Performance Tire Giant – Pirelli vs. Michelin

Pirelli vs. Michelin:  Ferrari wrapped with Pirelli P Zero tire (
For decades, Pirelli and Michelin dominated the summer performance tire market. Michelin had the Power Sport that first made an appearance in the early 50s.
APR 02, 2021

Pirelli had the P Zero that served them so well in formula racing. Both companies are over a hundred years old, but they took different roads to arrive at the top of the pile. Michelin has always been the transparent company focusing on the quality and features of their rubber. While Pirelli hooked its star to the success of glamorous brands resulting in relationships with Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and other exotic Italian brands. 

Pirelli vs. Michelin: 1946 Michelin filed a patent for the "radial" tire

That said, Michelin and Pirelli both have a lot in common as well and are often comparable. Both take great pride in the quality of their products. As a result, both companies have always invested heavily in research and product development and it’s not surprising that both have contributed innovations to the tire industry. Established by innovators, Michelin has by far the most important contributions to tire technology. Including the first pneumatic removable tire in the 19th century, run-flat tires in the 1930s and the radial tire design. 

Pirelli vs. Michelin: 1974 Lancia Stratos rally car with HF Pirelli tires

Pirelli made smaller adjustments to its product but the most important in the performance area was the tire developed for the Lancia Stratos rally car. The Lancia rally racing tires were a cross ply design that enhanced their reliability and had great gripping characteristics. But cross ply tires were heavy, so Pirelli created a radial tire with a small sidewall that gave super cornering maneuverability, great grip and durability. Today all rally tires are radials.

The rest of the competition was not sitting by idly. Advances in tire technology resulted in other brands seriously chasing the performance tire market particularly Continental and Bridgestone. Not one to sit on their laurels, Michelin and Pirelli made major changes and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S and a new line of options for the Pirelli P Zero appeared.

Pirelli vs. Michelin - Best Summer/Performance Tires

“Best” is a subjective term. Best is determined by end user satisfaction and that goes double for performance tires. If you are a performance enthusiast and you want rubber that gives your everyday ride the grip and go its great big engine provides, you are going to have different expectations than the driver who is hardcore and spends all the time on the track. And that’s why both Pirelli and Michelin offer different tires for different needs. If end user satisfaction can be demonstrated by the number of tires purchased, both Pirelli and Michelin remain at the top of the heap for performance rubber.

Pirelli vs. Michelin: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S

Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S. Designed for road and occasional track use, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S features Dynamic Response Technology which provides exceptional grip, excellent steering characteristics and surprisingly good treadwear for a summer tire. Multi-Compound Construction eliminates the summer tire tradeoff of grip for durability giving you a longer tread life even at high speeds. You’ll find these tires on the likes of Mercedes-Benzо AMG and Ferrari as OEM. Pricey but the best in its class.

Pirelli vs. Michelin: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2. If you live where it rarely rains, and you want absurdly strong grip, do like the Porsche 911 GT2 RS did and mount a set of the Sport Cup 2 to get crazy ultra-performance results. That said, Michelin does not recommend you drive these tires in wet conditions and absolutely avoid standing water.

Pirelli vs. Michelin: Pirelli P Zero

Pirelli P Zero (road tire). First introduced in 1986 this design has undergone constant improvement to the point that it is the finest performing rubber in both dry and wet conditions while still delivering reasonable treadwear. The PZero is designed for enthusiasts who do not take their high performance ride to the track. If there is such a thing as a practical ultra-performance tire, the Pirelli P Zero is it. As a result, you’ll find this rubber installed as OEM on a variety of performance cars and dupercars.

Pirelli vs. Michelin: Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R

Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R (track-focused, street legal).  Designed to accommodate the hardcore enthusiast who spends a lot of time on asphalt tracks, the Trofeo R takes dry grip and handling to motorcross levels. You won’t get the treadwear that a PZero delivers, and while you can legally drive your ride to the track, Pirelli warns not to attempt driving on wet roads or wet tracks.

So there you have it, Pirelli vs. Michelin. If you are serious about performance, you can’t go wrong with either of these brands. Check out our detailed inventory to see the entire lineup of Pirelli and Michelin Summer performance tires.