Review: Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 Tyres
By James Wong
I’ve never done a tyre test before, so this is going to be the first time. There is just so much to say about the tyres that I thought writing an article up on them is going to be useful, because I’ve been scattering my verdict on this set of tyres to everyone with nowhere to consolidate the findings. So I hope this is useful for those who are considering this set of tyres for their cars, especially since they may be going for a clearance price now that the Michelin Pilot Sport 3, the successor to the PS2, is beginning to creep into the market.
When I first bought my car, I didn’t really recognise what rubbers were given to me with my ride. Frankly, I did not even bother much as tyres didn’t really matter to me at that time. As long as they don’t look bald, I wasn’t too concerned what brand they were or whether they were highly-rated tyres. In fact, up till today I still think that among the major brands that represent their tyres in the, say, Ultra High Performance (UHP) segment, they are so closely matched that you can hardly tell the difference in real life. I have always read with some sceptism tyre reviews from consumers who only use the tyres for a month and already have a verdict on them. A month’s worth of driving is certainly enough to gather some information about the tyres, yes, but I feel a true verdict is only given when the tyre is used till end of life (EOL). That way, factors such as performance and noise level after heavy wear is also considered. As with many things, tyres also have a lifespan and throughout stages of their life, will perform differently.
So when I found out my car was fitted with the Michelin PS2s, I did some research on them and realised they are one of the highest-rated tyres around. If not pole position, it will still stand at least at the top 5 positions in most rankings. I was curious as to how much tyres can differ from each other, and I’m still learning every day. At least now I’ve got extensive mileage done on the PS2s, I can share a bit of what I’ve learnt. Also, they are nearing their EOL (actually, this is debatable but we’ll get into that later) so this would be a great platform from which I can compare to my next set of tyres, the Michelin Pilot Sport 3.
So far, I have done about 26,000km on my PS2s and that includes one track day. The tread wear has been very even as long as you do your regular rotations and keep your tyre pressure checked often. If not for my track day, I believe the tyres can last up till 40,000km like some fellow users of the PS2s reported. The track day is the most harsh event I have put my tyres through, and the wear has been accelerated by several fold after only three hours.
Let’s touch first on the initial 24,000km or so before the track day. The PS2s are so immensely capable in every way on the street that I cannot say I have any problem with them at all. Never once in my mind did I think about changing them out because of any issue. The tyres are not quiet, but neither are they noisy, so for daily driving I find them to be absolutely bearable. You will likely experience more noise from the road surface the tyre is running on then from the tyres themselves. On a good patch of road the tyres are almost as quiet as luxury tyres.
Now for the grip. The car grips fantastically on the road in the dry. I would say it is in between a luxury car tyre and a full-fledged semi-slick tyre like the Yokohama Advan AD08 or Bridgestone RE-11, edging closer towards the exotic semi-slicks. This was confirmed when two GTIs were brought to the same road in the same conditions and were driven back to back. One GTI was fitted with the PS2s while the other GTI was fitted with AD08s. While the PS2s definitely could not match the absolute dry grip of the AD08s, they held up very admirably considering their worn state, having done about 25,000km and one track day. The AD08, on the other hand, only did less than 7,000km and had been used only on the street. You definitely cannot expect the PS2s to perform on par with the AD08s as they are a more multi-functional tyre that also concerns itself with wet grip. Steering feel is also weighted and substantial, although I cannot confirm whether that is the result of the car or the tyres. What I did notice though is that after the accelerated wear of the track day, the steering did feel heavier as a result of the tyres having a more uneven contact patch on the road. Also, I suspect that due to the same reason, the tyres are also screeching a lot louder in those carparks with polished floors.
The dry grip on the track is also surprisingly good. There was about 50% or so tread left on the tyres when I stepped foot onto Sepang, so the tyres are not at their peak when they went for their big test. Nonetheless, the PS2s gave no surprises on the track. It slipped when you put too much speed into your corners and allowed the car to understeer; it stayed true to its line when you put in full throttle at the straights; its performance did not deteroriate very drastically with more consecutive laps put in. While the degradation in performance is noticeable, it is never dangerous and it won’t catch you off-guard. It will just start to slip more and you realise you can’t put as much speed as you’d like to the same corners anymore; by then it would be a good idea to head back to the pits. As the PS2s aren’t built primarily as a track-biased tyre, I was very impressed with its performance on the track. However, after the track day I did notice that the wear on the tyres was quite uneven. My front sidewalls were totally eaten up, even up to the point where it also wore off parts of the tyre beyond the sidewall and onto the face. I noticed that peculiarity, and figured that it could have been the lower tyre pressures that I set, which were perhaps a bit too low for these tyres. The inside of my tyres were also almost completely worn, hinting of a negative camber setting (default on most European-made cars).
Now let’s get to the wet grip. I am probably one of the few drivers out there who prefers to drive faster in the wet, so getting a tyre that performs well in the wet is important for me. Thankfully, the PS2s are also highly-regarded, perhaps more so, for their wet-weather capability. This is especially crucial for Singapore, where it rains nearly every other day.
The word ‘aquaplaning’ never once featured in my vocabulary when describing the performance of the PS2s. I never had a problem with the tyres losing grip entirely on the wet, even through huge standing puddles on the road which the tyres cut through with ease. There is no steering pull or discontinuity when it did that, just a gentle tug at the wheel when the tyres first hit the puddle. What’s more, if you know how to control your throttle properly, there will be no wheelspin off the line and wheelspins are a rarity when you’re accelerating when you’re already moving. You feel confident in the tyres in the wet, although that cannot be said when they are worn like now, after the track day. While it manages to maintain its dry grip in its worn state, its wet grip does seem to erode much more perhaps due to the loss of some of the tread design in the almost-gone sidewalls. It does not seem to cut through water as well, and as a result I now need to be more wary in the wet. It is never a problem for normal driving, but when you want to drive in a spirited way, more caution is required.
So that’s the main reason why I’m changing to the Michelin Pilot Sport 3. Reportedly the successor of the PS2 as well as the Pilot Preceda 2, the Pilot Sport 3 will be an interesting proposition. For now, I’ll probably keep my extra set of PS2s as a track tyre to ‘finish’ them off. I hope I’ve given you some insight on the PS2s and how they perform. What tyres do you have on your car and what do you have to say about them? Please do comment – we’d love to hear from you.