August 16, 2013
Many drivers of performance coupes and sedans want the handling of an Ultra High Performance tire to help them enjoy the sporty nature of their car during the warm summer months, but also need the same tire to deliver mobility in cold winter weather, too. Tires from the Ultra High Performance All-Season category meet those needs, delivering a blend of dry, wet and winter traction along with reasonable road manners. Sometimes described as a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none, Ultra High Performance All-Season tire designs traditionally give up some dry and wet capability to gain traction in winter's slush and light snow. The tread design and compound characteristics that work best in summer's dry or wet weather typically aren't suited to wintertime traction and vice versa.
Michelin wants to change the game and minimize the seasonal performance trade-offs with their newest Ultra High Performance All-Season tire, the Pilot Sport A/S 3. Packed with new technology and lessons learned from other successful performance tire designs, the Pilot Sport A/S 3 is tuned to provide traction and handling in the dry and wet at levels approaching dedicated summer performance tires while also remaining competent in winter's slush and light snow.
To see if Michelin can raise the bar, we compared the Pilot Sport A/S 3 to the top three tires in the category: the Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position which is top-rated in our consumer survey for dry traction, the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season which has the highest survey rating for wet traction, and the Continental ExtremeContact DWS which leads the survey for winter weather capability. Our evaluation used 2012 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 245/40R18 tires mounted on 18x8.0 wheels.
Our 4.1-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, and 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.
As a group these tires are perfect for the driver who enjoys driving and wants a tire that provides responsive handling and a true connection with the vehicle and the road. From behind the wheel the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 delivered the best overall handling of the group, feeling very responsive and stable. It's hard to quantify, but the tactile feel through the steering wheel has much of the characteristic directness of a performance summer tire rather than the subtle imprecision of the typical Ultra High Performance All-Season tire. Our team also liked the handling of the Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position, which had a great balance between steering effort and responsiveness. The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season had very quick initial steering response, which made this tire feel almost too eager to change directions with small corrections. In comparison to the other three test tires, the Continental ExtremeContact DWS displayed noticeably slower steering response and subtle non-linearity in how it responded to larger inputs.
The payback for the ExtremeContact DWS' handling was better ride quality than the other tires as it rolled over the variety of road surfaces and bumps along our test route. The other three tires were closely grouped, with a small advantage going to the Potenza RE970AS Pole Position. This tire did a good job coping with the small- to medium-sized impacts, but larger hits were sometimes a little harsher than several others. In contrast, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season was a little firmer than the Bridgestone tire on smaller impacts, but felt a little more refined when it encountered bigger bumps. The Pilot Sport A/S 3 rode reasonably well, but let a little of the road's imperfections find their way to the driver through the seat and steering wheel.
Overall noise levels were moderate with all four tires. The ExtremeContact DWS was the best of the group, producing minimal impact boom and just a small amount of drone at low speeds, particularly on smooth asphalt. The Potenza RE970AS Pole Position and Pilot Sport A/S 3 were similar and close behind the ExtremeContact DWS, while the Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season produced a bit more tread and impact noise than the others.
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, a five-cone slalom 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.
Out on the track, the Pilot Sport A/S 3's handling prowess stood out from the others, with excellent ultimate traction, precision and very good composure when driving at the limit. This tire is so good it tempts you to carry a little too much speed through the corners. It continues to hang on well even with a little too much slip angle, but begins to show some rapid treadwear when pushed too hard. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season and Potenza RE970AS Pole Position tied for overall lap time, but took slightly different paths to get there. The overall balance and composure of the Potenza RE970AS Pole Position yielded slightly higher subjective ratings from our team. The objective skidpad test showed the RE970AS had slightly higher overall cornering grip, but from the driver's seat the Eagle F1 Asymmetric felt as though it could hang on a little better. It was harder to balance at the peak though. The ExtremeContact DWS displayed good overall traction and predictability, but thanks in part to its more aggressive tread pattern (known to help winter traction) the handling just wasn't as crisp or precise as the other tires.
In the wet, the Pilot Sport A/S 3 again led the way with a clear advantage in overall wet traction, stability and predictability during abrupt maneuvers. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season posted the next fastest lap time, but was a little harder to control at the limit. The Potenza RE970AS Pole Position was just a little slower for overall lap time, but was easier to manage due to better communication of the tire's limits and capabilities. The ExtremeContact DWS rounded out the group with reasonable overall traction, but just didn't have the handling precision and ultimate cornering power to match the other three.
Winter weather is often unpredictable, and snow-covered roads change with every passing vehicle as they churn snow into slush or pack it down to polished ice. A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers. To simulate the icy conditions found at intersections or the black ice experienced out on the highway, we use ice at a local hockey rink and measure acceleration and braking traction.
The Continental ExtremeContact DWS provided good snow traction and stability during the handling test. The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season delivered adequate snow traction and predictable handling. The Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 displayed adequate traction to accelerate and brake on the snow, but struggled with limited lateral grip and somewhat unpredictable handling. Trailing the others was the Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position, which struggled to find snow traction, and took 40' longer to stop than the best tire in the test from 20mph. The Potenza RE970AS Pole Position didn't have enough traction to get up to speed and activate our test equipment during the ice braking test.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 4.1-mile loop of 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with two stop signs and one traffic light every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 400 miles over the course of several days. Since we wanted to compare fuel consumption results that typical drivers would experience, our drivers were instructed to maintain the flow of traffic by running at the posted speed limits and sustain the vehicle's speed using cruise control whenever possible. They did not use hypermiling techniques to influence vehicle fuel economy.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position||27.9||537.6||-4.7%|
|Continental ExtremeContact DWS||29.0||517.2||-0.7%|
|Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season||29.2||513.7||--|
|Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3||28.4||528.2||-2.8%|
|*Our evaluation used Linear Logic ScanGauge II automotive computers to record fuel consumption, and Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
While none of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a high priority, we did find a difference in observed vehicle fuel economy across the group. Based on our results the 1.3 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of almost 24 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of nearly $96 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per year.
It's important to note our test's fuel consumption measurements follow consistent procedures designed to minimize variables that could influence the results, however they do not represent an exhaustive long-range fuel consumption study. While our procedures require the test vehicles in each convoy to run under the same prevailing conditions, the week-to-week differences in ambient temperatures, barometric pressures and wind speeds that we experience over a season of testing can influence vehicle fuel consumption and prevent the absolute mpg values of this test from being compared directly against those of others.
Larger differences in consumption between tires may indicate a difference that might be experienced on the road, while smaller differences should be considered equivalent. As they say, your mileage may vary.
Looking back over our test history reveals how far the ultimate handling capability of today's best Ultra High Performance All-Season tires has come. The level of refinement out on the road combined with impressive dry and wet traction across this group helps you make the most of your performance car.
Michelin has reset the performance standard for an all-season tire with their Pilot Sport A/S 3, which delivers impressive handling in both dry and wet conditions. And while not apparent during our short road evaluation, when running laps on our test track at the limit this tire showed a little more tread wear than the others tires. But this focus on ultimate performance during the summer months compromises its wintertime capabilities somewhat. The Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is a pleasure to drive, with a satisfying feel in the steering wheel and good handling in dry and wet conditions. However, it falls way short of what most drivers would consider adequate in winter conditions. The Continental ExtremeContact DWS doesn't quite have the nimble feel of the others, but offers good ride quality and reasonable handling along with good overall traction regardless of the weather - dry, wet or winter. The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All Season has a very distinct personality, and is well suited to the driver wanting crisp steering response and very good dry and wet traction along with reasonable winter capability.
Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is Bridgestone's flagship Ultra High Performance All-Season tire developed for drivers looking to combine high speed capability with all-season traction for sophisticated sports cars, sporty coupes and high performance sedans. The Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is designed to provide predictable handling, traction and control on dry and wet roads, as well as in light snow. Read more.
Continental ExtremeContact DWS (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The ExtremeContact DWS (DWS for Dry, Wet & Snow) is Continental's Ultra High Performance All-Season radial developed for drivers of sports cars, sports coupes, performance sedans and sport trucks. The ExtremeContact DWS is designed to satisfy their year-round driving needs by blending dry and wet road performance with light snow and slush traction. Read more.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season is Goodyear's Ultra High Performance All-Season tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and powerful performance sedans who want to enjoy driving their cars any time of the year. It is designed to meet challenging road conditions with confidence-inspiring all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 (W- or Y-Speed Rated) (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The Pilot Sport A/S 3 includes a W- and Y-speed rated Ultra High Performance All-Season option that's part of Michelin's Pilot family of low profile, high-speed tires developed for the drivers of high-end sports cars, sporty coupes and sedans looking for total performance regardless of the season. The Pilot Sport A/S 3 tire is designed to provide Michelin's highest level of all-season performance by combining dry road handling, wet road grip and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
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