- Photos: Jeric Jaleco

A good set of tires changes everything

Reinforcing the notion that tires can make or break a car.

1w ago

Allow me to reinforce this age-long notion right the hell now: Tires. Are. Everything... Er, well, let's say almost everything. If power, brakes, and suspension make up half of a car's dynamics, tires alone comprise the other half. That lesson had always been beaten into my head by colleagues and experts for years, but now is the first time I've been able to finally put that lesson to the test with my own set of sticky rubber.

Having lived a majority of its life as a tropical Skittles-colored commuter, my 2013 Ford Mustang sported nothing but all-seasons for the tens of thousands of miles it would trek. Years ago when I snatched it off the used car lot at the dealership I'm employed at, it rocked Bridgestone Turanzas. Like a trusty set of Skechers walking shoes, they got a plethora of jobs done from 30-mile jaunts to the university to 400-mile expeditions to Reno. Soon after came an upgrade to Yokohama Advan Sport A/S+ tires, a sportier all-season with marginally more stick for when I decided to let my car jog instead of walk.

The first obvious change that had to be done was a better set of tires, and Michelin had just the cure for my Slip-'N-Slide woes.

When I ditched the factory wheels for the 20-inch GT500-style rollers I have currently equipped, I made use of two sets of cheap-o performance all-seasons that the seller had included. I roll my eyes and place heavy quotations around the word, "performance," when describing these as driving with any sporty intent required a fair dose of optimism. Despite running wider tire sizes on the new wheels, I had less grip versus the previous Yokos. Come to think of it, "all-season," was a damn lie too as they let my car wag its tail like an epileptic dog at the slightest hint of throttle in the rain. The tire also had a really, 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 stupid and pretentious name: Delinte Thunder D7. My friends and I lovingly christened them, "Thundercocks." I couldn't complain too much as the deal I got on the wheels plus two sets of unused tires was a hell of a bargain.

I think it's safe to say that the tires I've had up until recently were all far cries from the Pirelli Pzeros that originally came on Performance Package-equipped V6 Mustangs like mine. Yes, those were a thing, by the way.

This summer marks the continuation of actually touching my car again after years of stagnation with only a couple mods here and there. The current goal isn't to build a world-beater for I know the limits of both the car and myself, and I'm simply not bold enough to want to tune this thing out of class to challenge GT350s or even built BRZs. Instead, I seek to enhance the car's inherent strengths and build a better V6 Mustang for twisties and (possibly) occasional track use. The first obvious change that had to be done was a better set of tires, and Michelin had just the cure for my Slip-'N-Slide woes.

With storytime over, perhaps I should cut to the chase now, huh. Well, here. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on this Mustang fuck. They fuck hard. There's a reason why I decided to write an entire piece about this one change-up instead of any of my power adders. As any driver will say, this mod will alter nearly every aspect of driving for the better.

These tires rock on the commute just as well as they excel at all the other nonsense car enthusiasts love doing; a jack of all trades and a master of many.

Unrelenting grip means cornering speeds nearly double. Turn-in is sharper with significantly less understeer. Braking for corners is made easier as there's finally enough grip to jump on the pedal and not send the ABS system into cardiac arrest. Accelerating out of said corners has horsepower being translated almost entirely into forward motion with little momentum lost to sideways nonsense even in the wet.

I can see why some grassroots racers choose to run these as rain tires at events like GRIDLIFE Time Attack. These Michelins exhibited unbelievably stellar composure, or at least they did at what was merely a brisk pace on a wet mountain road. Granted, these aren't Gigachad R-compounds, and they will let you step loose should you so choose, wet or dry. The limits are simply higher is all. However, give the car a bigger prod than you would've on the previous tires, and the Michelins reward with smooth, linear breakaway.

I promise I wasn't skidding to be a show-offy prick. Normally, I like to stay within sane, reasonable limits on canyon runs, so I assure you that it was research conducted in the name of science. Yeah, there we go. Science.

On the way down the mountain and on the way to one of my favorite coffee shops, I reveled in the enhanced freeway stability and ride quality as I was no longer being jittered about on the skinny rubber bands that the Delinte Thundercocks were. It seems as though that's more attributable to having larger sidewalls in general than just having Michelins, but still. These tires rock on the commute just as well as they excel at all the other nonsense car enthusiasts love doing; a jack of all trades and a master of many.

Just get the better tires, folks. Plain and simple. No, I didn't say expensive. Just better. Federal 595 RS-RRs and Indy 500s are outstanding bang-for-the-buck performance options that friends and internet strangers alike will stand by, and kingpins like Michelin or Continental will always be there to assist in the pursuit of grip. Tires can make or break a car, and on such a crucial part that literally connects you to the road, why dare to skimp out? Didn't your parents or sex-ed classes ever teach you the importance of rubber?

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Comments (43)

  • Couldn't agree more. I put Pirelli P7's on my van after I got sick of the hard cheap Continentals they came with. Night and day difference. They aren't the greatest in the world, but any improvement in grip and comfort comes a long way in any vehicle.

    Not bad on the track either ;)

      8 days ago
    • Well I’ll be fucked. 👀

        8 days ago
    • I had P7's on my car when I bought it (not long replaced, plenty of tread left) and I've never felt more unstable in the rain! Constant aquaplaning even on a thin layer of water!

        7 days ago
  • My Falken Wildpeak all terrain make my 2WD truck with an open diff feel unstoppable 🤣

      10 days ago
    • Falkens make dope off-road tires I hear lol. I think they’re becoming OEM equipment on some trucks and SUVs.

        10 days ago
    • They're great all terrain tires they are super aggressive yet quiet on the highway

        10 days ago
  • Yeah, always go brand name. You really do get what you pay for with tires. Cheap off brand tires are only good when your in a hurry selling a car.

      8 days ago
  • Yeah, I’ve said for years tires are the most important part of the car. One component that affects every aspect of driving.

    It’s one area (along with brakes) I don’t “bargain hunt”… doesn’t mean buying the most expensive parts available, it means doing some research to find the best option for a given application.

      8 days ago
  • Couldn’t agree more. Tires absolutely change a cars personality. My cars always feel different after getting new tires but for that matter they feel different after routine maintenance. Heck a good washing and cleaning makes the car feel different.

    I have in the past bought tires that were ok. In retrospect I wish I had held out a little longer saved a few more dollars and got what I really wanted and the car needed. Like buying Firestones I could afford NOW instead of Michelin’s I really wanted.

      8 days ago