If you want maximum winter grip for your performance car -- without sacrificing actual performance -- experts and owners say the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 is the best winter tire you can buy; the downside is that it's pricey. The runner-up Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D (Est. $115) sacrifices some handling and ride comfort, but it clings just as tenaciously to ice and snow -- and it costs less and comes in smaller sizes than the Michelin.
Sporty, even on ice and snow. If you drive your sports car or performance sedan on cold, snowy or icy roads, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 is for you. Its rubber stays soft in cold weather, so you won't slip and slide -- and yet it still handles crisply in expert tests. "They really do feel like summers," raves one owner at M3Post.com, although braking on cleared roads is "just so-so" in one top test (like other performance winter tires).
The PA4 impresses on snow and ice, too, beating its rivals in two expert tests. "Fantastic tire ... makes you think that your car has four-wheel drive in the snow," writes a BMW owner at TireRack.com. Still, you won't enjoy the ultimate snow-and-ice grip of the harsh-winter Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $105) .
Very comfortable -- and pretty quiet, too. Traditionally, performance winter tires ride softer than summer tires -- and that holds true for the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4. It rates "very good" for comfort in a top test. "Right away I noticed that those expansion joints and holes in the road are not as sharp" as with summer tires, writes one satisfied owner at M3Post.com. One owner at TireRack.com initially complained of vibrations at highway speeds but said those smoothed out nicely after a two-week break-in period.
It's quiet for a performance winter tire, too. One top source rates the Michelin PA4 "good" for noise, while most of its rackety rivals rate "fair" or "poor."
Expect long tread life. Unlike most winter tires, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 carries a 30,000-mile treadwear warranty. So did its predecessor (and our previous Best Reviewed), the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3, and the PA3 tire delivered excellent tread life, owners at TireRack.com report.
There's a catch, though. You can't collect on the PA4's warranty until the tread is worn dangerously thin, at 2/32 inch (TireRack.com recommends replacing winter tires when they have 5/32 inch of tread left). And you must have installation documents to prove that you run the tires only between September 1 and April 30.
ConsumerReports.org tests seven of the latest performance winter tires (including the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4) as part of its huge winter tire test. Editors rate each tire's performance on snowy, icy, dry and wet roads, as well as ride comfort, noise and rolling resistance.
Review: Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
The Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 impresses Phillips (About.com's guide to tires and wheels) at a Michelin press event. It handles every snowy, icy road condition on the Quebec test course, including a sweeping uphill turn that stumps other tires.
Review: Review: Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4, Sean Phillips, Not Dated
3. Tire Rack
Expert testers at this retail website list their top six performance winter tire picks -- including the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4. Staffers here regularly test winter tires, but they haven't yet tested the PA4.
Review: Which Winter Performance Category Is Right for You?, Cy Chowattukunnel, Oct. 10, 2013
4. Tire Rack
Only about nine owners have reviewed this new tire here, giving it an outstanding average rating of 9.01 out of 10. Owners report the number of miles they've driven the tires, and where, and on what type of car, and their driving style.
Review: Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4, Contributors to TireRack.com, As of November 2013
A picky BMW M3 driver started this thread to share -- in detail -- how he likes driving the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 in Seattle winters. Over the course of two winters, other BMW M3 and M5 owners have chimed in with their experiences with the PA4. All are satisfied.
Review: Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4: An Ongoing Review, Contributors to M3Post.com, As of November 2013