars, the demand for this type of tire continues to increase to also meet the needs of the drivers of a whole new generation of sport coupes, sport sedans, and even sport wagons. Just making it to the Max Performance category is difficult enough. Achieving it by providing a blend of performance characteristics is truly an accomplishment. Fortunately in the ever-escalating world of Max Performance tires, new technology continues to round out the performance envelope as tire performance is maintained while comfort is increased.
Pirelli P Zero tires have been represented in the Max Performance category since the beginning. The P Zero Direzionale and Asimmetrico, and P Zero Rosso (ro' so - Italian for red) tires offered performance levels that not only made them Original Equipment on many of the world's finest and fastest cars, but also earned them the respect of drivers who wanted to upgrade their vehicle to a higher level of performance.
Pirelli has added the P Zero Nero (ne' ro - Italian for black) Max Performance summer tire to their P Zero Collection. The P Zero Nero is mainly destined for the high performance replacement tire market and is designed to offer a versatility of usage that makes it appealing for drivers interested in upgrading their car.
In order to get a better understanding of the performance provided by the P Zero Nero Max Performance summer tires, Tire Rack Team conducted a Real World Road Ride and a Performance Test Track Drive comparing them to the Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position w/UNI-T AQII and Michelin Pilot Sport tires. We used Z-speed rated, 225/45R17-sized tires mounted on 17"x7.5" wheels. This package was fitted to three 2001 Lexus IS300 sport sedans equipped with Eibach Pro-Kit Sport Springs and KONI Sport shock absorbers adjusted to their softest setting to control suspension movement and body roll.
Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position w/UNI-T AQ II Technology
The Potenza S-03 Pole Position Max Performance "summer" tire was developed by bringing Bridgestone's F1 tire technology and design to the streets while blending dry and wet traction without abandoning comfort and wear. The Potenza S-03 Pole Position features Bridgestone's UNI-T AQ II technology that uses advanced compound and construction features to enhance and preserve wet traction through the tire's life. The Potenza S-03 Pole Position provides Max Performance that lasts.
On the outside, the Potenza S-03 Pole Position molds a dual layer tread compound into a directional tread design that features notched shoulders, large intermediate tread blocks and a continuous center rib to provide quick dry road response and handling. Circumferential and lateral grooves help direct and evacuate water through the tire to resist hydroplaning. The continuous center rib also helps reduce noise while providing constant road contact to enhance straight-line stability. Internally, the Potenza S-03 Pole Position features twin steel belts with spiral-wrapped nylon to stabilize the tread area to enhance handling, high-speed capability and ride quality while minimizing weight.
On the road the Potenza S-03 Pole Position tires were praised for their ride comfort and good noise level while providing real world handling that's appropriate for the Max Performance category.
The track times for all three tires showed how competitive the Max Performance tire category has become, with only a tenth of a second separating any two tires. On the track in the wet and the dry, the Potenza S-03 Pole Position tires provided predictable handling and enough grip to run average lap times that fell between the other two tires. Since we were testing new tires, the Potenza S-03 Pole Position's feature that our testing didn't evaluate was its ability to maintain a higher level of wet traction as its tread wears down.
Michelin Pilot Sport
The Michelin Pilot Sport Max Performance tire is designed to extend the capabilities of exotic and ultra high performance cars and their drivers in the wet, while providing progressive handling, exceptional feedback and refined road manners.
One of the most obvious features of the Pilot Sport is its directional tread design that features a continuous circumferential center rib flanked by a "V" shaped pattern. The continuous center rib sharpens steering response and provides communicative road feel while the swept back lateral grooves efficiently evacuate water from under the contact patch to resist hydroplaning and enhance wet traction, while reducing tire noise on dry roads. Internally, the Pilot Sport's tread is supported by two belts made of high-tensile, lightweight steel cords which are further reinforced by size-optimized, spirally wrapped polyamide cord to improve quick steering response and resist distortion while they enhance ride quality and high speed durability. Ultra-reinforced sidewalls promote cornering, while Michelin's cable beads help maintain the ideal shape of a running tire for better tire/wheel uniformity.
On the road the Pilot Sport received good marks for real world ride comfort, noise comfort and handling.
On the track in the wet and the dry, the Pilot Sport-equipped car was willing to understeer slightly, yet remained predictable and ran lap times that were just behind the other two tires.
Pirelli P Zero Nero - or maybe it should be P Zero "Hero"
The P Zero Nero Max Performance "summer" tire is designed for the drivers of sports cars, coupes and sedans. The P Zero Nero was developed to work harder so the driver could play harder exploiting the sporting character of their high performance car.
On the outside, the P Zero Nero features a silica- and carbon black-enhanced tread compound molded into a subtle asymmetric, wide rib tread design to increase the rigidity of the tread to resist deformation and enhance grip and steering response on a variety of road surfaces while enhancing resistance to irregular wear and generating low noise levels. The tire's circumferential grooves are optimized in their position and width to maximize dry road performance while enhancing hydroplaning resistance. On the inside, the P Zero Nero features twin steel belts reinforced by zero degree nylon to resist deformation at high speeds while an aramid-reinforced rayon ply carcass enhances ride quality and directional stability.
On the road the P Zero Nero tires were also praised for their ride comfort and low noise level while providing real world handling that confirmed it deserved its Max Performance category position.
On the track in the wet and the dry, the P Zero Nero tires provided predictable handling and enough grip to run average lap times that were just ahead of the other two tires to confirm that it deserved its Max Performance category position. These results also showed that the P Zero Nero is the most competitive Pirelli tire we have tested to date making it the P Zero Hero!