Tire Rack.com

Has the Pirelli P Zero Come Full Circle?



August 17, 2007

Tires tested:
Continental ContiSportContact 3 (Max Performance Summer 225/40R18)

  • What We Liked: Low tread noise
  • What We'd Improve: Increase wet traction
  • Conclusion: A civilized Max Performance Summer tire
  • Latest Test Rank: 4th
  • Previous Test Rank: 2nd (July 2007)
Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 (Max Performance Summer 225/40R18)
  • What We Liked: Comfortable road manners
  • What We'd Improve: A moderate improvement in steering response
  • Conclusion: A capable tire that emphasizes hydroplaning resistance and ride comfort
  • Latest Test Rank: 3rd
  • Previous Test Rank: 2nd (June 2004), 2nd (2nd April 2003)
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 (Max Performance Summer 225/40R18)
  • What We Liked: Responsive handling and minimal tread noise
  • What We'd Improve: A small gain in wet traction
  • Conclusion: Still one of the best Max Performance Summer tires available
  • Latest Test Rank: 2nd
  • Previous Test Rank: 1st (June 2004)
Pirelli P Zero (Max Performance Summer 225/40R18)
  • What We Liked: Excellent wet and dry traction along with appropriate road manners
  • What We'd Improve: A modest reduction in tread noise
  • Conclusion: A Max Performance Summer tire worthy of the P Zero name
  • Latest Test Rank: 1st
  • Previous Test Rank: Not previously tested


Vehicles used:
2006 BMW E90 325i Sedan

The first Pirelli P Zero was introduced in 1987 as the Original Equipment tire on the Ferrari F40 road car that celebrated 40 years of vehicles wearing the Ferrari name. Designed to keep pace with the F40, the first Pirelli P Zero was developed as a super tire for a supercar, and became a performance reference point with enthusiasts.

While the original P Zero tire line evolved over time to include Pirelli's P Zero Corsa, P Zero System, P Zero Rosso and P Zero Nero tires, 20 years later Pirelli has returned to offering a new tire simply known as P Zero. And like the original, the new P Zero is Original Equipment on today's supercars, such as the Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Lamborghini Murcielago, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT and Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles.

To find out how the Pirelli P Zero performs, Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive comparing the P Zero to several of the top performers in the category, the Continental ContiSportContact 3, Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2. Our evaluation used 2006 BMW 325i E90 sedans, with new, full tread depth 225/40R18 tires mounted on 18x8.0" wheels.

What We Learned on the Road

Our 5.6-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.

The group of Max Performance Summer tires all provided competent road handling and reasonable ride comfort. While the tires in this test were all low-profile, 40-series 18" tires, the Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 received the best scores for ride comfort. The Pirelli P Zero was a close second, also doing a good job absorbing the patched asphalt and expressway expansion joints on our route. The Continental ContiSportContact 3 and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 both allowed more of the road's imperfections to make their way to the driver.

As for road noise levels, the Pilot Sport PS2 was found to have a slight advantage over the others. Michelin engineers have done a good job tuning what noise the tire did generate to produce a broad, "white" tone that was hard to distinguish from other vehicle sounds as it rolled along the asphalt sections of our ride loop. The ContiSportContact 3 generated a few distinct tones at various speeds, just audible above the regular wind noise surrounding the car. The Eagle F1 GS-D3 and P Zero were ranked third and forth, respectively, both producing some noticeable noise levels and pitches across a variety of road surfaces.

The Michelin displayed its characteristic crisp steering response and sporty feel around the sweeping on- and off-ramps of the test route, receiving top scores for overall handling. The Pirelli P Zero was found to be very close in handling and steering feel, trailing the Michelin's responsiveness only slightly. The Continental and Goodyear tires both handled appropriately well, ranked a close third and fourth by our team.

What We Learned on the Test Track

Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, lane changes and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.

On the track in the dry, the Pirelli P Zero and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 battled for fastest lap time, with the advantage ultimately going to the P Zero by less than 1/10th of a second. The Michelin had a small subjective advantage over the Pirelli, with slightly more precise steering response, comfortable balance at the limit and only a hint of understeer when driven hard. The Pirelli had noticeably more grip than the Michelin, but did not have the Michelin's poise or overall handling balance. But around the steady-state skidpad and under hard braking, the traction advantage of the Pirelli was obvious from behind the wheel. In third place a mere 2/10 second behind the Pirelli was the Continental ContiSportContact 3, held back by slightly slower steering response and its overall traction level. The Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 rounded out the group, feeling a little less precise than the leaders, but still very capable and balanced once the car stabilized mid-corner.

In the wet the P Zero easily established its superiority over the other tires in this test, lapping our course nearly 0.6 second faster than the next best tire. The Pirelli's traction advantage was immediately evident to our team, aided by its overall balance and ease of control at the limit. The Pilot Sport PS2 also displayed balanced handling and was predictable at the limit, but its mild understeer and overall level of grip prevented this tire from keeping up with the Pirelli. The Eagle F1 GS-D3's lap time was right on the heels of the Michelin, while providing plenty of feedback as the limit of cornering grip approached. Acceleration and braking traction levels felt somewhat easy to exceed, however, with rear tires quickly spooling up in the form of wheel spin when accelerating away from the tight 90-degree corners, and ABS engaging early during threshold braking. The ContiSportContact 3 didn't have the wet grip of the other three tires in the test, feeling a bit slow to recover traction when maximum grip was exceeded.

Product Details

Continental ContiSportContact 3 (Max Performance Summer): The ContiSportContact 3 is Continental Tire's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of powerful sports cars, sports coupes and luxury sedans. The ContiSportContact 3 is designed to combine outstanding braking capability and agile steering precision. Read more.

Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 (Max Performance Summer): The Eagle F1 GS-D3 is Goodyear's Max Performance Summer radial developed for driving enthusiasts who want more performance from their factory stock or aftermarket-tuned sports cars, sporty coupes and performance sedans. The Eagle F1 GS-D3 excels in wet conditions by delivering class-leading hydroplaning resistance and traction, as well as offers competitive dry performance. Read more.

Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 (Max Performance Summer): The Pilot Sport PS2 is a Max Performance Summer tire member of the Michelin Pilot family of low profile, high-speed tires. Initially developed for Original Equipment (O.E.) on some of the world's most prestigious sports cars and performance sedans, the Pilot Sport PS2 combines world-class dry road traction, handling and cornering. Some of the first Pilot Sport PS2 O.E. fitments included the BMW Alpina Z8, McLaren SLR and Porsche GT2 & GT3 models. Read more.

Pirelli P Zero (Max Performance Summer): P Zero tires are Max Performance Summer tires derived from 100 years of Pirelli motorsport experience and developed for the drivers of powerful sports cars, sports coupes and high performance luxury sedans. Initially introduced as Original Equipment on the Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Lamborghini Murcielago, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT and Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles, the P Zero lineup also includes select replacement tire sizes. Read more.




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