The words "all-season tires" don't usually get an enthusiast's adrenaline flowing. For the most part, all-season tires are a necessity dictated by weather. As such, they're usually a compromise of dry, wet and cold weather performance that often give up cornering grip and braking for durability when compared to a high-performance tire in dry conditions. However, it should be able to displace water when the clouds dump rain or snow.

Michelin introduced a tire that it claimed could outperform its previous ultra-high performance all-season tire, the Pilot Sport A/S Plus. Judged against its competitors in a series of driving exercises at New Orleans Motorsports Park, the Pilot Sport A/S 3 felt the least compromised of those available. In a surprising twist, it could also hold its own against dry-weather, ultra-high performance tires, but more of that later...

The Pilot Sport A/S 3 (PSA/S3) incorporates a great deal of the knowledge Michelin learned in hard-fought battles on the racetrack. If compared to their Pilot Super Sport ultra-high performance tires, you'll see a similar asymmetric tread pattern. This was chosen because it allowed larger, more rigid tread blocks on the outside shoulder, improving lateral grip. The asymmetric design also reduced noise as the tire wore down.

The PSA/S3 incorporates Michelin's Variable Contact Patch 2.0 (VCP) technology first seen on the Pilot Super Sport. It "focuses on evenly spreading contact pressures and temperatures regardless of the driving situation, helping maintain the structural shape of the contact patch, and allowing drivers to get extraordinary performance (cornering, braking, accelerating) and tread life," according to a Michelin spokesman.

If you're thinking this is the wet version of the Pilot Super Sport, you're not far wrong. To increase wet traction, Michelin cooked up an "extreme silica" compound, giving it the highest level of silica ever used in a Michelin all-season tire. You'll be happy to know the compound was derived from those found in the rain tires used at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

To maintain the rubber's flexibility in cold weather, PSA/S3 uses Michelin's Helio Compound with sunflower oil that also retains its grip at higher temperatures.

Additionally, the circumferential grooves were widened for better water evacuation and small vertical teeth were placed within the grooves to increase snow traction.

What Michelin calls 3-D Variable Thickness Sipe Technology (VTS) is razor-thin sipes in the large outer tread blocks that evacuate water and snow. But they lock together when the tire is loaded during hard cornering to increase rigidity and lateral grip.

At New Orleans Motorsports Park, Michelin organized a series of exercises to compare the new PSA/S3 to comparable ultra-high performance all-season tires. On the road course, which included hairpins followed by a series of slaloms, the PSA/S3 offered the sharpest, most-accurate turn-in response and easiest recovery when past the limit. In comparison, the Continental ExtremeContact DWS, Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season and Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season felt sloppy and soft-shouldered.

The second exercise involved dry- and wet-braking from 60mph. Our stopping distances on the PSA/S3 were 3-10ft shorter compared to the Yokohama Avid Envigor, Bridgestone Potenza G 019 Grid and Goodyear's Eagle GT.

On the wet autocross, against Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position, Continental ExtremeContact DWS and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season, the PSA/S3 was clearly the easiest to hustle through the cones, giving good feedback while approaching the limit, breaking away gradually and recovering quickly with a lift of the throttle.

The dry autocross showed Michelin's confidence in the PSA/S3. Instead of comparing to all-season tires, it would be up against UHP summer tires. We found it out-performed the Continental ExtremeContact DW, was more controllable on the limit than the Pirelli P Zero, and felt just as good as the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position.

So the Pilot Sport A/S 3 is an ultra-high performance all-season tire that outperforms its competition in the wet, or summer tires in the dry. So Michelin has a tire with no obvious competition in the all-season segment. Look for it in 65 sizes, ranging from 175/65 R15 to 285/35 ZR20 in tire stores this summer. For more info visit (michelinman.com)

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