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Best Summer Tires

By: Carl Laron on September 21, 2017

Summer tires are designed for wet or dry roads

If you live in a warm climate, or in a location where changing to snow tires (covered in their own report) are a must, opting for a summer tire instead of an all season tire is a more than reasonable choice. Summer tire options range from a basic grand-touring style that emphasizes comfort, to low-profile tires built for speed and handling.

At the high end of this range, you'll find tires designed specifically for use on sports cars and exotics. These will provide maximum handling and, often, maximum appearance, but are really intended for driving on dry roads and race tracks only -- when it rains, you'll want to leave that car in the garage. Those tires are covered in the section on performance tires. The tires discussed here, on the other hand, will provide excellent traction, breaking and ride comfort under any condition, except ice and snow.

In this class, we find some good consensus around the Michelin Pilot Super Sport (Est. $130 and up per tire) tire. It's the top-scoring ultra high performance summer tire at ConsumerReports.org, and earns a recommendation there. In testing, the tire earns excellent ratings in all performance categories save one, wet breaking, where it still earns a rating of very good.

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport has been available since 2011, and over the years TireRack.com has evaluated the tire several times against competing choices in its Max Performance Summer tire category. The most recent test was in 2016, when the editors reported that this long time favorite is "still king of the hill." They add that "With its quiet ride, satisfying on-road handling, impressive wet traction and dry track performance that continues to set the standard for the category, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is the complete package and earns its position at the top of the charts."

Because this tire doesn't lose its composure when the going gets wet, it's a pretty good match for many sportier passenger vehicles on the road, and as ConsumerReports.org notes, the Pilot Super Sport is available in a wide range of sizes to fit sedans as well as sports coupes. However, its dry road handling is superior as well -- good enough in fact for the tire to more than hold its own against well-rated pure performance tires. When Ferrari was launching its 458 Italia a few years ago, Car and Driver 's K.C. Colwell says putting Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on it was a priority. "It isn't hard to understand why Ferrari wanted" these, says Colwell, noting that this maximum-performance tire "has the best balance of wet and dry performance we've ever experienced in testing."

User feedback is excellent as well. It's the second (out of 32) highest rated tire in TireRack.com's consumer survey of Max Performance Summer tires, based on more than 1,200 responses representing more than 7.8 million driving miles. The tires are covered by a 6 year, 30,000 mile treadwear warranty, plus six years for workmanship.

But while the Pilot Super Sport is the current "king of the hill," it's very likely that that crown will soon be snatched away by the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (Est. $190 and up). Launched at the 2016 Paris Auto Show, and first available in the U.S. this past spring, that tire is slated to replace the Pilot Super Sport over the next two years (some sizes are available now, while others won't be available in the U.S. until 2018, reports say), and that's not a bad thing. As Car and Driver notes, "according to Michelin, the upcoming PS4S expands the envelope of performance even further with better wet and dry braking, better lap times, and even better wear."

Initial testing indicates that Michelin's claims could be well-founded. TireRack.com compares the tire to two other Max Performance Summer tires and comes away completely impressed. "From its athletic and composed nature on the road, to its best-in-test dry track figures, to its easily accessible performance in the wet, the Pilot Sport 4S really is the complete package." Other initial expert impressions largely fall in line. Car and Driver places the Pilot Sport 4S in first place in its recent five tire summer tire face off. Eric Tingwall writes "The Pilot Sport 4 S bundled the test's highest lateral grip and shortest stopping distance into the only sub-30-second lap time." Taking the tires to the highway, he adds that "the Pilot Sport 4 S is as docile in traffic as it is around a racetrack, never hammering down imperfections nor singing on the smooth stuff." He expects that as was the case with the Pilot Super Sport, car makers will be lining up to put the tires on their sports car offerings.

Consumers that have tried the Pilot Sport 4S largely couldn't be happier, at least thus far. It's supplanted the Pilot Super Sport at the top of the charts in TireRack.com's user survey of Max Performance Summer tires, However, that's based on far few reports -- just around 65, representing fewer than 100,000 driving miles.

Based on its far more extensive track record, and its availability in a wider array of sizes at present, we are keeping the Michelin Pilot Super Sport in the top spot among summer tires, for now. However, if the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is available in a size that fits your ride, it, too, is an outstanding choice -- and one that's extremely likely to graduate to Best Reviewed status when this report is updated in 2018.

There are other tires to consider in this category as well. One is the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position (Est. $120 and up), which is designed to be "very capable and easy to drive at the limit," say the editors at TireRack.com. Car and Driver's Colwell says the Bridgestone "presents a great blend of wet and dry performance, plus it's quiet and provides a good ride."

In a review by Car and Driver, testers appreciate the Bridgestone's "steering precision as well as its nice combination of roadholding attributes." The Bridgestone also comes in second place in wet-braking and in skidpad tests. In its test, TireRack.com says the Bridgestone "felt well-balanced and poised, with equal levels of initial steering response, cornering grip and drive traction." The Potenza S-04 gets high marks for ride comfort as well, with a top score for its quiet ride.

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