One of the main reasons we have excellently performing tires is that manufacturers constantly evolve their products. As newer technologies get introduced, tire makers use them to improve their models. Sometimes they are a refresh and other times they are entirely new models. Michelin does this often with their tires.
Michelin makes some of the greatest tires on the market. Regardless if we’re talking about touring or performance models, the tires from this French manufacturer are considered the best. Lucky for me, today I’ll talk about the fun tires – performance.
With a rich history in racing, Michelin makes excellent performance-oriented models, grouped under the Pilot family. As part of the max performance summer tires, we have the Pilot Sport 4S. The tire came out in 2017 as a replacement for the Pilot Super Sport, which was already one of the best in the industry.
Looking at both tires, we see Michelin at its best, offering models with no compromises in terms of performance. You may wonder what the difference is between these two. Is the Pilot Sport 4S better than the Pilot Super Sport? Or is the older model still competitive?
The good news for you is that today I’ll settle the debate and answer the question.
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Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
Most of us consider the Pilot Sport 4S as one of the best performers on the market. Michelin didn’t achieve that with wishful thinking and used its technologies to make that happen.
Being involved in racing for all this time meant that Michelin could grab a few things from its racing department. The rubber compound of the Pilot Sport 4S takes cues from the Le Mans tires. A hybrid rubber compound enriched with silica is used for this tire, enabling it to perform in multiple conditions.
The tread pattern also plays a huge role in how the tire performs. Michelin molded the Pilot Sport 4S with a pattern that features two regions. The outer part of the tire handles dry performance and handling. Wet performance is covered by the inner portion of the tire, featuring wider channels and grooves to help with water evacuation. Also, this portion of the tread has an increased number of sipes that help the tire with traction on damp surfaces.
A tire designed for torture on the track needs to survive, and the Pilot Sport 4S has that covered. The tire’s internal construction consists of twin steel belts wrapped with nylon. The Aramid and nylon belts help the tire withstand the forces without an increase in weight, keeping the unsprung mass as low as possible.
Even though the Pilot Sport 4S isn’t a touring tire, Michelin included something to help keep the noise down. As part of the Acoustic Technology, the manufacturer fitted special foam on the inside of the tire that absorbs the noise generated as the tire rolls.
Michelin Pilot Super Sport
In many ways, the Pilot Sport 4S takes a lot of cues from the Pilot Super Sport. When we look at the older tire, we see plenty of similar aspects, which is why some people consider this to be a worthy competitor.
Like the newer tire, the Pilot Super Sport uses a rubber compound derived from its racing department. Michelin went with a Bi-Compound rubber, combining two areas with different properties to help it deliver performance in dry and wet conditions.
Continuing the dual trend, we have the tread pattern, featuring two zones with different properties. The outer low-void section is designed for dry performance, increasing traction and improving handling. As for the inner section, Michelin designed it for wet performance, including wider grooves and an increased number of sipes. As a result, the tire’s performance on damp or harsh rain conditions shouldn’t be compromised.
A tire is only as good as its ability to withstand getting driven at the limit. To achieve that, Michelin used an internal construction featuring twin steel belts wrapped with a Twaron cord. This polyamide is light and durable, providing the strength the Pilot Super Sport needs.
Depending on the size in question, the Pilot Super Sport also gets a little something to help it keep the noise levels down. Michelin’s Acoustic Technology is used here as well and the goal of the foam is to make a quieter tire.
The Main Differences
Now that you have seen what both these tires can do, it’s time we put them in a head-to-head matchup. So that you know whether the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S or the Michelin Pilot Super Sport should go on your vehicle.
Comparing Off-Road Performance
Tires like the Pilot Sport 4S and the Pilot Super Sport are performance-oriented tires for the road. It means that they’re not designed for off-road performance, so they’re equally terrible at it.
Comparing On-Road Performance
How do they perform in dry conditions?
As tires that most people would drive on the road, I’m happy to report that both tires will deliver excellent results. Commuting with either of them isn’t an issue and most people can’t tell them apart. High levels of grip and traction and short braking distances from both tires, so they are a match, so far.
Pushing them more aggressively is what they are designed for and both tires will deliver. Depending on how much you want to push them will reveal their capabilities. The Pilot Sport 4S is the newer model, meaning that it’s an improved one. This improvement translates into higher levels of performance. Don’t get me wrong, the Pilot Super Sport isn’t terrible, but the newer tire is slightly better. Few people will notice the differences on the road.
Michelin designed both tires to handle getting driven on a track, and both would deliver as promised. When driving at the absolute limit, the Pilot Sport 4S is just a tad better than the Pilot Super Sport. The differences aren’t massive, but they are there. I would like to give both tires the crown, but the newer model is stickier.
The result of all of this would be slightly faster lap times. You may notice the difference only when you drive them back-to-back in the same conditions and with the same car.
Winner: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
How do they perform on wet roads?
The “dual design” of both tires means that Michelin thought of wet performance as well. You won’t be getting the same levels of performance as in dry conditions, but we can say the same about any other tire.
In this comparison, the differences are a bit more noticeable, naturally in favor of the newer tire. The older one is far from a poor performer that you should avoid at all costs, but Michelin made a drastic improvement.
The Pilot Super Sport is a good tire in wet conditions, but I never considered it to be the best. Despite the high levels of grip and traction it offers, its German rival Continental outperformed it. It holds well to the road and delivers solid stability, even on the limit.
Michelin improved things a lot with the Pilot Sport 4S, making it noticeably better than the Pilot Super Sport. The tire has fewer issues when accelerating, as the traction levels are higher. This means that even in more aggressive scenarios, it won’t struggle. As part of the package, the tire is a bit better balanced and doesn’t promote as much understeer. It’s there, but it’s not as pronounced.
With this, you may feel like I’m criticizing the Pilot Super Sport, but I’m not. The tire may not be the best in class, but it’s near the top when compared with models from the same era. Manufacturers improve the materials and designs, so I expected the Pilot Sport 4S to be better in wet conditions even before going into this comparison.
With that said, on the road, in daily driving scenarios, many people won’t notice a massive difference. Once you push them, you’ll see that the newer model brings noticeable improvements in terms of grip and traction.
As for the aquaplaning resistance, there is a difference, but it’s not a massive one. The Pilot Super Sport remains stable at higher speeds, but the Pilot Sport 4S can handle a bit more.
Winner: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
Are they good in the handling department?
There are two sides to a performance-oriented tire – the grip and traction levels and the handling. The good news is that both the Pilot Sport 4S and Pilot Super Sport deliver on this front. With that said, there are some differences.
Responsiveness is crucial for a performance tire and in this regard both tires are excellent. On the road, even in a more aggressive driving scenario, the Pilot Super Sport and Pilot Sport 4S will offer sharp and instant handling. The biggest difference I noticed was on the track, and for this, I’d have to give the crown to the Pilot Super Sport.
With the newer model, Michelin went with a slightly different approach, making it better behaved for daily driving scenarios. By doing that, the company had to make some compromises. The Pilot Sport 4S is still a tire that handles excellently, but the Pilot Super Sport is slightly more responsive when driven at the limit. For normal drives around town, most people would probably have a tough time telling the difference.
Getting feedback from the tires is crucial because you have better control and can predict how things will go. In this regard, I feel that the Pilot Super Sport is a bit better. It seems to offer a bit more information than the Pilot Sport 4S, but the difference isn’t massive.
Even though I say that the Pilot Super Sport is better, I’m not categorizing the Pilot Sport 4S as poor. Both are more than up for the task and unless you’re driving both on track, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Winner: Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Comparing on Snow Performance
Even though there are some that use summer tires in winter conditions, I have to say that it’s a bad idea. The Pilot Sport 4S and Pilot Super Sport are summer tires, so there won’t be any snow performance available.
Comparing on Treadwear and Durability
I often criticize manufacturers for not offering warranties on their tires, which is understandable in performance applications. Surprisingly, Michelin offers both tires with a treadwear warranty.
The Pilot Sport 4S and the Pilot Super Sport come with a 30,000-mile warranty, so you shouldn’t have a massive difference in longevity. Like with most models, going for a staggered setup means you’re getting half of the warranty.
Comparing on Comfort
In one of the previous sections, I explained what makes the Pilot Super Sport better than the Pilot Sport 4S. The reason the older tire is better in the handling department is the same reason the newer is better refined.
Let me be clear, neither of these two tires is a touring option, so the comfort levels won’t be the best. The Pilot Super Sport is acceptably comfortable and deals with bumps acceptably. It’s not the harshest ride in the world, but expect it to be on the firmer side. The Pilot Sport 4S is a softer tire, making it better suited for daily driving. Again, I’m not talking about a touring tire, but when compared with its predecessor, it does better in smoothing out road imperfections and potholes.
As for the noise, certain models rely on Michelin’s Acoustic Technology, so I was positive that there wouldn’t be any difference. I’m glad I was wrong. Regardless if we’re comparing models with that technology or without it, the Pilot Sport 4S is a quitter tire. They are UHP models, so it’s not like they are the quietest on the market. The newer tire feels like the road noise is slightly more muted. You will hear it, but not as much as the Pilot Super Sport.
Winner: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
Comparing on Price
Whenever a new model comes on the market, it’s usually priced higher than the one it replaces. The same goes for the Pilot Sport 4S and Pilot Super Sport, but not in every situation.
For example, with an 18-inch tire from both models with identical load and speed ratings, you’re looking at around a $15 price difference. This is the pattern most of us expect, where the Pilot Super Sport is cheaper. With that said, there are some 19-inch sizes where the older tire is several dollars more expensive than the Pilot Sport 4S.
Pros and Cons
There are a lot of similarities between these two tires, but also a good bit of differences too.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Pros & Cons
- Slightly better refinement
- Improved wet performance
- A wider range of size options
- The improved refinement affects the handling when driving on the limit
- Dry performance is only marginally improved
Michelin Pilot Super Sport Pros & Cons
- Slightly sharper handling
- Still competitive even when compared with newer models
- Available in larger sizes for modern cars
- Wet perfrormance isn’t its forte
- The refinement isn’t as good as the newer model
Which Tire Should You Choose?
Even though both tires are from the same category, they won’t offer the same levels of performance. Michelin released the newer model, bringing improvements I believe are well worth it.
The Pilot Super Sport was an excellent tire at the time, despite some of its shortcomings. Even by today’s standards, you have an excellent performer, which will satisfy most people’s needs. With that in mind, the Pilot Sport 4S is the better tire. The slight improvement in dry conditions may go unnoticed, but the wet performance is noticeable. As a performance tire for the road, you’d also benefit from the slight improvement in refinement. Keep in mind that you will lose a bit of the responsiveness on the limit.
Comparing them directly, I’d say go for the Pilot Sport 4S. The Pilot Super Sport is priced similarly, so you’re getting a better performance for a similar price. With that said, if you find the older tire at a discount, then it’s not a bad option. You will have to deal with a slightly firmer ride, but you’ll also get a more responsive one if you do a lot of track days.