Unlike some people who drive boring cars, at least as far as enthusiasts are concerned, a group of lucky people gets to enjoy a sporty-feeling four-tired toy on a daily basis. No matter if we’re talking about a sporty sedan that you can take your kids to school or a two-seater with some track-oriented potential, the reality is that you’d need a tire capable of delivering that.
Pilot Sport 4S Rating: 4.3/5
SportContact 7 Rating: 4.7/5
Sure, you can fit a touring tire to these cars, and they’d be perfectly fine for everyday driving. You’ll get a well-refined tire capable of delivering high comfort levels without making too much noise. With that said, I say that it’s a poorly wasted potential fitting that kind of tires to a car designed to take you around a corner sideways.
If a touring tire isn’t up for the job, which one is it? An ultra-high-performance one, of course. Even though there are some barely road-legal tires that are primarily aimed for track days, UHP tires are a slightly toned-down version. You’ll get almost the same performance levels but from a tire that you won’t struggle with during your daily commutes.
Many tire manufacturers have a model or two in this category, and if you’re after the best, then the premium options are the best choice. Several years ago, Michelin released the Pilot Sport 4S, which set the standard and was considered the best UHP summer tire. Recently, Continental released the SportContact 7, which seems like the option that can dethrone the king. Is that true, or will the French tire remain on top?
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Michelin didn’t get to the top by making average tires. Being a premium manufacturer means that you are paying a higher price, but you also get a tire full of technologies that help it be the best there is. Implementing some improvements into its predecessor, the Pilot Sport 4S managed to deliver better performance, which is why it’s considered to be among the best.
Parts of the features incorporated into this tire come from Michelin’s racing department, and the most crucial one is the rubber compound. Going for the hybrid setup enables the Pilot Sport 4S to have excellent performance in dry and wet conditions.
As part of the tread design, you will notice the dual-region pattern, aiming to give the tire a dual personality. The handling and braking performance on dry roads of the Pilot Sport 4S is backed by the outside section of the tire. On the other hand, the central ribs are enriched with silica to help deliver high levels of traction on wet roads. Plus, the circumferential grooves and sipes are designed to provide superb aquaplaning resistance by effectively channeling water away from the tire blocks.
On the inside, the construction consists of twin steel belts that are reinforced with a hybrid wrap. To minimize the unsprung mass, Michelin went with nylon and Aramid belts, reducing the weight and keeping the tire lighter.
Despite being a performance tire, Michelin paid attention to the refinement. To reduce the noise, the company implemented its Michelin Acoustic Technology. It features sound deadening foam on the inside of the tire, which absorbs the noise, aiming to make the Pilot Sport 4S quieter.
Continental SportContact 7
Up there with the best in the business is Continental. Over the years, the German manufacturer managed to provide us with excellently designed tires. The release of the SportContact 7 seems to have stirred things up, as the company claims to be the best in the category.
As Continental claims, to achieve such greatness, the manufacturer had to implement as many of its high-tech technologies as possible.
The first one worth mentioning is the adaptive pattern. Considering that the roads aren’t always flat as glass, the company had to design the pattern to adapt itself based on the road you’re driving. This brings improved and consistent traction in dry and wet conditions. It is also intended to deliver improvements in the safety department, resulting in excellent braking distances.
For these driving conditions, the compound needs to be soft enough to deliver the performance Continental claims. To achieve this, the company used a BlackChili compound mixture, which keeps the tire softer and enables it to last longer than its predecessor. In addition to that, the low void tread design should give it some extra edge over its competitors.
Despite being a tire designed for driving on a warm summer day, the SportContact 7 has a few tricks that should help it deliver performance in wet conditions. There are 4 circumferential grooves that work with the lateral sipes, meaning that it should have excellent aquaplaning resistance. Combine this with the adaptive pattern, and you are looking at a tire that promises a lot in the wet, which is no surprise. Continental is known for making some of the best wet performers out there.
There isn’t a lack of technologies and features in both cases. The SportContact 7 is the newer model, so people would expect it to be better. With that said, it’s not unheard of to have an older tire outperforming newer ones, so the Pilot Sport 4S isn’t out of the picture yet.
How do they perform in dry conditions?
I’m happy to report that both tires are excellent in terms of driving in dry conditions. You’ll have loads of grip and traction, so you probably think they’re tied and similar, something you’d be wrong about. Despite the levels of performance, there are some differences.
Let’s start off with everyday driving, something that both tires are more than adequate for the job. The Pilot Sport 4S and the SportContact 7 are excellent tires that can deliver high levels of grip and traction regardless of the situation. So far, both are pretty even, but things start to differ once you push them.
If you compare both tires in a bit more aggressive situation, you’ll notice a few things different. In terms of traction, things are evenly matched, and you can accelerate with minimal wheelspin even in the most aggressive situations. When you push it in the corners, the SportContact 7 is the sportier option. You’ll get a bit more grip, and unlike the Pilot Sport 4S, it isn’t as prone to understeer.
Things remain more or less similar even if you’re on a track. While neither of these tires would be my first choice for this situation, they are still excellent performers. At the limit, the SportContact 7 continues to impress as it has no problem putting the power down and, thanks to its sticky nature, takes the crown in this comparison. It’s not that the Pilot Sport 4S is terrible, and the differences aren’t massive, but it’s starting to show its age. With that said, I’m eager to see how the Pilot Sport 5 compares to Continental’s champion.
Finally, the braking distances and Continental aced this section as well. The difference isn’t massive, but the SportContact 7 stopped in a slightly shorter distance.
How do they perform on wet roads?
We keep witnessing Continental tires deliver superior performance in wet conditions, and the SportContact 7 didn’t disappoint here. Like in the previous test, the differences on the road aren’t too massive, and both tires are excellent performers.
The Pilot Sport 4S and the SuperSport 7 have no problem gripping to the road and keep you in check even if you get carried away. Naturally, you can’t go too much overboard on public roads, so both tires will have more than enough grip in the corners. Sure, they won’t be as sticky as in dry conditions, but both are quite even as long as you don’t give it the beans.
Pushing them a bit, both tires will be happy to comply, and down a twisty road will keep you safe and sound. With that said, the SportContact 7 has more grip, and you can attack a corner with a higher speed, resulting in a bigger smile on your face.
On the absolute limit, the Pilot Sport 4S is excellent, but the SportContact 7 is better. Again, Michelin’s tire is an older one, so it’s natural for Continental’s one to be better, but it’s way better in this case. More grip, better traction, and an overall more composed package leads me to believe that the Germans have nailed it.
The braking distances are again superior on the SportContact 7 over the Pilot Sport 4S. Unlike the dry braking, in this case, the difference is longer by several feet. Don’t get me wrong, the Pilot Sport 4S has exceptionally short braking distances but gets outperformed by its German rival.
The aquaplaning resistance was one area where the SportContact 7 didn’t do so well. The low void tread pattern provides better performance in some areas, but that also means that it isn’t too good at channeling too much water. In this test, the Pilot Sport 4S managed to retain grip at higher speeds when compared with the Continental tire.
Are they good in the handling department?
When it comes to handling, both tires feel like they are set up for different types of drivers. While they are great, their manners are quite different.
If you’re looking for a communicative tire, the SportContact 7 is the better option. At the limit, the tire delivers loads of feedback through the steering wheel, letting you know what’s happening with each corner of the car.
Thanks to its progressive nature, this is a very easy tire to drive on the limit and gives you the confidence to push it. Even when the back starts to slide, you’ll know when that happens, you can catch the slide and easily continue around the corner sideways. Despite the high levels of grip, you won’t be fighting the tire’s ability to stick to the road.
The Pilot Sport 4S, on the other hand, isn’t as impressive, but it’s still very good. My biggest complaint is that it’s not as responsive as the SportContact 7, so if I were to pick between these two for a track day, I wouldn’t pick the Michelin.
While it is consistent and you can play with it to have fun, it almost feels like it doesn’t like getting pushed to the limit. Take a corner with a bit more speed, and you’ll have some understeer, which you can correct, but you’ll need to be prepared for that.
This leads me to the second problem – feedback. While there is some feedback through the steering wheel on the road, you’ll need to struggle to figure out what’s going on, especially if you’re on a track driving at the limit. It’s like you’re waiting for a hint so that you’ll know what to do.
How well-refined are the tires for everyday driving?
Even though they aren’t designed primarily to be well refined, the Pilot Sport 4S and the SportContact 7 are tires that you can live with on a daily basis, as long as you’re willing to make some compromises.
Both of them are acceptably quiet in terms of noise, considering the category they fall in. To be honest, the differences are so minor that they cannot be differentiated, so choosing the quieter tire is a tough choice. Maybe the Pilot Sport 4S seems to mute the sounds better, which is probably thanks to the foam inside the tire.
On the comfort side of things, the results are very similar as well. The SportContact 7 and Pilot Sport 4S are stiff, and you will have a slightly harsh ride, but that’s the tradeoff for getting that kind of performance. Here the difference is somewhat more pronounced, and the Michelin tire does a bit better job at cushioning potholes. The Continental tire is a tad harsher, which is to be expected, as there is less flex in the sidewall.
Do any of them offer a warranty?
Up until this point, the Pilot Sport 4S was at a slight disadvantage, especially in the handling department. In terms of warranty, the SportContact 7 is the tire that falls behind.
Michelin sells the Pilot Sport 4S with a 30,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is a rare sight in this category. On the other hand, Continental doesn’t provide any treadwear warranty for the SportContact 7, meaning that you only have the uniformity and workmanship warranty to rely on.
How do they compare in terms of price?
Continental is known for pricing its tires at just the right mark to make them attractive, and the same can be said here. Although the SportContact 7 is the newer tire, it’s still a bit more affordable than the Pilot Sport 4S.
I took a common 19-inch sized tire and compared both with identical speed and load rating. The SportContact 7 was around the $200 mark, while the Pilot Sport 4S was around $240, meaning that for the price of 3 Michelin tires, you get 4 Continental ones. Naturally, prices vary, and you can find some discounts, so I won’t exclude the possibility of getting the Pilot Sport 4S for cheaper.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Pros and Cons
- A bit more comfortable
- Better aquaplaning resistance
- 30,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Responsiveness isn’t as sharp
- Braking distances in dry and wet are a bit longer
Continental SportContact 7 Pros and Cons
- Better handling characteristics
- The highest levels of grip and traction in its class
- More affordable
- Aquaplaning resistance isn’t the best
- Available only from 19 to 23 inches
Which of the two is a better option?
You’re probably thinking I’ll recommend the SportContact 7 without blinking an eye, and you’d be wrong. While it seems to be the better tire, it’s not always the one you should get.
The first problem you’ll face is the size options. If you have smaller wheels, you’ll need to size up the rims, which can lead to all sorts of problems, I did a guide on that if you want to see what I’m talking about. Next up is the application, which also is something you should consider.
If you have a two-seater rear-wheel-drive car, then the SportContact 7 may be a good option for you. It’s easier to slide around and handles better. On the other hand, a luxurious, sporty sedan that you’ll be driving daily for most of the time may benefit a bit more from the softer nature of the Pilot Sport 4S.