For petrolheads, no experience is more thrilling than being in the driver seat of a dreamy performance car, turning and cornering across a twisty mountain road. But that impact on the road only gets communicated to your steering wheel when you have a set of responsive performance tires installed — like the Michelin Pilot Super Sport.
For driving enthusiasts, tires mean everything when it comes to optimizing the whole driving experience.
For years, the Pilot Super Sport performance tire from Michelin has had a special place in the hearts of drivers. Sure, it has already got a successor with the fancy modern-day technologies, but the Pilot Super Sport is a classic that aged like fine wine.
Many high-performance vehicles in the 2010s were designed and developed with these tires. Originally, Michelin developed the tire especially for the Ferrari 599 GTO.
Technically, this tire is still your best bet if you want to get the best possible performance out of these vehicles from the last decade.
The Pilot Super Sport has also seen significant price cuts since its initial release. In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at its performance offerings in different conditions and whether it’s worth your money in 2021. Does it hold its own against modern competitors? Let’s find out.
Overview — Michelin Pilot Super Sport
The Michelin website tags the Pilot Super Sport as a sports tire that was originally designed for endurance racing. Its marketing has its purpose written all over it, with taglines revolving around a lasting track tread life, ultimate handling experience, and precise responsiveness.
The tire definitely lives up to all the hype, and it hasn’t let its fans down over the last decade since its initial release. With 13 back-to-back wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans under Michelin’s belt, the older tiremaker puts the Pilot Super Sport’s performance at 12% better than the competition.
Michelin also claims that the Pilot Super Sport’s tread life lasts twice as long as the competitors in the market, with the shortest braking distances among other high-performance alternatives.
Many complex technologies are at play in the Michelin Pilot Super Sport to make these bold claims possible. It all starts with the Bi-Compound tread rubber, featuring a wet compound on the inboard shoulders and a dry one on the outer shoulders.
The compound on the outer ones is track-ready to ensure grippy cornering in the sharpest track turns. The compound on the inboard shoulders focuses on dealing with hydroplaning issues for excellent wet performance.
The spirally-wound Twaron cord in the tire’s internal construction puts it ahead of the competition — especially considering how advanced it was for the technology of its time. The material Twaron provides an unparalleled level of strength reinforcement while still keeping the tire’s weight in check.
Michelin says that it’s responsible for at least a 10% weight reduction in the tire, which goes a long way in boosting the performance and handling you get with it on track.
The Pilot Super Sport features Tread Wear Indicators (TWI’s) as a way to check when you need to replace them. A healthy tread condition is pivotal for maintaining a safe road grip — especially on wet pavement.
As the tire wears with time and continued use, the TWI’s become more visible. They’re positioned inside the tire’s grooves, so when friction wears them away, the TWIs become more and more prominent. Once you find the TWIs sitting fully flush with the tread’s surface, that’s when you know you need to replace the tires!
Driving with worn tires means losing hydroplaning resistance and traction — making your car a safety hazard to drive in wet conditions. In fact, treadwear can also render your tires to be illegal to drive on track.
Thankfully, you get a trusty 30,000 miles treadwear warranty on these tires. You might not think much of it if you’re used to buying grand-touring tires for a passenger car. However, max-performance tires go through much rougher usage — so a 30,000-mile warranty on a tire of this category is exceptional.
No major premium tire maker provides warranties to cover the treadwear on their max-performance offerings — which makes the Pilot Super Sport’s reliability matchless, even today!
Find a professional driver and get him to drive a high-performance car with these tires freshly installed, and there’s no way he’d guess that the tire was launched a decade ago. That’s just how it is with the classics — they never get old.
Right from the start, the thrill you feel behind the steering wheel is immense. The responsiveness only gets better as the tire heats up. You get outstanding levels of road grip, and it genuinely trades blows with some of the best max-performance tires in today’s market.
The tire has perfect traction, stability, braking performance — and the granular feedback you get makes the ride even dreamier.
Wet performance is one area where the tire industry has really seen leaps and bounds thanks to modern technologies. When the Pilot Super Sport was new, no tire on the market could come near its wet performance. But the modern max-performance segment tells a different story.
You still get great braking performance and traction on wet roads, but you might not feel confident enough to push your car to the limits. In that department, the tire gets beat by its own successor — the Pilot Sport 4S.
Performance on Snow
Frankly, the Pilot Super Sport is nobody’s weapon of choice to battle harsh winter conditions. The tire has nothing in its design that can handle freezing conditions, let alone snowy or icy roads. For that, you’ll need some winter or all-season tires.
Can You Take It Off-Road?
Not at all. The tread depth is simply not there to handle hard-packed surfaces. On top of that, the sticky rubber will quickly get destroyed in the debris-filled off-road tracks.
Ride Quality and Comfort
Well, comfort and quietness is the last thing you’d expect from a max-performance — and rightly so. If you’re looking for a smooth and quiet ride, the Pilot Super Sport is just not made for it. These tires belong in a sports car on a race track, not on a luxury cruiser.
The Michelin Pilot Super Sport has been upgraded in almost all areas by its worthy successor — the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. However, you’ll have to pay a premium in price. If you manage to find a high-value deal on some Pilot Super Sports, go for it! There’s still lots to love in their exceptional on-track performance and steering response.