Not only is the word tire spelt differently, the European and north American regions have different requirements when it comes to a tyres performance, and as a result tyre companies can have entirely different product ranges on sale between the two continents.
As a general rule, American tyres are designed to travel much further differences than their European counterparts with mileage guarantees of 60,000 miles not uncommon. European tyres have less emphasis placed on tread life, and far more on wet performance, which means while our UHP tyres might perform extremely well in the wetter parts of Europe, it's not unusual to get only 15,000 miles from a set of performance tyres.
With Tyre Reviews being a European based business it's rare we get to test American market tires, but thanks to Michelin we managed to test a number of patterns in the dry and wet at Atlanta Motor Sports Park, Georgia.
The tests performed were limited, but gave a good indication of how the tyres compared to each other. First up, we tested the dry handling differences between the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (which is also available in Europe) and the Continental ExtremeContact Sport using a Porsche Cayman.
The difference was immediately apparent. Literally. When using the launch control up the hill into turn one, the Cayman had no traction issues with the Michelin fitted, but span up, then sat on traction control through the entire of 1st gear when using the Continental. The fast right hand of turn one didn't do the ExtremeContact Sport any more favours, where the Cayman was balanced and poised on the Michelins, the car struggled to turn when on the Continental rubber, and when switching immediately into the downhill left hand turn two, oversteer was present with the Continental where it wasn't with the Michelin.
The rest of the lap showed the same trend as the first two corners, with the Continental clearly struggling to steer and brake where the Michelin performed much better. Score one to Michelin.
It might have been a fairer test to run the Continental Sport Contact 6 which has just become available in America, but the ExtremeContact Sport is one of tirerack.com's top rated UHP tyres so it's a choice drivers will be making.
The next test involved a BMW 340i, and the Michelin Pilot Sport AS3+ vs the Pirelli P Zero (PZ4). This was a simple wet and dry braking test, and everyone's runs got plotted throughout the day to reveal the overall difference between the two tyres. The result? The Michelin averaged around 111 feet in the dry and 112 feet in the wet, where the Pirelli averaged 118 feet in the dry and 122 feet in the wet. That's quite a considerable gap.
Last up was wet handling, again using the Pilot Sport AS3+ on a BMW 320i, but this time up against Bridgestones latest and greatest all season tyre, the Bridgestone Potenza RE980AS. In this test the Bridgestone performed surprisingly well objectively with wet grip levels not that far off the Michelin, but where the Bridgestone really lacked was the subjective handling. The steering was numb just off centre, it was slower to turn, and gave you very little communication of what the tyre was doing. Where you could feel the limit with the Michelin, the Bridgestone lacked that detailed information resulting in some "surprise" moments as you ran out of grip with no warning. It was a nice reminder that outright grip isn't everything, the tyre has to let the driver know exactly what's happening.
The final stop of the day wasn't a comparison test, it was more Michelin showing exactly what their tyres could do. We were given the oppertunity to drive laps of Road Atlanta in a Porsche Cayman with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, and a Chevrolet Corvette C7 wearing the Michelin Pilot Sport AS3+.
As you would expect the Porsche and the Michelin were a match made in heaven, with the car predictable and stable up to and past the limit, even with the huge levels of grip on offer. The Corvette and the AS3+ were less of a match, with the massive power of the Corvettes engine often overpowering the AS3+, but for an all season tyre on a 460 bhp car, on a punishing track, the Michelin Pilot Sport AS3+ performed incredibly well.
All in all, it was a mega impressive demonstration by Michelin, and the first of more American-specific content on Tyre Reviews in the future!
Or should we now be called Tire Reviews...