July 8, 2016
When the Michelin Pilot Super Sport debuted in 2011, it essentially changed the expectations of what a Max Performance Summer tire could be. Since that time, it has participated in three Tire Rack Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive evaluations, and it has emerged as the top choice in all three. Simultaneously it ascended to the number one position in our consumer ratings and reviews and has remained there ever since. Needless to say, it has become the benchmark by which all other Max Performance Summer tires are judged.
As many past champions can attest, when you're at the top you seem to develop a sizable target on your back, and every newcomer looking to test their mettle has you in their sights. The three newest entries in the Max Performance Summer category want to beat Michelin at its own game, and each one represents the pinnacle of its manufacturer's street tire technology.
Goodyear's new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 was designed from the outset to be paired with the high-performance suspension systems featured on sports cars. The internal construction and tread pattern are engineered to deliver precise and responsive steering, and the special summer-only compound is intended to help the tire better adhere to the road for superior traction.
The Kumho Ecsta PS91 utilizes lessons learned from Formula 3 racing experience with compound technology from the company's competition tires. The special silica and carbon black compound is combined with Max Grip Performance Resin to deliver maximum traction and performance potential. A specific emphasis on block stiffness and heat management improves high speed handling and durability.
Pirelli's years of competition at the highest level of motorsport have given the company invaluable experience in tire design, and the P Zero (PZ4) benefits from this experience with its Formula 1-derived technology. From the ultra-stiff yet compliant bead design to the hybrid nylon and Kevlar reinforcement ply and the motorsport-inspired tread compound, every aspect of the P Zero (PZ4) is meant to deliver uncompromising performance for some of the most exclusive and most extreme vehicles on the road.
To determine if one of these new additions has what it takes to ascend to the top of the Max Performance Summer category, we gathered all four tires for a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive. Our evaluation used 2014 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 245/40R18 tires mounted on 18x8 wheels.
Our 6.0-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.
Max Performance Summer tires are expected to deliver unsurpassed dry and wet street traction and handling through the use of high-tech materials and the finest manufacturing processes available. Performing the incredibly difficult task of blending top-of-the-line performance and handling in the dry and wet with ride and noise comfort befitting a high-end performance vehicle is these tires' forte. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport emerged as our testers' top pick on the road thanks to its quiet operation, brilliant steering feel and taut ride that smooths over small impacts. The on-road compromise for this tire's class-leading dry track performance only reveals itself over large bumps, where it has a tendency to become slightly harsh. The Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) delivered similar noise quality to the Michelin, but with a more comfort-oriented ride that did a better job of eliminating impact harshness. Combined with highly rated handling that was just shy of the Michelin's score, the Pirelli landed a solid second place on the road. Goodyear's Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 provided the best impact isolation of the group and good noise comfort, but its relatively sluggish steering response did not find favor with our testers. The Kumho Ecsta PS91 had fast and light steering that felt much more eager than the Goodyear, but suffered slightly from tread noise over rough surfaces and some undesirable secondary motion following medium to large impacts.
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.
All four tires in this comparison were tightly grouped on our dry test track, with around .6 second separating the average lap times. Though the three challengers were close behind, the Pilot Super Sport led the pack in dry performance. From behind the wheel, our drivers felt the Michelin had a slight edge in grip and handling precision, allowing exact placement through turns with enough reserve traction for mid-corner corrections if needed. The Pirelli and Kumho tires were closely matched both objectively and subjectively, delivering essentially identical average lap times and similar personalities in the process. Both tires were nicely balanced with direct steering, confidence-inspiring brake pedal feel and the traction to power out of turns. Ultimate grip levels were a notch below the Michelin, but the overall capability of either tire was impressive nonetheless. Rounding out the lap times was the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3, but the difference in the subjective feel of the Goodyear compared to the other tires was more dramatic than the stopwatch would imply. Overall grip levels were another slight step back from the Pirelli and Kumho, and the steering response was slower than our testers expected from a Max Performance Summer tire. Though it did not feel quite as nimble as the other tires in the comparison, if the driver was smooth and didn't try to push beyond the limit, the Goodyear was a willing partner.
The wet portion of our track drive shuffled the order of the four entrants in this comparison. Here the P Zero (PZ4) combined impressive grip levels and an easy-to-drive nature to narrowly edge out the also highly capable Pilot Super Sport. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 delivered a respectable performance in the wet that split the difference between the top two tires and 4th place Ectsa PS91. Though the Kumho's wet capabilities were overshadowed in this impressive company, it was far from unacceptable and is likely to satisfy all but the most demanding drivers.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.0-mile loop of 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with three stop signs every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 500 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|
|Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3||29.7||505.1||-1.0%|
|Kumho Ecsta PS91||28.5||526.3||-5.3%|
|Michelin Pilot Super Sport||29.1||515.5||-3.1%|
|Pirelli P Zero (PZ4)||30.0||500.0||--|
|*Our evaluation used Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
None of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a high priority, but we found a noticeable difference in observed vehicle fuel economy across the group. The 1.5 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of 26.3 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $3.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $78.90 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.
Over the past several years, many have tried to usurp the throne from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport. The competition continues to draw ever closer, but after the data was compiled, the reigning king retained the crown. With its quiet ride, satisfying on-road handling, impressive wet traction and dry track performance that continues to set the standard for the category, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is the complete package and earns its position at the top of the charts. The Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) is an excellent wet performer with civilized manners on the street and competitive dry track statistics. Goodyear's Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 is somewhat out of place in an on-track situation, but provides a comfortable ride and an easygoing nature that feels well suited to a high-powered, long-distance cruiser. Despite its 4th place finish, the Kumho Ectsa PS91 received many positive comments from our testers, and presents a compelling value proposition for the Max Performance Summer category.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 (Max Performance Summer): The Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 is Goodyear's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sports coupes, muscle cars and performance sedans. Featuring an advanced construction designed to work in conjunction with high-performance suspension systems, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 offers precise steering and feel in warm dry and wet conditions. Goodyear's warranty states that "ultra high-performance summer tires are not recommended for winter use, and tread or shoulder cracking on those tires resulting from winter use will not be covered under our warranty," so like all summer tires, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 is not intended to be stored, serviced or driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Kumho Ecsta PS91 (Max Performance Summer): The Ecsta PS91 is Kumho's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of performance sedans, sports cars and sport coupes who want a tire with performance that matches the capabilities of their top-level automobiles. High-speed performance and handling in the dry and wet are emphasized, and like all summer tires, the Ecsta PS91 is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Michelin Pilot Super Sport (Max Performance Summer): The Pilot Super Sport is Michelin's Max Performance Summer tire initially introduced as Original Equipment on several of the world's most sophisticated performance vehicles, including the exclusive, limited-edition Ferrari 599 GTO, Ferrari's fastest road car ever. Developed for drivers who care about how tire technology enhances their vehicle's performance and safety, Pilot Super Sport tires expand the Max Performance Summer tire performance envelope by delivering durability, handling and traction while increasing tread life. Read more.
Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) (Max Performance Summer): Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) tires are Max Performance Summer tires derived from Pirelli's Formula 1 experience and developed for some of the most exclusive and highest-performing vehicles available. Initially introduced as Original Equipment on the Audi A3 and S3, Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 and the Porsche Boxster, Cayman and 911, the P Zero (PZ4) is expected to achieve over 100 Original Equipment fitments by the end of 2016 and also includes select replacement tire sizes. Pirelli's warranty does not cover tires that develop compound cracking due to use in ambient temperatures below 45° Fahrenheit (7° Celsius), so the P Zero (PZ4), like all summer tires, is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
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