RS3, Michelin Pilot Super Sports & the A4069 made for each other
A4069 time for some fun...
I’m coming up to a year and 10,000 miles of RS3 ownership so it’s fitting that the newly fitted and bedded in set of Michelin Pilot Super tyres were ready for their first proper run. I’ve already added my quick thoughts to the Hello Michelin Super Sports but the tyres have transformed the car so much I thought it was worth a thread of it’s own to share more with you. This comparison focuses on how the RS3 feels on the MPSS tyres against the standard Conti 5P’s it was supplied with.
I was smitten with the RS3 within the first 10 feet of the test drive and I’ve had many great drives and shared some of those with you previously. I’m surprised to be typing that one year on that yesterday I had the very best drive of all and feel even more positive about the RS3 than before. The reason for this increased happiness is the Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The Conti 5P’s were excellent tyres and I wrote about their positive in their exit thread Bye bye Conti 5P's but the MPSS take the RS3 from a great to truly gripping experience.
I’ll reveal the conclusion now, rather than make you wait, and say simply if your tyres need replacing buy a set of MPSS. They are by far the best road tyres I’ve experienced to date. If you’re tyres don’t need replacing yet think about getting a set anyway, the transformation is worth it.
12 miles of pure driving fun
Tyres and car feel are a subjective and personal thing so I will do my best to describe the difference as I have found it. The A4069 is a road I’ve driven many times on the Conti 5P’s (and also in many different performance cars) so I know the braking points, turn in and realistic corner speeds in the wet well. This is a great road with many challenging corners at sensible road speeds, for the majority of the road the speed limit is well out of reach in any car, stringing the twists and turns together with smooth and effective use of throttle, brakes and steering are far more important. The weather was 8 degrees, wet with plenty of standing water and a fair bit of mud on some parts of the road – or perfect Quattro weather in other words.
Michelin Pilot Super Sports transform the RS3, there is no better word to describe the difference. In all the crucial areas they out perform the Conti’s with only 2 minor downsides. Where the Conti’s are all Teutonic seriousness and grip the MPSS combine confidence and playful fun yet with even more immediate traction.
The immediate difference on fitting MPSS was the lighter steering feel. This was no false dawn, the lighter steering plays a big part in all the advantages I’ve found. It’s as if the RS3 has shed 200kg of body weight and is now much more up on it’s toes.
The advantages of MPSS over Conti 5P’s:
+ Turn In. Initial turn in is so much sharper and it’s easier to place the car exactly where you want it. Where the Conti’s had an initial slight reluctance to turn in and left you guessing for a moment as to ultimate grip levels the MPSS are sharp and assured. Turn in was so pronounced initially I found I was turning in almost too early. Where the Conti’s made the steering feel loaded to return to centre the MPSS feel more natural in the turn and able to hold a smoother line. This was a good sign for what was to come.
+ Steering Feel. Steering feel is more intuitive, there is so much more chatter through the wheel (also see the negatives for a balanced view on this). The MPSS constantly talk to your hands, surface and grip level changes are easy to feel, no doubt aided by the overall lighter feel. By contrast the Conti’s were far more detached and when they ran out of grip it was with thudding under steer as the nose ran wide. The MPSS give multiple warnings as to the limit of grip and the whole car feels more able to move power around to counteract that shift. Steering feel is so much improved I’d say it is almost approaching Megane R26.R levels of feedback and that has astounded me.
+ Balance. The balance and pivot point of the car feels to have shifted, with the Conti’s you knew the outside front tyre was working hardest under hard cornering, the bias was always to the front of the car. Now the balance is more even as power moves between the outside front and rear tyre, on power the RS3 sometimes felt as if it was now pivoting around the rear tyre with far more push than pull.
+ Agility. On a road like the A4069 the RS3 now dances between corners with agility and the ability for quick direction change. Where the Conti’s pummelled the road into submission through sheer grip the MPSS allow you to flick and slice from apex to apex and it’s far more fun to do so.
+ Braking. Braking is more powerful and controlled, adding to the feeling of having shed some weight. Where the Conti’s would sometimes squirm and writhe under braking, making me think I’d overdone the corner speed the MPSS are smooth and controlled throughout the braking zone. Knowing this road well I was able to brake later and carry more speed on turn in. If I didn’t know better I’d have thought I’d done something to improve the brakes.
+ S-tronic fun. Probably the most unexpected and surprising finding is that S-tronic manual mode (& ESP fully off) works so well with the added confidence of the MPSS. Often with the Conti’s I was happy to let the gearbox do its own thing in S-mode. The added turn in and agility of the MPSS made me want to grab the RS3 by the scruff and drive it through every corner. I’m not quite sure how but the MPSS just seem to make more sense with the S-tronic, blipping down through the gears feels more natural under braking while the extra confidence mid corner means you’re soon blasting back out and ripping up through the gears again.
+ Grip. The ultimate level of grip is astonishing, I’d say approaching Toyo R888 (dry weather) grip levels, with none of the downsides of a tyre like the R888 on days like yesterday in the rain.
+ Grip-slip-grip. When the limit of grip is reached the MPSS are sublime. There is a neutral balance to the way they move from grip to slip. Ease off the throttle slightly and order is quickly restored. Hold the power and you can hold the slide, it’s fun and addictive and gives you more options. With the Conti’s it was often a case of driving around the waiting understeer with the MPSS the whole balance is more neutral.
+ Traction. The MPSS offer much greater wet weather grip and corner exit traction than the Conti’s (and I was happy with the Conti’s) and given they’re reputation as a high performance summer tyre this is an added bonus. In corners where the Conti’s were showing 0.8g through corners, the MPSS were exceeding .9g on the data logger. A lot of this is of course down to the extra confidence I had in the tyres rather than ultimate performance which is impossible to judge on road.
Just 2 downsides in my opinion:
- Fuel consumption is reduced on a regular commuting trip it’s anywhere between 1 & 2 mpg lower than the Conti’s it’s hard to say exactly why, a combination of the extra grip and me leaning on the tyres a bit more as a result of the extra confidence. When hooning in full manual mode the MPG is considerably lower but what price fun?
- Comfort. The Conti’s are the tyre to choose if you want more comfort. The extra feedback and sensation through the steering wheel and your seat mean the MPSS allow quite a bit more vibration into the cabin. I see this as more of positive but I can see how others might find it a downside too.
- As for wear rate we will just have to see but I thin it will be worth it whatever the outcome.
My verdict is a simple one for about £800 Michelin Pilot Super Sports are one of the best improvements you can make to the already great RS3. If you value the sporty nature of a tyre turn in, agility, braking confidence, better steering feel and ability to feel the car intuitively across a demanding road these tyres are a great choice (I stop short of saying the best choice because I haven’t tried all the others). Best of all they amplify all the already great qualities of the RS3 and make owning this great machine even more fun.