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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I couldn't find much on this combination here, so I bought and wrote my own.

Subarus are phenomenal snow cars, so I run dedicated winter tires for both optimal safety and pure fun. That frees me to use dedicated summer tires the rest of the year. I neither race nor commute, so even high performance tires will last me for many years, so I may as well do it right and buy the best tires I can find for each season. Here’s what I’ve chosen and tried, and how it’s working out on my 2012 3.6R.

First, I defined my priorities. Subarus on four winter tires make great high-performance snowmobiles, so I want excellent snow performance even though I don’t ski. But our winters are mild here in eastern Washington state, so even on my winter tires dry handling is important. For summer, I rank handling performance first by a landslide (I miss my ‘03 WRX!), with low noise also important because of hearing problems. I don’t want a harsh ride, but if firmness is necessary to get handling, so be it. I draw the line at a rough ride, however.

Then I Googled the crap out of both categories of tires until clear winners emerged, given my priorities. Blizzaks are the best pure snow and ice tires, but on my WRX they understeered dramatically when pushed on dry pavement. I thus chose the new Michelin X-ice xi3 due to its very close snow performance and clearly superior dry pavement cornering compared to the Blizzaks. I ordered and paid for them during their $70/set rebate program last month. They will arrive months before our first snow flies.

Given my summer tire criteria, Michelin’s PS2 stood out, at least until their newer Pilot Super 
Sport beat out even the PS2 not even counting the Super Sport’s extra 50% expected durability advantage. From many magazine tests and hundreds of owner reviews, I gathered and hoped that the PSS would match or beat the PS2 in every category -- especially wet traction -- for only a few bucks difference per tire, plus half again the tread life.

OK, Tire Rack, here I come for a set of wheels and two sets of tires. As soon as I picked some wheels with their “lookit our wheels on your car” feature, I accessed their “pick the right tire” feature. Lessee … high performance summer >1. handling > 2. noise > 3. tread life > Submit … whoa! Something’s wrong. Only three choices ... two run-flats and a run-of-the-mill Pirelli go-flat slightly better than my OEM Contis? Repeat > same answer > phone call > same answer: even with a blank check (hypothetically, so far) and my willingness to change wheel sizes to an 18, Tire Rack can’t provide a set of wheels and Pilots to fit my 2012 Outback.

CRAP! “Ya mean I’ll have to settle for ordinary tires and handling on my Outback just because most Outback drivers don’t demand better, Tire Rack”? Even with the STI sway bar it still wanders on the highway, drives like my Winnebago in crosswinds, and casually asks “Are you sure you want to turn here now?" every time I tell it to TURN HERE NOW. Yeah, that’s why I cranked the wheel over and added some throttle, but never mind now. Sorry about yer dog, mister. (Did I say I miss my WRX?)

Tire Rack’s answer: “Yes.”

GOOGLE TIME again. Who else sells Michelins? Sears? Walmart? Ho, hum. Hmmmm … who are these Discount Tire guys? Not really familiar with them, but there’s one just down the road, and their prices look competitive. Short story: walked in, got the wheels and both sets of tires at darned near Tire Rack prices even after paying our fat sales tax, and can come back and throw my Pilots through their showroom window and try something else if I don’t like them. Sold! Buh BYE, Tire Rack.

There was one hitch. DCT was pushing their proprietary Yokohama YK580, rated mediocre on the internet. I had to press to get the PS2, and jump up and down a bit to get the Super Sports. They preferred to sell me their House Brand Yokos rather than the more expensive Pilots. Know what you probably want/need before asking salesmen, whether it’s tires or a cancer treatment; they all have an agenda.

What I bought was 225/60R17 xi3s for my OEM wheels and Pilot Super Sports 235/50ZR18s on 18” wheels. The latter are about 1% smaller than OEM, so I’ll never know the difference.

What was Tire Rack thinking?

Next step: objectively estimate my OEM Conti’s (at 4,000 miles) noise and ride on many surfaces, replace them, and immediately take the same test drive on the Super Sports for comparison. No need, and it’s too early anyway, to compare handling. I’ll do that in a few hundred miles, after the “Teflon” wears off the tires. My wife and I, both engineers, defined 0-5 scales for noise and ride, then drove on good and bad freeways, city streets, dirt, rocky dirt roads, concrete, asphalt, etc. while making careful subjective and objective notes. Then we swapped tires and drove the same course an hour later.

We both agreed that, objectively and subjectively, the Pilot Super Sports were no noisier than the OEM Contis and a bit quieter than the Contis on some surfaces such as worn concrete freeways with and without asphalt seams. The Pilots rode more smoothly than the Contis on every surface except a rough dirt road heavily peppered with 3” rocks. (On both tires we were very impressed with the Outback’s ability to soak up very cobby, slightly rutted, potholed, washboard farm tractor “roads” with silent aplomb. These things seem to have a lengthy, well-damped suspension. I’ll add here that both of us were motorcycle desert racers for years, so we know rough terrain.)

Given the Super Sports’ almost unanimous ranking as THE premiere summer street performance tire, I’m already satisfied with the tire swap. I’ll get back with some handing and driving impressions after I get a few hundred miles on them. All I have in that regard so far is a head-to-head comparison from a dead stop at heavy throttle with the steering wheel cranked way over on a very rough patch of parking lot asphalt. There was no comparison: the Contis rolled onto their sidewalls and very clumsily plowed a wide U-turn, whereas the Super Sports gripped and went right where I told them to go. I had to add significantly more power and steering to feel the shoulders of the SSs and induce a tiny bit of understeer. That hypothetical dog lived to hunt again. I also took a traffic circle too fast and didn’t hear a peep out of the tires. Cops in this state will arrest drivers whose tires peep (“public endangerment”), which is why I got rid of the WRX.

I’m convinced their world class handling and safety will be a bonus. I’m more curious now to see what they will do for the Outback’s documented on-center wander, crosswind behavior, and sluggish hard-pressed turn-in.

BTW ... why won't this forum work in Firefox on my Mac? I have to use Safari.
 

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Thanks for the great write up. I've been looking to do the same thing. I didn't even think to look at the pilot super sports. I've read good thinks about the Michelin primacy mxm4. I read a test that they did as well as the ps2, but they don't come anywhere near our size. I was leaning toward the mxv4, but I'll give these serious consideration. Keep us up to date on your experience. Pics please!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Pics please!
It's a white Outback parked on black toroids. What's to photograph? ;-)

The Tire Rack's "see these tires/wheels on your car" button and its photos of the tire are FAR sharper than anything I could produce. I chose the Enkei SR6 wheels in Bronze to add a touch of color to my otherwise B&W car. Beyond that I never gave or give a thought to how things look; it's all about function to me. I'll let folks know how the tires function when I know more.

Mike
 

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Thanks for the write up!! Good to know for future reference when I swap to better rubber! Thanks again!
 

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We had pilots on our VW. They got exceptionally loud around 20K and by 28,000 miles were completely done. Replaced them with a Michelin TA tire which has been fine and gone over 30K and looks great. Though we had to replace three tires right off the bat till we found 4 tires which were all round to start with. Was not impressed with Michelin quality they didn't seem to be any better than other major makers but the price would make you think your getting something exceptionally better. Not really
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
We had pilots on our VW. They got exceptionally loud around 20K and by 28,000 miles were completely done. ... Was not impressed with Michelin quality they didn't seem to be any better than other major makers but the price would make you think your getting something exceptionally better. Not really
Yeah, that's the downside of any summer performance tires I know of. Each buyer must define their own criteria, then rank the various tire types according to their criteria, then apply their criteria to brands and models, then pick a source.

I've never had any problem with any of my Michelins (or Bridgestones); there's only one brand I won't touch, and that comes from their long history of problems scattered over 50 years.

My Super Sports saw their first road trip yesterday, confirming all my initial findings but not every hope: the Outback still overreacts to gusty crosswinds. I think its slightly vague on-center steering is slightly improved (that, or I've gotten used to it), but the vehicle still demands full attention in gusty crosswinds, just as my WRX did. OTOH, when I change lanes extremely abruptly at freeway speeds, as though dodging a deer or child, the OB does one thing and one thing only: it changes lanes extremely abruptly and does it NOW. No sway, no delay, no sound effects, no second-guessing my input, just rock-solid compliance without theatrics. My OEM tires would have dallied and complained. That trip encountered a wide variety of paved surfaces and a full range of speeds with zero complaints about noise or ride comfort, in spite of these tires' shorter sidewalls, Z speed rating, and more robust construction required by higher handling demands. Handling across the board is already very obviously improved even before the mold release is worn off or the carcass broken in.
 

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...

AnotherMike,

also, great reporting! thanks for the feedback. maybe i'll be ordering my Prodrive GT1 wheels sooner than i expected!!

thanks again for your help!

Yeah, that's the downside of any summer performance tires I know of. Each buyer must define their own criteria, then rank the various tire types according to their criteria, then apply their criteria to brands and models, then pick a source.

I've never had any problem with any of my Michelins (or Bridgestones); there's only one brand I won't touch, and that comes from their long history of problems scattered over 50 years.

My Super Sports saw their first road trip yesterday, confirming all my initial findings but not every hope: the Outback still overreacts to gusty crosswinds. I think its slightly vague on-center steering is slightly improve (that, or I've gotten used to it), but the vehicle still demands full attention in gusty crosswinds, just as my WRX did. OTOH, when I change lanes extremely abruptly at freeway speeds, as though dodging a deer or child, the OB does one thing and one thing only: it changes lanes extremely abruptly and does it NOW. No sway, no delay, no sound effects, no second-guessing my input, just rock-solid compliance without theatrics. My OEM tires would have dallied and complained. That trip encountered a wide variety of paved surfaces and a full range of speeds with zero complaints about noise or ride comfort, in spite of these tires' shorter sidewalls, Z speed rating, and more robust construction required by higher handling demands. Handling across the board is already very obviously improved even before the mold release is worn off or the carcass broken in.
 

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Hey Mike and all, don't let automated internet shopping gadgets dictate what you can/cannot buy, especially if you know your specs will work (make sure to do your research, and I can't believe you called in and they said it wasn't possible!). It's too late for Mike, but for the rest of you, trick is to pick tires first, here's how to do it in 10 easy steps...

First, Mike's criteria for summer tire/wheel in 235/50R18:

1. Open TR, go to products > tire > shop by size > enter tire specs > click proceed to results;

2. Find Michelin PSS, add 4 to cart (should take you to cart);

3. In cart, notice in red bold letters "for UNSPECIFIED VEHICLE, assign vehicle to this item", select your vehicle and click submit;

4. Go to products > wheels > shop by vehicle > select your vehicle again (the car you just assigned tires to might show up as an option also) > results will appear for 17" wheels (to match OEM tire size);

5. Look around at this point to find either "filter by diameter" or custom search; pick 18" and start browsing and using "view on vehicle" to see what they look like, find the ones you like and add 4 to cart.

6. In cart, look below your items for the following in red bold letters "Would you like the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in your cart mounted and Hunter Road Force® balanced on the Enkei Racing GTC01 wheels at NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE?", select with or without TPMS (great for Canadians that don't want/need it!). You will notice that your item selections are now under a "Wheel and tire packages" heading;

7.
Second, Mike wanted winter tires to mount on the OEM rims, so go back to products > tire > shop by size > enter OEM tire specs > click proceed to results;

8.
Find Michelin X-ice Xi3, add 4 to cart (should take you to cart);

9. Click "Begin checkout" (might ask you to assign tires again, you can ignore this), make your payment, wait for delivery, and enjoy.

10. You're welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, Viceland, but ... been there, did all that, plus called them 3 or 4 different times, talked to at least two agents at length, was told absolutely every time that Tire Rack can’t provide a set of wheels and PSS's (or any performance summer tire besides the Pirellis) to fit my 2012 Outback on 17" or 18" wheels. They blew it, plain and simple, on my >$3,000 purchase, and I wrote down names, dates, and notes from those calls.
 

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Thanks, Viceland, but ... been there, did all that, plus called them 3 or 4 different times, talked to at least two agents at length, was told absolutely every time that Tire Rack can’t provide a set of wheels and PSS's (or any performance summer tire besides the Pirellis) to fit my 2012 Outback on 17" or 18" wheels. They blew it, plain and simple, on my >$3,000 purchase, and I wrote down names, dates, and notes from those calls.
Really? Were they clueless "summer student" agents? Doing it step by step the way I explain, I can get to one click away from billing my credit card with the exact PSS tire specs you wanted, mounted/balanced on anyone of 135 different 18" rim with 5-100 bolt pattern. Blew it big time I would say!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Your procedure presumes that I began with the 235/50R18 size. Actually, no one suggested that size until I went to DTC after multiple TR agents repeatedly said, "The only 17" or 18" summer tire (and wheel) option available for your OB is the Pirelli P7". DTC suggested the 235/50R18 option within minutes after I said "I want Pilots".

At least one of the TR agents I spoke with has authored TR tutorials, so I'm guessing he is a full-timer. I don't know about the others I spoke with.

The basic problem for buyers with going beyond OEM sizing is the overwhelming list of tire sizes and the apparent lack of a chart or website that answers the question: "What other tire and/or wheel sizes are within X% or X centimeters of [pick a size]?" or "What other tire/wheel combos will fit my vehicle?" Lacking that information, I dug through tire manufacturer production size listings, picked several sizes I thought may be close to my OEM diameter, calculated their diameters in inches [(aspect ratio X width X 2)/25.4 + wheel diameter]*, compared them to my calculated OEM diameter, found nothing very close, and called TR a third or fourth and final time to ask that apparent full-timer, "Are you REALLY sure you cannot put a 17" or 18" summer performance tire and wheel combo besides that Pirelli P7 on my OB?"

"That's correct; we can't."

"Hello? Discount Tire?"

* I'm a retired engineer, so this stuff is second nature to me and I have the time to dig through it, yet I still gave up and "Called the Guy". Where does that leave the numbers-challenged working stiff with only a medical or law degree and only five minutes to spare in a slack week?
 

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Yes, I did assumed you had calculated the specs and chosen those PSS in that size beforehand. Makes sense now.

I was dead set on 18" Michelin Hydroedge for my summers, and I used this tool to figure out the closest to OEM diameter from the list of sizes they make them in; 225/55R18 with a difference of 0.4%.

Wheel-Tire size comparer - RIMSnTIRES.com

Playing around with the specs, 245/50R18 is the closest match to OEM I could find, only 0.1% difference, alas no tires available in that size interest me.
 

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Discount Tire's website has some good tools for finding the various tire sizes that will fit +0", +1", +2" etc rims, and will also let you compare the various dimensions (diameter, total width, etc) between the stock size and the new size. But they definitely want to sell you their cheap-but-profitable proprietary tires, you really have to have mule ears to get out of there with good tires.
 

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I research thoroughly any large or safety related purchase, it's pretty easy to end up knowing as much or more about the product than the sales staff. I also end up knowing the instant they BS me, and the true value when it's time to negotiate or shop around for best prices.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This is off topic, but it's so important that I'm going to offer it anyway for everyone's consideration. No discussion required or appropriate.
I research thoroughly any large or safety related purchase, it's pretty easy to end up knowing as much or more about the product than the sales staff. I also end up knowing the instant they BS me ...
That applies times 10 to health care. I've survived two unrelated cancers -- so far -- largely due to applying Viceland's approach to health care providers. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how bad many physicians are until one of mine signed my death warrant by ignoring one of my cancers until it became incurable, and others have since misled me deliberately and/or ignorantly, "pushing their proprietary tires", so to speak. Regard your doctors as eBay vendors, not gods, and do enough health and medical reading to recognize bad advice real time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I still haven't really tested the new tires' grip at the limit but after a few hundred more miles I am totally happy with the improved on-center tracking, the OBVIOUS handling improvement, and the quiet ride. I quickly sold my OEM Conti's for $300.
 

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Hey Anothermike, one thing you might try for the wind wander problem is a really good alignment. Subaru's specs are not especially tight, but probably should be. I had bad wind wander in my '08 OBXT with aftermarket RSB and Michelin MXM4 tires. Finally had car realigned at a shop I could talk to in detail. Told them that within specs I wanted to be sure I had a bit more toe-in at the front than the rear. THey did that, and crosswind wander is virtually gone. Small change with a very big effect. Might try it.
 

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Second the thanks. I went over to Discount Tire this morning and ordered a set of 235/50-18 Super Sports and 18x8-45 TSW Nurburgring wheels to put them on. Those two-tone wheels on the SAP are just goofy looking, and the stock tires turn into a slip-n-slide if you try to do a fast evasive maneuver. The salesman did his level best to sell me anything but what I wanted, he put three different tires and two different rims into the computer before figuring out that I was *not* going to settle for whatever wheels and rims he had in stock, and finally ordered what I wanted.
 
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