Moving full speed ahead, Michelin will launch two new UHP tires in 2008 the Pilot Sport A/S Plus, a revamped version of its original Pilot Sport A/S, and the Pilot Sport PS2 ZP, specifically designed for late-model Corvettes.
Both were put to the test at the end of June, when Michelin invited select media to compare the tires’ handling and performance against those of competitors. Laurens Proving Grounds, the tiremaker’s testing facility in Laurens County, S.C., provided the perfect backdrop for the driving event, with its 10 testing tracks that offer a variety of surfaces and conditions for real-life driving situations.
The Pilot Sport A/S Plus tires were tested on city and highway streets, as well as in wet handling and grip exercises on the track, while the PS2 ZPs were run on a dry autocross course and in comfort and wet braking exercises.
Pilot Sport A/S Plus
Although summer tread makes up 57% of Michelin’s tires sold in the sport category, recent growth in all-season popularity shows the Pilot Sport A/S Plus will be well-accepted in the UHP market, the company said. Growth in Michelin’s all-season UHP sales increased by 29% in 2007, compared to a 3.5% growth in summer tread, according to Nicholas Goubert, UHP brand category manager for Michelin North America.
“Usually, when people buy a car that has Z-rated summer tires, they decide thay want to use the same set of tires year-round, so they replace their current tires with all-season ones,” he said.
While the Pilot Sport A/S Plus may look like its predecessor, released in 2001, Goubert pointed out that “Evolution doesn’t always need to be visible.”
The changes lie within the tire’s tread, which is composed of three separate compounds that allow for greater performance in both dry and wet conditions, while still maintaining a high level of performance in snow. The Pilot Sport A/S Plus is backed by a 45,000-mile limited warranty, he said.
These features combine to make the new tire best-in-class in all-weather performance, wet grip and tread life for Z-rated, all-season tires, he said. “The biggest challenge in the development of the second generation Pilot Sport A/S tire was to achieve the highest level of performance, while drastically improving the tread life. We are confident with the results,” Goubert said.
The tire will be available Sept. 1 in 29 initial sizes with another 30 sizes set for release in March. Complete sizing options will range from 205/55ZR16 up to 265/30ZR22, offering 75% market coverage, according to Michelin.
Pilot Sport PS2 ZP
Michelin claims its PS2 ZP will introduce a new level of performance for Corvette owners and enthusiasts, offering the same performance of the existing Pilot Sport PS2 tires, but with “zero pressure” run-flat technology.
The tire, which gained an OE fitment on the 2009 Corvette ZR1, will also be available as a replacement tire for C5, C6 and as a plus-one fitment for the C6ZO6 Corvette models.
By combining two distinct tread patterns, the ZP delivers exceptional wet and dry handling, resulting in “tremendous cornering power without ride compromise,” said Kip Newton, UHP product marketing manager.
The asymmetric tread design features large outer shoulder blocks and continuous center ribs to enhance steering response and cornering stability, while the inner tread design features a higher groove-to-rubber ratio with wide circumferential grooves and lateral notches that help channel water through the footprint to enhance wet road traction, according to Michelin.
“The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP sets the standard for what a UHP run-flat tire can do,” said Goubert.
Replacement sizes for the C5 and C6ZO6 are currently available, while sizes for the C6 will be introduced in October.
To assist with sales, Michelin will provide its dealers with an opportunity to test both tires, and will have in-store displays and talking points regarding each tire, according to Parmeet Grover, Michelin brand director.
The new Pilot Sport tires will be featured primarily in print and online advertising, with television commercials focusing on the Michelin brand, not specific tires. To boost dealer sales, Michelin is also expanding its credit card program to include 12 months with no interest for customers who use the card to buy four Michelin tires, Grover said.