Like cars spend time in a virtual wind tunnel, tires spend time in virtual hydroplaning exercises.
Pirelli, maker of tires for all manner of fast and capable vehicles, has introduced the third generation of Scorpion AS Plus 3, which not only promises better treadwear, but also better mileage. The Milan-based outfit is the seventh biggest tire producer in the world, but its reputation for supplying stock tires on most supercars precedes it.
Unlike the P-Zeros on those sports cars, the Pirelli Scorpion tire's fitments include SUVs, CUVs and pickup trucks that "are looking for peace of mind in all weather conditions." The AS stands for all seasons and they come with a 70,000-mile limited treadwear warranty. The new tire is available in 37 sizes, from 17 to 22 inches. Major fitments include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda CR-V, Toyota Highlander, Ford F-150, and Kia Sorento.
We asked the company about changes in its build ratio between sports car tires and SUV tires in the past decade, but it only said that it "follows a lot of industry information out there on the evolution vehicles in the US." And that "there will always be changes in consumer demand for cars, crossovers, SUVs, and pick-up trucks and these changes are related to many factors including gas prices and the cyclical nature of the tire industry."
To get that 70,000-mile lifespan, Pirelli created new mixes of rubber compounds and redesigned the tread pattern. It has a "specific distribution of siping" that gives the tire a more uniform stiffness. It also wears more evenly, says Pirelli. Those new compounds also extend the tire's working temperature range, while still performing.
Siping is the process of cutting slits in the tires to improve traction in snowy or icy conditions by leaving more space for precipitation to exit. It also helps with temperature control. Tire shops sometimes add it to your new tires, but many manufacturers are now doing it from the factory. Pirelli does 3D sipes, which are a little different.
"Thanks to their form (that looks like a "diamond") 3D sipes increase the stiffness of the tire, and help with braking, without affecting the tread mobility which is needed for items like snow traction," said a Pirelli representative.
Maybe the coolest thing about this new tire is that it was designed and tested virtually before the company ever put it on a car. Pirelli engineers used programs that can simulate the tire in different conditions, which allowed the company to perfect the mold and tread design and improve mileage. The new system also saves time.
"Last February we inaugurated a brand-new simulator at our research and development division in Milan. With this cutting-edge technology, there has been a 30% reduction in average development time for new tires, both for the road and motorsport, thanks to faster assessment of virtual prototypes produced for different car models," said Pirelli.
It uses proprietary software, a closely guarded secret, as opposed to something we may have heard of.
"The new simulator makes it possible for different development parameters to be remodeled rapidly, leading to a more rapid exchange of digital information between Pirelli and the world's car manufacturers," said Pirelli. "And this use of a simulator means that the number of actual physical prototypes made is reduced, following Pirelli's sustainability ethos, benefiting the environment with less physical waste generated in the tire development process."
Next up for Pirelli is more news from its Plus family of tires, developed specifically for the North American market. It says it will have more info on that in coming months.