A predictable collection of descriptions and adjectives tends to follow from driving experiences in Tesla’s performance model range — “effortless,” “rapid,” “immediate,” “smooth,” “shocking,” “FAST.”
Recent drive time in a Tesla Model 3 Performance had me seconding all of those perceptions, but also catching a case of tire sympathy… As someone who tends to conceptualize cars from the tires up (weird, I know), it wasn’t lost on me that underlying the stunning, drama free performance was a veritable tire torture chamber.
Performance Electric Vehicles are pushing performance boundaries and pose a real challenge for tire engineers and manufacturers. Because while the usual performance car suspects have done a fine job of tire mistreatment for decades, the extraordinary burden/load on tires when equipped to a daily driven Performance EV is a different deal.
First, consider the trouble-free accessibility of surreal performance. Once upon a time, “to hoon” required intention and preparation — traction control adjustments, deliberate clutch and throttle activity, launch control sequencing, a survey of surroundings and hazard analysis…
Tesla’s performance model range requires a brave right foot and at least one hand on the steering wheel (although two are still recommended). The end result is that, inevitably, enthusiasts are tempted into abusive tire activity with greater frequency. And the thing is, from behind the wheel, the smoothness of the driving experience belies what’s occurring at the pavement level; the driver is unlikely to recognize just how much tire abuse is actually occurring.
How Performance EV power is dispatched to the pavement is also different. Sure, torquey V8’s challenge tire performance and wear, but the instantaneous power delivery of Performance EV’s puts the full force of the powertrain onto the tires, now. No revs required, no escalation into the vehicle’s maximum power band.
It sounds like a task for a drag racing slick, really, but of course, Performance EV’s are daily drivers so their tires must be equipped to manage variable road conditions, accumulate miles, and deliver quietness and comfort too.
So why are Michelin Ultra-High Performance tires particularly suited to the Performance EV challenge?
A handful of years ago Michelin hit upon the Goldilocks blend of attributes for a performance tire. The Pilot Super Sport delivered an unprecedented blend of dynamic performance and daily use friendliness. No performance tire before had been quite so well-equipped for various, conflicting driving contexts. The Pilot Super Sport tire made its mark with OE assignments on the BMW M3 and M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 S, Ferrari 458 Italia, Corvette Grand Sport, and more.
The current Pilot Sport 4 S is an evolution and improvement on the Pilot Super Sport, and this is the tire that Tesla fit as original equipment for the Model 3 Performance. Essentially, Tesla tapped into what performance vehicle engineers and driving enthusiasts the world over already knew, which is that this line of Michelin tires pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with a street performance tire, and virtually without compromise.
Add Michelin’s Acoustic Technology to the Pilot Sport 4 S as in the case of the Model 3 Performance and you have a tire that’s ideal to meet the comfort, performance, and mileage requirements of an OE Performance EV tire, and even challenge the BMW M3 on track. (The M3 benchmark was reportedly Elon Musk’s target with the Model 3 Performance.)
The Michelin-Tesla connection looks set to continue with the forthcoming Roadster, Tesla’s most extreme, most accelerative car yet (under 2 seconds to 60 mph is rumored).
Early photos from press events have the Roadster shod in Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are a step up in maximum performance from the Pilot Sport 4 S, but still livable on a day-to-day basis.
The remarkable development of Michelin Performance tires is an integral, often untold element of the Tesla story. Overall increases in EV performance, comfort, and range are made possible only thanks to pre-existing tire technology advancements, and Michelin’s ongoing commitment to Total Performance™.