Michelin has launched a new tyre designed to make SUVs handle like proper sports cars.
The new tyre, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV (PS4SUV), takes the technology the French tyre giant has developed for its Pilot Sport family of products, and applied it to the difficult task of making performance orientated high-riders easier to handle.
Our first look at the Pilot Sport 4 SUV at Brisbane’s Mt Cotton driver training centre came in the form of a few laps of a closed road circuit behind the wheel of a Porsche Macan S.
The tyre is designed to perform well in both wet and dry environments, with the outer half of its tread pattern (the way the grooves are shaped) optimised for cornering grip.
With no speed limit on the private road circuit, it became clear that the Macan S itself was capable of taking corners rather quickly, though with no other tyre tested in this scenario it’s not clear how much impact the tyre had on this.
According to Michelin, the PS4SUV’s high-speed grip comes down to the tyre’s hybrid aramid (a strong, heat resistant, synthetic fibre) and nylon belts, which are found beneath the tread and prevent it from losing its rigid structure at high speeds.
The PS4SUV tyres did their job, but whether a rival’s product would be able to match it isn’t obvious.
But it’s a different story in the wet. Michelin provided a testing environment in the form of a wet skid pan with diesel to create a slippery surface, and two Audi Q5 SUVs. One was shod with PS4 SUVs, and the other with a rival tyre in the same segment, albeit slightly cheaper.
While the rival tyre did a fine job of keeping the car stable at low speed, any sharp manoeuvres were met with a need to completely ‘reset’ the car’s grip levels by slowing drastically or correcting steer into what might have been an invisible obstacle.
The Michelin PS4SUV tyre, however, was more predictable and required less adjustment in driving style to keep the Q5 headed in the intended direction.
Michelin says the inside half of the PS4SUV tyre are designed to handle wet and slippery conditions, with a hydrophobic silica compound to keep water from affecting the tyre’s traction, and a tread design which moves as much water out from beneath the tyre as possible.
“The tech in this tyre is the same tech as the Pilot Sport 4S,” said Michelin’s Oceania marketing manager Swaroop Tulsidas.
“At high speeds ... when you start speeding up the top layer of the tyre starts to deform because you’re going really quick.
“That’s something we found out in the Pilot Super Sport on the previous generation, and we improved it in the tyre we designed for Formula E.
“Then we rolled it out to PS4S, and now PS4SUV. It allows the contact patch to stay as constant as possible without deforming the contact patch. Combine that with hydrophobic silica, which repels water to keep that same contact patch, and you get excellent grip in the wet.”
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyre replaces the outgoing Latitude Sport, and is available now from Michelin dealers in 42 sizes, from 17- to 21-inch diameters.