Viper to Pebble Beach “testing” some Michelins

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Tires are tires, right? Wrong. That’s like saying that cars are just cars. As an enthusiast, you know that’s mistaken and hopefully you feel the same way about tires. Obviously, they’re the only part of your car that contributes to acceleration, handling, braking and fuel economy. But you don’t need a lecture. Instead, we’ll just share our experiences with the Pilot Sport 2’s that Michelin sent us for testing.

I am fortunate enough to own a 1996 Dodge Viper GTS and while the tires can be used on a track, they’re street tires. So mounting them and running at the strip or track seems a bit absurd. However, one of my favorite pastimes is running California’s canyons, but why stop at a thirty mile jaunt? We used Pebble Beach Weekend (350 miles away) as an excuse to really get a feeling for the tires. But we weren’t going to pick up lattes and jump on the highway, we took the Pacific Coast Highway, hugging California’s coastline through rugged canyons, swoopy downhills and around heart-stopping cliffs. Seems like an adequate shake down, right?

The day began at 6:15AM; the roads were still empty (or as empty as they get in Los Angeles) and I was on PCH within five minutes. Cruising in the big V10 monster, the only noise came from the engine and exhaust and even though the morning was cold and misty (very un-SoCal) the Michelins gripped well. I was nervous initially as the Viper has a tendency to bite if given too much throttle, but it stayed planted even under moderate acceleration through turns.

As the relatively flat and wide section of Pacific Coast Highway gave way to the twisty, up-and-down section, I was rarely above third gear. The sound of the roaring engine bounced off the mountain walls to my right and out to sea, on the left. As the miles passed my confidence in the new rubber grew and I began to push the car harder and harder, hoping for a guardrail if and where I got it wrong. Coming out of turns the procedure was the same every time…

I accelerate: my foot mashed to the floor calling on every available horsepower, lifting for a moment to change gears. Flatten the gas again. I am about to enter a turn so I jam down hard on the brakes, the nose diving slightly as I’m thrown into the seat belt. I lift off the brakes gently as I crank the steering wheel hard. Then, blip the throttle as I heel-toe back into second. Repeat, as needed.

You know all of those tire-smoky commercials where cars are sliding through turns, looking awesome and dramatic? Well, it certainly looks cool, but when you’re really cooking this is clearly the last thing that you want. I’d prefer my tires to stick like glue rather than enjoying a cool-looking drift and plunge into the Pacific Ocean. The Michelins never even chirped.  When traffic finally thickened and frequent, sudden braking was required the tires stopped as needed.

The Viper’s tires are among the widest in the automotive kingdom, the rears measuring 335mm across. And Michelin’s racing heritage truly shined because there was absolutely no drama. We loved the PS2’s, thanks Michelin!

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