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Pilot Sport 4S Tires Turned My VW e-Golf Into a Grip Master

Road & Track logo Road & Track 7/2/2020 Jason Cammisa
a car parked on the side of a road: I don't know of any other five-passenger hatchbacks that can pull a full g on a dusty skidpad and still return 119 MPGe. © IG: @Gigapexel I don't know of any other five-passenger hatchbacks that can pull a full g on a dusty skidpad and still return 119 MPGe.

When I flung my freshly modified Volkswagen e-Golf into the first fast corner, it generated so much grip that I couldn’t see straight. I don’t know if it’s due to aqueous-humor slosh or retinal adrenalin saturation, but there’s a level of lateral acceleration at which my eyes go wonky. After years of testing cars, I’ve pegged that crossover point at around 1.10 g.

An electric hatchback generating that much cornering force seemed unlikely, so I revved up the old VBox and returned to the same gently banked highway on-ramp. I was genuinely concerned I might shear a wheel hub from the forces, but nothing untoward happened. Except the VBox confirmed that the VW handily crossed the wonky-vision threshold: during the 5-second period between on-ramp turn-in and freeway track-out, my innocuous gray grocery-getter averaged 1.19 g of lateral acceleration.

Yes, there was slight camber to the on-ramp, but the only modification I’d made to my e-Golf was replacing its wheels and tires. I had ditched the aero-faced 16-inch wheels and low-rolling-resistance Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 tires in favor of a set of factory 18-inch “Serron” wheels from the previous GTI, and then went Full Overkill with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The grippy gumballs are in the GTI’s stock size, bumping width from 205 to 225 mm while keeping the same overall diameter, and the upgrade netted massively improved steering response and that stupefying grip at almost no dynamic cost—despite losing an inch of sidewall, noise levels and ride quality are largely unaffected.

a motorcycle parked on the side of a car: e golf © IG: @Gigapexel e golf

There has been one major tradeoff: efficiency. Prior to the new wheels, I averaged 140 miles of range per charge, far beyond the overachieving e-Golf’s 125-mile EPA rating. Afterward, it dropped to under 100 miles. To determine how much of that difference was due to the rolling stock versus my new e-Touring Car driving style, I arranged the World’s Largest e-Golf Range vs. Handling Test.

This world record required only three e-Golfs (e-Golves?), because apparently nobody has cared enough to do this before. My car was joined by two other 2019 e-Golfs, one stock and the other wearing Serron wheels identical to mine, but instead shod with Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires, also in the GTI’s size. If this ultra-high-performance all-season tire regained the majority of my lost range while still dramatically outperforming the stock rubber, I’d consider swapping a set onto my car.

a car parked in a parking lot: e golf © IG: @Gigapexel e golf

I let the cars sit plugged in overnight, fully charged using the same charger. In the morning, all twelve tires were adjusted to factory recommended pressures, automatic climate controls were set identically, and ballast was added to balance out the weight differences between the occupants. The VWs were then driven together on an 80-mile route that included a mix of city traffic, curvy back roads, and highway cruising. Along the way, we stopped at Sonoma Raceway, where I performed 0-to-60-mph testing to measure any effects the heavier wheels had on acceleration and then completed four laps of a 300-foot-diameter skidpad to measure lateral grip. At the end of the route, the cars were simultaneously hooked up to, and fully charged on, identical 50kW public fast chargers that report total energy delivered. Since the cars departed together at identical temperatures and states of charge and then drove the same route at the same time, calculating efficiency was a mere matter of dividing miles traveled by energy dispensed by the charger.

Despite the modifications and the instrumented testing, my PS4S-equipped e-Golf nailed its EPA-rated 119 MPGe on the head. The computer in the e-Golf wearing the PSA/S3+ tires predicted just one additional mile of range (126 miles), but the actual difference in energy consumed was even smaller: 22.728 instead of 22.754 kWh. That 0.1 percent delta equates to less than 10 extra sustained watts of consumption, or about as much as an iPhone plugged into a lighter socket. Verdict: the Michelin-equipped, 18-inch-wheel e-Golfs returned identical efficiency.

Both used dramatically more than the stock e-Golf. Accepting just 19.054 kWh of energy, it outperformed the other two cars—and its EPA rating—by a massive 19.3 percent. Its computer-predicted 150 miles of range was disappointing only to its owner, who has seen as high as 170 miles per charge. Clearly, she doesn’t regularly perform skidpad or acceleration testing.

If she did, she’d probably install big wheels and sticky tires and live with the range hit, too. The extra weight (around 7 pounds per corner) caused no appreciable loss of acceleration, with all three cars getting to 60 mph within 0.2 seconds. On the dusty surface, my car’s Krazy-Glue Michelins didn’t suffer from wheel spin and so it posted the fastest time, matching our official e-Golf’s 8.5-second test results.

On the equally slippery skidpad, the stock e-Golf managed just 0.77 g, far below what we’ve seen in past instrumented tests. What matters, though, is the relative performance of the other cars, and the difference was enormous: the A/S 3+ tires added an impressive 0.10 g to that number. And with Pilot Sport 4S tires, my e-Golf pulled an outrageous 1.0 g.

a blue car driving on a road: The e-Golf equipped with A/S 3+ tires. © IG: @Gigapexel The e-Golf equipped with A/S 3+ tires.

I know of no other five-passenger hatchbacks can pull a full g on a dusty skidpad and still return 119 MPGe, so I’m keeping the PS4Ses, range be damned. And from now on, I’m calling this car the e-GTI. After all, correcting those cornering numbers to what we’d see on grippier pavement means that while the sticky Michelins reduced the e-Golf’s efficiency down to its EPA rating, they bumped its cornering capabilities from Toyota Prius to mid-engine Corvette. If that doesn’t make your eyes pop out, nothing will.

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