Pros: Lower-cost, high-quality, smooth-riding, super-gripping H-rated replacement tire
Cons: None yet.
This was the year I went from 0 to massive debt in a matter of months. I finished building a wonderful home in the mountains of Western North Carolina, had to replace the worst van ever built, The Ford Losstar (a.k.a. Windstar) with a wonderful 2001 Honda Odyssey. I was set in the small car department with my still going strong 1991 bought-it-off-the-showroom-floor 81 horsepower Japanese flamethrower
Honda Civic Wagon. With 230K, it was still tearing up mountain roads like a Wal-mart shopping cart around a cleanup in Isle 9. However, when a friends grandfather went into a rest home with a, get this, 2001 Honda Accord LX with 23K for $8000, I snapped at it.
The stock tires on this 150ish four-cylinder muscle machine are the Michelin MXV4 Energy Plus. With 23K, they came nearly bald. I was shocked. Though I didnt let on since I purchased the car from friends, I subtly inquired, So Angie, your grandfather do any Formula One racing on these tires? She said she didnt understand why the tires were so bald. Hey, Ive owned several sets of other Michelins and I get 60,000 miles and more. What the heck happened!
So I went tire shopping for my cars 195-65-15s. Several Michelin dealers explained the 23K demise of the MXV4 Pluss. First, they said my car comes stock with an H-rated tire. I thought that stood for H-ell on wheels. Without a hint of laughter, they all informed me that this is a 140mph speed rated tire therefore it has much softer compounds in the tire for better handling and stopping. It was hard to form the next few words with my mouth hanging open, so they spoke for me saying, A lot of cars today come with racing type tires. I closed my mouth and said, Okay Mario, what do the MXV4 Plus go for? My mouth reopened to gaping proportions when they all consistently said they cost $140. I was at first relieved, so I closed my mouth and said, Wow, thats a great price for a set of four tires! They told me to sit down handed me a towel and said, No sir, thats for one tire. When I woke up, I was in the waiting area, and feebly tried to carry on a conversation, pleading, Is there anything else I could put on my car? They offered Toyo, Yokohama, even used the G-word at me (Goodyear). I broke down under all the stress at that point and begged, But I want a Michelin!
They said the Pilot series came out with a new tire, the Exalto A/S. I asked how many limbs Id lose to pay for these. In dollars they replied $98. Now, I have to tell you that I went to a major tire website, went to a beat-that-price national chain (Tire Kingdom) and they beat the internet price and sold them to me for $83. I cant guarantee that but even if I couldnt get that price, I would have bought the H-rated Exalto A/Ss for $98. As I shopped around for this particular tire, I discovered that Michelin needed an H-rated alternative to the MXV4 Plus because the tread wear mileage was so low on the MXV4 Pluss, Michelin discontinued their mileage rating as it was 30,000 and lower in mountainous regions such as Western North Carolina. The Exalto A/Ss come with a 45,000-mile warrantee. Thats exceptional for an H-rated tire. I did some research about how they get so much out of whats called an entry level high performance tire.
Pilot Exalto A/S tires feature what Michelin calls their Life Maximized All-Season Adherence Compounding (formulated to balance dry grip, wet traction, light snow traction, and tread wear) molded into a directional tread design. This tread design not only provides great wet handling but looks attractive. I mean that in a guyish technical sense. Hey! If Im shellin out five hundred bucks (with all the lifetime add-ons at tire places) I want a tire I would look back at when I left the parking lot. Its not a hugely dramatic directional pattern, but hey, its flat-out nice looking. A whole lot nicer than the Champion SEs I had in my Civic. Yes, I have a life! Anyway, more techno-weenie info. The Pilot Exaltos have the large block pattern of the MXV4 that help spew water with enough force and direction to soak everyone at the bus stop (please just laugh at that and dont do it) and seriously reduces hydroplaning. Now the next part is tire-techno stuff lifted from a tire enthusiast website without authorship so I cant credit anybody, Internally, the Pilot Exalto A/S radial's twin steel belts are reinforced using Michelin's Banded At Zero (BAZ) technology (spiral-wrapped reinforcement) to stabilize the tread area, allowing it to withstand centrifugal forces at high speeds while minimizing tire weight and improving ride uniformity. The translation here is part of Michelins energy saving and quiet running technology that every dealer hands down said was why Michelins the best. They said, They just make a round tire. That sounded head-injury simple to me, but evidently the technology going into Michelin versus every other mass-marketed competitor is just plain ole superior as a rounder tire rolls easier, gets better mileage, and is quieter. Their tread wear is 400 and their A rated in temperature and traction. Speaking of traction
The personal test with the car came around mountain corners and during high-speed stops. Wow, these babies grip at speeds very, very, very similar to their MXV4 Plus $140.00 pampered brothers. Wet weather so far, and honestly Im in my first 1000 miles here, majorly grip the road. My Acceleration-Through-The-Deep-Puddle-Test known only by myself and now you as ATTDPT showed no hydroplaning. The real test of the tires for my family was stopping. Since the rise in environmental awareness and the reduction in forests because of small-minded yuppie homebuilders like me, the deer have become so plentiful in Western North Carolina; they frequently roam the roads, especially at night. As three of them calmly crossed a road in the blind side of the curve, my accelerating Accord at 50 mph had to stop hard. I dont know what the speed was when the deer was struck, but it was bumped so softly it didnt leave a dent or that unsightly clump of fur in the grill. Would any new tires have stopped? Maybe, but Im writing because these Exaltos stop-oed so that a deer and I could live-o to the next day-o.
Lastly, if it snows, I'll update the review with the DIPLBT, Donuts-in-the-Parking-Lot-Braking-Test.
08/01/07 - Purchased ANOTHER set of Exaltos after I researched and researched. I even looked at buying Michelin's new Primacy and read the few reviews that were lacking relative to Michelin's usual new model being marked better than the old. Well check this out. Michelin is retiring...I really needed to use that word here...the over-rated MXV4-Plus, but NOT the Exaltos for at least another season. They need the 500mile break-in and then just like the old set it was serious road-hugging, water-slinging, cushy-but-tight driving fun. No snow to speak of for the aforementioned DIPLBT...YET!