Formula One and street-tire maker Pirelli introduced a new P Zero performance tire last week; almost exactly 30 years after the first P Zero appeared in 1986 on a Lancia Delta S4 in the World Rally Championship. The new tire gets an F1-style racing bead, more endurance and less rolling resistance for better gas mileage.
Pirellis are almost standard fare for many modern sports- and supercars. The telling point is this: when Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren agree on something, it’s hard to argue. And the company’s “Perfect Fit” strategy means each one of its 60 homologations have been customized for a particular car. If the 911 Turbo needs more squared shoulders for better cornering, Pirelli will do that. If the next Lamborghini needs extra clearance, it can round the shoulders. All 305/35R20s are not created equal.
As for “features,” though we’re not really sure how a tire can have features, the new P Zero has an F1 bead, which uses a super stiff compound for the part that contacts the rim, which Pirelli says allows a more precise steering response and generally smoothes out lateral grip.
The footprint is now flatter, which leads to a longer life, says Pirelli, while more tread pattern grooves and wider and deeper channels help wet grip. Pirelli also changed the way the transverse grooves line up, meaning less road noise. Rolling resistance was cut as well, through the use of new modeling techniques and more silica content in the rubber. That should be good for an mpg or two.
The Pirelli Noise Cancelling System uses a polyurethane sponge to reduce noise.
The latest tech from Pirelli, though, is its new noise cancelling system. The guts of the tire are filled with a layer of polyurethane sponge that dampens both the noise and vibration transmitted to the cabin. Pirelli says the new P Zeros are 2-3 decibels quieter, which is equivalent to cutting noise in half.
The company also does a run-flat version that can be driven when flat at speeds up to 50 mph, and a “seal inside” version, which comes with a rubber sealant that “forms a protective sheath around the piercing object.”
We tested the new Pirellis in Portugal at the famed Estoril Circuit last week, swapping between the Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GTS and Porsche 911 big “T” Turbo. We found them very progressive when slipping — almost too drama-free, in fact — but extremely grabby when hard on the brakes in a straight line. We also did some road driving with the less-aggressive compounds and found them quiet and compliant during slow-speed cruising.
The company will also begin producing classic fitment tires later this year for older 911s, Lamborghinis and others. Stay tuned — we’ll bring you more info on those as they get closer to market.
Pirelli performed a dance number at the event in Portugal, wearing rubber-looking suits that may or may not have been made by Pirelli. [embedded content]
After the press conference, Pirelli dropped the curtain to reveal a Lamborghini, McLaren and Pagani on the tarmac. [embedded content]