Tire Test Results

Michelin Debuts a New Contender in the Ultra High Performance All-Season Tire Category

April 29, 2005

Tires Tested

Goodyear Eagle RS-A (High Performance All-Season, Original Equipment Comparison, 205/50R17) Bridgestone Potenza RE950 (Ultra High Performance All-Season, 225/50R16) Continental ContiExtremeContact (Ultra High Performance All-Season, 225/50R16) Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S (High Performance All-Season, 225/50R16)

Vehicles Used

2003 BMW 330Ci Coupe

The Pilot XGT H4/V4 family of High Performance All-Season tires has represented Michelin in the category for a long time. And while competitive in their class when introduced some years ago, these tires have begun to show their age when compared with some of today's newer designs from other manufacturers.

As a replacement for the aging Pilot XGT H4/V4 family, the Pilot Exalto A/S draws on Michelin's technology learned through involvement in a wide range of motorsports (Formula One, World Rally Championship, Le Mans and others) to deliver a modern all-season tire design while capitalizing on the Pilot Exalto family name already used on summer performance tires. The Pilot Exalto A/S adds the flexibility of year-round traction capability for those drivers who experience some slush and light snow during the winter months.

To find out how well Michelin hit its marks, we compared the road manners and handling performance of the Pilot Exalto A/S with several of the other top-rated all-season performance tires. We selected the Bridgestone Potenza RE950 (V-rated) with its unique dual-layer tread compound and Continental's ContiExtremeContact which has quickly become a favorite in the category because of its good looks, value price and reputation for good wintertime capability (for this category).

Our evaluation used 2003 BMW 330Ci coupes, with new, full tread depth 225/50R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels. We also included a fourth 2003 BMW 330Ci fitted with the Original Equipment (O.E.) 205/50R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A High Performance All-Season tires mounted on factory 17x7.0" wheels. We have included this vehicle/tire combination in other tire evaluations, and have found it helpful to have an O.E.-equipped vehicle in the test to evaluate the impact of installing the other products.

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 Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S delivered responsive handling with a light steering feel during our road evaluation, making it a good choice for those drivers who want to feel connected to the road. The handling qualities of the Bridgestone Potenza RE950 weren't far behind, providing a good balance of steering response and cornering traction. The Continental ContiExtremeContact and Goodyear Eagle RS-A both felt appropriate for their respective product categories, but could not quite match the level or overall handling of the Michelin or Bridgestone products.

When it came to road noise across the variety of surfaces in our test loop, the Potenza RE950 and the Pilot Exalto A/S offered similar overall levels, with the Potenza RE950 displaying a subtle but distinct pitch at several speeds. The more aggressive tread pattern found on the ContiExtremeContact generated somewhat more tread noise across all surfaces and speeds than the other tires, but was not found to be objectionable. Some drivers may find this modest increase in road noise resulting in enhanced snow traction thanks to its aggressive tread design an acceptable trade-off with the ContiExtremeContact. The Original Equipment Goodyear Eagle RS-A felt the most comfortable of the group, keeping road imperfections and noise at a comfortable distance from the driver.

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.

While turning nearly identical average lap times under dry conditions, the subjective difference between the test products was more discernable. The Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S felt the most nimble and responsive of the group, allowing the driver to place the car precisely. The Potenza RE950 cornered as though it had the highest ultimate grip but steering inputs were not quite as precise as the Pilot Exalto A/S. The car fitted with the ContiExtremeContact seemed to move around the most during our simulated avoidance maneuvers. This combination did ultimately deliver appropriate grip levels, but did not feel quite as composed as the other tires. The Eagle RS-A was not able to match the overall handling of the other three tires, delivering gentle understeer when pressed to its grip limits.

With the track wet to simulate the conditions of a moderate rain shower, the Potenza RE950 delivered the best overall traction and the fastest average lap time, but did not feel quite as crisp as the Michelin. The Pilot Exalto was again the most responsive of the group, which helped make it somewhat easier to control at its grip limit than the other three test tires. The water depth and average speeds of our test track do not allow us to evaluate hydroplaning resistance.

Product Details

Goodyear Eagle RS-A (High Performance All-Season, Original Equipment Comparison):The Goodyear Eagle RS-A is a High Performance All-Season tire produced with several speed ratings and in a wide variety of sizes. Its design is heavily influenced by its use as an Original Equipment tire by BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors, Chrysler and others. Read more.

Bridgestone Potenza RE950 (V-rated) (High Performance All-Season): The Bridgestone Potenza RE950 is an High Performance All-Season tire that was developed to meet the needs of the drivers of sports cars, coupes and sedans by blending dry, wet and year-round traction, even in light snow. The Potenza RE950 features Bridgestone's UNI-T AQ II technology, which uses advanced compound and construction features to enhance and preserve wet traction through the tire's life.

Continental ContiExtremeContact (Ultra High Performance All-Season): As its name implies, the Continental ContiExtremeContact was designed for the extremes of all seasons. It features a unique multi-element, silica-based compound designed to respond to the conditions being driven in. A firm element provides stable dry traction while a flexible element provides wet weather grip. A third element remains flexible in extreme cold for snow and slush traction. This unique, homogeneous Tri-Net tread compound is molded into an aggressive, directional pattern (the most aggressive of this evaluation) featuring high-angle, lateral grooves to assist hydroplaning resistance, along with large notches in the shoulders and aggressive siping in each tread block to offer more biting edges for snow grip. Our own wintertime experience as well as that of those who have submitted online surveys indicates this tire excels (relative to other tires in this category) in winter weather.

Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S (High Performance All-Season): Pilot Exalto A/S radials are the entry-level High Performance All-Season member of Michelin's Pilot family of performance tires. Pilot Exalto A/S radials are designed for sports cars, coupes and sedans to blend responsive handling and long wear with year-round traction, even in light snow.


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