With the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 officially going on sale at the start of 2016, but not launching to the press until later in the year, we were keen to get some miles on a set to answer the miriad of questions already appearing in our inbox.
The solution? Our long term Skoda Octavia VRS, which fortunately wears one of the launch sizies - 225/40 R18. Four tyres and 500 miles later, we're able to give our first impressions of the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4.
Before we get to the driving details, it's worth understanding how the Pilot Sport 4 is being positioned. The Pilot Sport 3 wasn't the direct successor to the Pilot Sport 2, that was actually replaced by the Pilot Super Sport, but instead the Pilot Sport 3 actually slotted in between the Pilot Exalto 2 and Pilot Super Sport, aiming more at the hot hatch market, and moving the balance towards wet grip and comfort.
The Pilot Sport 4 builds on the success of the Pilot Super Sport, plus also takes lessons Michelin have learnt as the sole tyre supplier for the Formula E series, meaning the new Pilot Sport 4 is once again more inline with the "Pilot Sport" ethos. Think of it as a brother to the Pilot Super Sport, and a cousin of the Pilot Sport 3.
The new Skoda Octavia VRS has a torquey turbocharged engine, delivering 227 bhp and 258 lb-ft torque through the front wheels. This leads to a challenging job for the front tyres, but allows us to quickly get a good impression of how the new tyre performs.
Less than a mile out of the tyre garage, the improvement over the OE fitment Continental Sport Contact 2s were apparent. On the cold greasy roads where the old tyres would spin up in a straight line in second gear, and sometimes even in third, the new Michelins had no such problems. This made exiting junctions, or making progress around roundabouts a much safer, more predictable and faster experience.
The overly stiff VRS chassis also highlighted another big plus of the tyre, comfort. The Michelins were noticeably quieter, and crashed far less over road imperfections at all speeds. One trade of comfort is often steering feel and speed, and while the Michelins were slightly slower to turn than the old tyres, and offered slightly less feel, it seemed like a more sensible compromise for the VRS chassis.
Now we've got a few more miles on them we're still just as impressed. Grip is improved in all conditions, the balance of the car is still neutral with a preference for understeer when really pushed, and wear looks to be non existent after 500 miles.
We'll keep an eye on fuel economy and wear over the coming months, but as always, feel free to leave your own review if you were lucky enough to get one of the early sets of tyres!