BMW News
Getting The Michelin Pilot Experience At Monterey Car Week
By: Curt Wilson, Sin City Chapter

Everyone knows of Michelin as one of BMW’s original equipment tires, most likely your BMW is sporting a set right now! However, you seldom have a chance to test exactly why BMW chooses Michelin as standard equipment on their sports cars. I was fortunate enough to be invited, along with eight other social media influencers, to participate in an event called the ‘Michelin Pilot Experience’ during Monterey Car Week 2017.

Along with the driving gauntlet of the Pilot Experience, we were shown several other Monterey Car Week events including the Legends Of The Autobahn, the Festorics Car Corral at Laguna Seca Turn 5, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and even the exclusive Singer Soiree. It was an incredible week full of many once-in-a-lifetime memories of which the Pilot Experience was by far the most interesting.

On the first morning of the trip, we were shuttled to the Marina airport where the Michelin team had set up an impressive proving ground. It was designed to showcase the performance of their new Pilot Sport 4S (PS4S) tire verses the leading competitor in an objective as possible fashion. All tests were performed in 2017 BMW 340i sedans equipped with 20” HRE Flow Form wheels wrapped in 235/35/20 tires.

First up was a simple braking test where we drag raced from zero to 60 mph and immediately back to zero. The cars were identical, besides the brand of tires. The results were undeniable, the braking distances were consistently around 10 feet shorter with the Michelin tires regardless of driver of the cars.

The autocross event was even more telling! All drivers learned the course on the PS4S and then swapped cars to the competitor tires for more laps. The course had a wet section that was the most drastic difference for me. I had gotten very comfortable in the wet on the Michelins but as soon as I entered the section on the competitor tires, the grip faltered at the same speeds. I immediately lost confidence in the car to traverse the same corners at the pace I was able to hold before.

Cornering speeds were noticeably lower. Grip while accelerating out of the corner after the apex had a much higher probability of traction loss. This lead to some enjoyable drifting on the competitor tires, but despite the fun, this definitely resulted in slower exit speeds.

Lastly was the Bibendum (Michelin Man) Challenge; an oval course with wet corners where the cars were configured with PS4S tires in the front and competitor tires in the rear with absolutely no traction control. The objective was to make it around the oval as fast as possible without spinning out.

I failed, big time!

Knowing that the corners were the hard part, I was very careful to keep the car stable, and would then hammer down the straight away. On my third lap, while exiting a corner, I floored the throttle and started to lose traction. I compensated with a nice drift, but when the rears hit dry pavement they gripped-and snapped the car into a spectacular high speed spin-out!

It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

At the end of the day everyone was shocked at how much of a difference tire technology makes on driving dynamics and overall performance of otherwise identical cars. The competitor tire was no slouch, in-fact it was the latest offering from the leading competitor brand in the Ultra High Performance category.

All of the empirical magazine reviews repeatedly placing the PS4S at the #1 spot could never replace our ability to objectively test them and feel the differences for ourselves. Our group ranged from licensed race car drivers to photographers with little to no performance driving experience.

On the shuttle ride back to the hotel everyone was positive, in the pursuit of pure performance, completely un-influenced by our gratitude for Michelin’s hospitality, that we are all going to be running Pilot Sport 4S tires on our personal sports cars!—Curt Wilson

Watch Curt talk with Motor Trend’s Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh at the 2017 Legends Of The Autobahn: