In my experience, the biggest problem people face is deciding between 2 or 3 models. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re looking for a performance-oriented summer tire for your sporty sedan or coupe, and this leads you to look at two of the best tires on the market.
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S and the Pirelli P Zero are both excellent tires, but you’re not sure which one is better, so you’re in a dilemma.
To solve that dilemma, in today’s comparison article, I’ll outline both models, their advantages and disadvantages, and try to identify which one is a better option.
Pirelli P Zero
I’ll start off with a common mistake people make about the P Zero tire. While there is the original one, the model I tested is the P Zero PZ4, which comes as an upgrade over the previous one.
Pirelli is an active supplier in Formula 1, meaning that some of the technology from the racing department ends up in the road-going tires. The rubber compound is made with silica and carbon black, enabling the manufacturer to modify and make minor changes based on car manufacturers’ specific parameters.
For the models that don’t come preinstalled on a car, the asymmetric tread pattern features wider shoulder blocks aimed at improving the handling characteristics. In terms of stability, the P Zero PZ4’s central ribs keep the tire planted in a straight line.
Even summer tires should be good in rainy conditions, and Pirelli made the P Zero PZ4 work. Thanks to the silica in the compound, the tire will remain softer when the roads are damp, while the circumferential grooves will help the tire channel water away from the blocks. There are also micro sipes throughout the tread designed to give the tire biting force and deliver excellent grip and traction.
On the inside, the P Zero PZ4 is designed with twin steel belts reinforced with nylon and Kevlar ZeroDegree cap ply, resulting in a tire that shouldn’t flex too much when you corner hard.
Pirelli has a technology called PNCS or Pirelli Noise Cancelling System, which comes in the form of a foam capable of absorbing noise. Unfortunately, even though the P Zero PZ4 is advertised to have it, the technology isn’t available for all tire sizes.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
The French manufacturer is known for making excellent tires, and the Pilot Sport lineup is no exception. The Pilot Sport 4S comes as a slight upgrade over the existing 4, but it seems to bring a lot of improvements in various conditions.
Michelin took a similar approach to Pirelli and borrowed some technologies from its racing division, in this case, the Le Mans tires. The Pilot Sport 4S is designed with a hybrid rubber compound infused with silica to improve dry and wet performance over the previous generation. To achieve that, the company had to split the tire into two regions.
On the outside, the hybrid compound is in charge of handling and braking in dry conditions, while the center ribs feature the silica enriched rubber, which improves traction on damp roads. For deeper water, the circumferential grooves help the Pilot Sport 4S evacuate the water beneath it, resulting in excellent aquaplaning resistance.
The internal construction of the Pilot Sport 4S features twin steel belts reinforced with a hybrid wrapping. Michelin used Aramid and nylon belts which don’t increase weight but are sturdy, resulting in a sturdy tire with not a lot of flex in the sidewall.
Like with the Italian manufacturer, Michelin has technology for reducing noise, and it’s called Michelin Acoustic Technology. The principle is the same, and the noise is absorbed by a foam placed at crucial points inside the tire. Availability is also similar to Pirelli, meaning that not all tires come with this.
With the introduction out of the way, it’s time to compare how both tires fair in different conditions.
How do they perform in dry conditions?
Both tires are designed for maximum performance in dry conditions, and both manage to deliver that without any issues. The French and the Italian tires are more than up to the task and rightfully earn the crown as one of the best performance summer tires.
While both are excellent at what they do, there are some differences that aren’t too noticeable on the road. In these situations, the Pilot Sport 4S and the P Zero PZ4 have very high levels of grip and traction, eliminating slip when accelerating or understeer, or oversteer in the corners.
Pushing them hard on the roads yielded similar results, with the Michelin being a tad stickier. Don’t get me wrong, you can go sideways with both of them, but I felt like the Pilot Sport 4S needed a bit more persuasion for that.
On the track, the results are similar, and both tires manage to deliver excellent results. With that said, there is a difference which is a weird one. Before you start pushing both of them hard, you’ll need to get some temperature, which isn’t something you should be surprised about. Once things are in the optimal zone, the Pilot Sport 4S will deliver very consistent results, and if you are timing your laps, you shouldn’t see a huge difference. With the P Zero PZ4, the results are similar, but the tire doesn’t feel as consistent, but on the other hand, the way it’s set up means that you can get the most out of it.
Like on the road, there are some differences in the amount of grip and traction you’ll be getting, but they aren’t huge, as both tires are excellent in these conditions.
Finally, the braking distances. What can I say? Both are excellent and very short, and the Pilot Sport 4S and the P Zero PZ4 are very closely matched, almost identical. The Michelin is a tad better, but not by a lot.
How do they perform on wet roads?
The P Zero PZ4 and Pilot Sport 4S are designed for the best dry and decent wet performance, which is a step up from the extreme performance summer tires. In these conditions, the duo delivers excellent results and, again, are among the best tires in this class.
I’ll start off with the braking test, in which case the Michelin tire took the crown. Not only did it stop at a shorter distance than the P Zero PZ4, but it’s also probably the shortest distance in its class. Pirelli came close with braking distances that were a few feet longer than the Pilot Sport 4S.
Driving them on the road in rainy conditions is not something you’ll have any issues with. Both tires will deliver very high levels of grip and traction, and even if you find yourself on a twisty road, you won’t be left asking for more.
The differences in wet performance between the P Zero PZ4 and Pilot Sport 4S can be felt on the track, in which case the Italian tire is a slightly better option. While both were very planted, and the rubber compound worked well with the tread to provide grip, Pirelli’s tire is the one that can hold on a bit more. Again, minor differences, but worth pointing out.
In the aquaplaning department, things are a bit mixed up. In a straight line, the Michelin remains stable at speeds several miles per hour higher than Pirelli. With that said, the P Zero PZ4 seems to do a better job at evacuating water in the corners and remains more stable and planted.
Are they good in the handling department?
Max performance tires are designed to provide the best handling experience, which is what the Pilot Sport 4S and P Zero PZ4 are very good at. Like in the previous tests, there are some slight differences, and each one is good in its own way.
As a whole, the Pilot Sport 4S is an excellently handling tire. The responsiveness is superb, enabling you to change directions instantly, and with razor-sharp precision, you can place your car wherever you need to. Despite that, the tire doesn’t feel twitchy and provides plenty of feedback informing you what’s going on at each corner.
The P Zero PZ4 delivers more or less similar levels of responsiveness. It can change direction as soon as you turn the steering wheel and feels very natural and planted. With that said, on-center, the tire feels a bit more number than the Pilot Sport 4S, something it makes up once you turn the wheel. As you increase the steering input, the tire feels progressive and gives more and more information.
While I would say that the Pilot Sport 4S is a slightly better handling tire, I have to praise the P Zero PZ4 for its dynamic nature mid-corner.
How well-refined are the tires for normal driving?
To be fair, these kinds of tires aren’t the most comfortable ones, and you shouldn’t expect them to be as good as their touring counterparts.
Considering the nature, both tires are acceptably well refined for normal driving but don’t provide a similar experience.
In this regard, the Pirelli P Zero PZ4 is a slightly more comfortable tire for everyday driving. Even though the sidewall doesn’t flex too much in the corners, it still dampens some road imperfections. As for the noise, while the tire is quieter overall, there is a slightly more noticeable thump when you hit a larger hole.
Michelin isn’t too far behind Pirelli, and the company managed to make it well comfortable and quiet. Even though it’s a bit harsher than the P Zero PZ4, it’s far from the harshest experience in the world. In the noise department, the tires are quite evenly matched.
Do any of them offer a warranty?
The biggest difference you’ll find between these two tires is the warranty. Most tires in this category come without a treadwear warranty which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Performance tires are often abused to the limit, so manufacturers cannot offer a warranty.
What is surprising is the fact that Michelin offers the Pilot Sport 4S with a 30,000-mile treadwear warranty. As a comparison, the P Zero PZ4 comes without a treadwear warranty.
Pirelli P Zero PZ4 Pros and Cons
- Slightly more affordable
- Better refined for daily driving
- Aquaplaning resistance in the corners is better
- Grip and traction levels on the limit are a bit behind
- On-center feel is a bit muted
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Pros and Cons
- Superb dry performance
- Short braking distances in wet
- 30,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Ride is slightly harsher
Which is the Better Tire for Me?
To be honest, even I would have trouble deciding which tire to get. Considering how often I used “slightly” and “bit,” you can probably guess how close both tires are. Despite that, I have to deliver a verdict.
It’s pretty clear that the Pilot Sport 4S is the pinnacle of performance, so if you’re after the best, this is the tire you should look at.
On the other hand, if you’re after something a bit more affordable that you’ll be driving around town most of the time, then the P Zero PZ4 is an excellent choice.