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The Michelin Passion Experience 2019 demonstrates the ample capability of Michelin rubber across a variety of driving situations.

19 Sep 2019

Trying to market a new tyre must be a mighty difficult task. 18% better wet braking performance. 8% improved lateral stiffness. 12% more wet grip. Honestly, do you really understand what those figures mean?

See, tyres are like the SAF. You want them to be highly capable, but you never really want to find out just how capable. Because when that happens, it means something has gone seriously wrong. The less I need to find out about my tyres' minimum braking distance, the better.

The Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres are specially made for premium SUVs, delivering excellent braking, handling and comfort
And, after all, without being able to scientifically test these performance metrics for myself, and without the ability to do side-by-side comparisons, there's no way to really know just how capable these tyres are, right?

Well, there actually is a way - the Michelin Passion Experience. Hosted this year at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the Michelin Passion Experience 2019 was an opportunity to test out the brand's newest premium SUV tyre offering - the Pilot Sport 4 SUV. Additionally, we also had the opportunity to sample tyres of slightly less road-going character - specifically, off-road tyres, as well as racing slicks. Here's how we got on.

Getting wet

The Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres delivers impressive wet braking performance
Getting behind the wheel of a BMW X3 equipped with the Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres, we were led through a series of activities that demonstrates the tyres' superior performance. Through dry and wet slalom driving, as well as dry and wet braking exercises, the tyres demonstrated excellent stability and braking performance (outperforming a competitor tyre Michelin had snuck onto a couple of X3s just to prove their point).

Most notably on the wet exercises, the Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres delivered impressive stability. The X3 is noticeably less likely to wash out even on aggressive direction changes. And, during the wet braking exercise, the Michelin rubber consistently outperformed the competitor rubber by four to five metres (roughly 15-20%). 

Getting dirty

Tougher sidewalls allow the BFGoodrich KO2 tyres to conquer all kinds of rough terrain
Next stop - Ford Ranger and Raptor, massive BFGooodrich tyres, lots and lots of mud. Acquired in 1990 by Michelin, BFGoodrich is an American tyre company that is best known for off-road tyres. And on a specially crafted off-road circuit, we got a chance to experience mud-crawling for ourselves.

Yes, you might be thinking that these Ford vehicles are specialist off-roaders (and they undoubtedly are), but without the right tyres there's no way we'd be traversing steep 27 degree inclines or clambering over sharp rocks. With tougher side walls, improved all terrain traction and greater treadlife, the BFGoodrich KO2 tyres proved mighty both on and off-road. 

Getting grippy

Racing slicks deliver tremendous cornering and braking performance
But, for the ultimate in grip, you need a set of racing slicks. Oh, and a Formula 4 race car. And a race suit. And a race track. And some cajonas.

The thought of driving a single seater open-wheel racing car may initially be a little intimidating. The Renault engine in the car makes just 140bhp, but with the car weighing just 470kg, it's still got plenty of pace. Oh, and there's no power steering, no traction control, no anti-lock brakes, no stability control. Nothing.

However, once you get over the initial hesitation of stalling the engine and get out onto the track, the Formula 4 car isn't quite so intimidating. Treat it with some respect, and it's great fun to drive - intuitive, responsive and direct in a way no road car can be. And, shod with Michelin racing slicks, the car has so much more grip than I am normally used to, allowing you push the car even harder. You can lean harder into corners, brake much later than the training cones suggest, and get on the power early once you clip the apex.

MPE 2019 highlighted the impressive capability of Michelin rubber across a variety of driving situations
As the single contact point between the vehicle and the ground beneath you, tyres play an immeasurably large role in determining how your vehicle behaves, especially under extreme conditions. Yes, most of us will likely never get behind the wheel of a Formula 4 car, or drive in a zig-zag manner at 60km/h on purposely wet tarmac, but the activities at MPE 19 clearly demonstrate the capability of Michelin rubber.

So, 10% improvements, 5% reduced stopping distance, yes you may never know exactly what those figures mean, but you can be rest assured of one thing - it's performance you can trust.
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