Best Performance Tires: Enjoy the Rush of Driving Your Vehicle
Improve the acceleration, traction, cornering, and braking distance of your sports car with these high-level performance tires
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON November 12, 2020
Are worn-out or low-quality tires getting in the way of your desire to drive your sports car at high speeds on the highway? Then you should consider upgrading to performance tires that are built for speed and have excellent traction and cornering capabilities. Our buying guide digs deep into some of the best performance tires available and why they are worth your time and money.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy the Best Performance Tires?
- Safety. Performance tires are designed to enhance safety, especially when driving at high speeds. They reduce stopping distance even on wet surfaces and improve the steering response. That’s a feature not only applicable to sports car drivers, but can also be appreciated by sedan, crossover, and SUV drivers.
- Good in wet and dry weather. Performance tires share a construction similar to summer tires; most feature a unique ingredient to keep the rubber stiff but are sticky enough to maintain a maximum grip on dry surfaces. Moreover, the tires maintain excellent traction in wet weather as most resist hydroplaning, and the wide grooves help with water evacuation.
- Quiet performance. The best thing about driving performance tires is that they offer a smooth ride, and most are quiet on the road. The tread design of performance tires is tailored to reduce tire and road noise by reducing airflow within the grooves.
Types of Performance Tires
Ultra High-Performance (UHP) Tires
UHP tires are also referred to as max or extreme performance tires and are designed to offer a sharper feel, especially when cornering, and provide extra traction on dry and wet surfaces. These tires prioritize steering response, traction, and handling for better performance. They are recommended for summer use only.
High-performance tires have a commendable performance on wet and dry surfaces. However, they are not engineered to reduce road noise or offer driving comfort. The tires have a larger sidewall construction and typically have a longer tread life than max performance tires. They also promote fuel efficiency.
Grand Touring Summer Tires
Grand Touring tires are designed to deliver reliable, all-season traction for vehicles in the passenger touring category. They offer a balanced level of performance, including decent dry and wet handling. The tires also offer a smooth and comfortable ride with lower noise levels. They are mostly used in luxury sports cars and sedans.
Michelin is a renowned manufacturer and distributor of auto and truck parts and has been serving the automotive industry for over a decade. The company is headquartered in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and has over 60 tire manufacturing facilities in 18 countries. The company was the first to introduce the first self-supporting run-flat tires and the radial tire, which largely contributed to its renowned status. One of Michelin’s best sports car tires is the Michelin Pilot Sport.
Firestone is an American tire and rubber company that was founded 118 years ago by Harvey Firestone. The company produces agricultural, commercial, consumer, and off-road tires that are sold worldwide. Additionally, Firestone works in collaboration with Bridgestone to produce a low-budget tire under the Fuzion brand name. One of its best summer tires for the money is the Firestone Firehawk Indy.
Bridgestone is a multinational tire and rubber manufacturing corporation. It's also considered to be the largest auto and truck parts manufacturer in the world. It’s a Japan-based company that was started by Shojiro Ishibashi. Currently, the company has over 180 production facilities at different locations all over the world. The company is committed to offering its consumers superior quality products, and one of its top-rated performance tires for your consideration is the Bridgestone Potenza.
Goodyear is one of the top four tire companies in the world. It's known for its high-quality, but decently priced, automotive tires and truck parts. The company was founded 120 years ago by Frank Seiberling and continues to grace the industry with tires for SUVs, race cars, airplanes, automobiles, light trucks, and commercial trucks. One of its best high-performance summer tires is the Goodyear Eagle GT.
Pirelli is an Italian manufacturer of automobile, motorcycle, and cycling tires. It's also the fifth largest tire manufacturer in the world. The company was founded in 1872 and currently operates commercially in over 160 countries. The company prides itself on being a top tire supplier to luxury car manufacturers, and it has been involved in motorsports for over 110 years. One of its best street tires for grip is the Pirelli P Zero Run Flat.
Best Performance Tires Pricing
- Under $200: Since performance tires are designed for luxury cars and sports cars, it’s difficult to find a great tire priced under $100. Regardless, most tires within this price range exhibit great high-speed performance with regards to traction, handling, cornering, and braking capabilities.
- Over $200: Most tires within this range are extreme and ultra-high performance tires that don’t go over the $300 mark unless they’re sold as a set. The tires are ideal for supercars and exotics. Most offer uncompromising performance when it comes to all-season confidence, excellent grip, longevity, comfort, and enhanced handling.
High-performance tires are designed with a sticky, low-rubber compound to improve the level of stiffness and heat resistance. The tires are also elastic and have intricate siping patterns to enhance their ability to hold onto wet and dry surfaces. They also possess shallow treads for maximum acceleration and handling.
The tread life is an important attribute for most drivers, but performance tires have a shorter tread life than most tires due to the driving conditions they endure. Most manufacturers don’t even include tread warranties for their products. However, a standard performance tire should have a tread life of at least 20,000 miles.
- Traction: High traction helps the tire grab onto the road while making a sharp turn or a fast stop at high speeds. That's necessary for a performance tire. However, high traction reduces the tread life of the tires due to the wear caused by intense road grabbing.
- Fuel Efficiency: Tires with low rolling resistance save on fuel as it doesn’t take much force to start, accelerate, or stop the vehicle. The rolling resistance is determined by the size of the contact patch (the flat part that takes on the weight of the vehicle), and if it’s smaller and rounder in a performance tire, then it will save gas.
Best Performance Tires Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Change to winter tires when the temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Performance tires get stiff in cold temperatures and can barely grip dry pavement. Also, do not immediately switch back to performance tires once the temperature starts getting warmer, as the temperature fluctuations during the time may affect the tire pressure. At least wait for the second week of spring to use your performance tires.
- Your wheels could be knocked out of alignment by potholes, bumps, railroad crossings, and more extreme impacts like a car accident. For that reason, be sure to get your wheels aligned yearly or after every 15,000 miles to avoid uneven tread wear. Also, further inspect your tires for any punctures, cracks, bulges or objects lodged into the treads that could cause degradation of the tire rubber.
- Rotate your tires every six months or after every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Start by rotating the front tires to the back to promote even tread wear; the front tires start to wear first. Rotating your tires improves the tire’s performance, reduces road vibrations, promotes fuel efficiency, and increases comfort when driving.
Q: How long do performance tires last?
A: It largely depends on where you drive, the quality of the tires, and your driving habits. A standard performance tire has a lifespan of 30,000 miles, but maximum or ultra-high-performance tires have a lower lifespan of only 20,000 miles. However, you could prolong the life of the tires by rotating them and avoiding road hazards.
Q: What causes tire cracks?
A: Even though tires are engineered with chemical compounds that maintain the strength of the tire, certain weather or road elements could lead to cracking or degradation of the tire. Since the tires are in constant rotation and work at high speeds, they may lose their elasticity and eventually become stiff and vulnerable to cracks. Also, extreme heat causes the oils in the tire to evaporate, and the tire eventually starts to develop small cracks in the dry areas.
Q: Do performance tires work the same way as all-season tires?
A: No. All-season tires are tailored to handle all weather conditions, and for that reason, their speeds are compromised, especially in warm weather conditions. In contrast, performance tires are designed to resist hydroplaning and skidding, to enhance steering response, and to reduce braking distance, thus improving performance at high speeds in warm and wet weather.
Our top pick for the best performance tire is the Michelin Pilot Sport. It’s a high-quality sports car tire that offers the best traction, handling, and control in both dry and wet conditions. Its rigid rubber construction is also resistant to wear.
Our pick for the best budget performance tires is the Firestone Firehawk Indy. It’s an affordable and grippy tire suitable for high-speed driving.