It's no secret that auto manufacturers and tyre companies invest considerable time and resources into developing tyres for specific models. Many people might think this relationship benefits only tyre companies, which certainly love to score lucrative supplier contracts. Jonathan Benson from Tyre Reviews decided to see if original equipment (OE) tyres also benefit vehicle owners, notably those with high-performance machines in their garages.
The new BMW M3 comes from the factory wearing the much-loved Michelin Pilot Sport 4S at all four corners, but it's not the same tyre you can get at your local shop. Michelin spent two and a half years developing a special version of the 4S specifically for the M3 – it's made of four different compounds versus two, the tread grooves are slightly larger, the belting is tweaked and the sidewall rigidity is different. At a casual glance you wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary, but plenty of back-to-back laps testing both sets of tyres on the same M3 shows otherwise.
The evaluation begins with the aftermarket Michelins on a dry track. It's a grippy tyre for sure, but at the limit, the test revealed some vagueness in response. It caused a very slight imbalance between the front and rear of the car, and it also led to minor understeer in some situations, notably at mid-corner. Amazingly, switching to the OE Pilot Sport 4S tyres erased virtually all of those complaints. The imbalance disappeared, mid-corner oversteer disappeared, and the tyres felt more predictable overall. To put a final nail in the coffin, Benson's laps on the OE tyres were two full seconds quicker.
Gallery: 2021 BMW M3 Competition: Review
On a wet track, things were a bit different. Balance was still there, but the grip on an extremely wet surface wasn't quite as good for the OE Michelins. Ultimately, the wet laps were two seconds slower, however, Benson stated the time wasn't a direct reflection on the grip level. The OE tyres still felt good, but he experienced a bit more hydroplaning in deeper, standing water. On a typical wet road, he felt the OE 4S would perform much the same as the aftermarket 4S.
Why does one specific brand of tyre on one specific model matter in the grand scheme of things? This might be a singular test, but it shows that development time spent on tyres for specific cars can make a sizeable real-world difference. To drive that point home, the video description lists 19 manufacturers with OE tyre development programmes in place, covering 33 models. Auto gearheads love to tweak and modify their rides, but for those who want the most out of their performance experience, perhaps the manufacturer really does know best.