By on November 12, 2019

best performance tires

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

Yes, yes — we’re aware of the date on the calendar. While most of the East Coast is getting buried in snow, the middle part of the country is enduring untold misery falling from the sky, and the less said about road conditions in high elevations, the better.

Like time and gas from last night’s tacos, though, this too shall pass. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of forward planning, which is why we’ve assembled a gallery of performance tires to mount to your rig when conditions finally permit.

Not all of the tires presented here are direct competitors. Rather, we’ve taken a cross section of the segment, some of which are meant for supercar lap times and some of which are meant for eating up Autobahn miles. We’ve hit up the folks at TireBuyer to bring you a few of the best performance tire options this year, presented in alphabetical order.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

1. Michelin Pilot Super Sport

michelin pilot super sport

No mention of performance tires is complete without the inclusion of Michelin’s Pilot Super Sport and, later in this post, the Pilot Sport 4 S. Born and bred in the arena of endurance racing, the brand from Bibendum has carried a host of cars and their drivers to victory lane. The Pilot Super Sport is said to have great tread life considering its cat-like grip and towering performance capabilities.

Michelin is fond of reminding customers that the technology in these tires found their way to a consecutive thirteen 24 Hours of Le Mans victories. A mixed compound is used, with a Le Mans inspired compound on the outer shoulder and a high-tech wet-oriented elastomers on the inner tread. The latter provides retina-detaching braking properties.

Pros: Psychotic levels of grip, Le Mans inspired lineage, free flat changes for three years

Cons: Wallet-hoovering price

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2. Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ A/S 2

uniroyal tiger paw gtz a/s 2

Here’s a tire intended for customers seeking better performance out of their high speed sedan but who are not interested in the ultra sticky properties of others on this list. If you’re planning a Ronin reboot, making one’s way to a Uniroyal dealer would be a logical proposition. Well, that and sourcing a period-correct S8 and round-eye BMW.

Technically an ultra-high performance all-season tire — which sounds like a bit of an oxymoron like “on-time departure” or “delicious cabbage” — this set of shoes is said to be built with a tread compound and physical features that work together to deliver powerful grip in just about any weather, including the pouring rain. The latter note means you can set your Ronin remake in the heart of Scotland without weather worries.

Pros: The average Joe can actually afford them

Cons: Not as extreme as others on this list

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3. Toyo Proxes T1R

toyo proxes t1r

This aggressive-looking tire has a tread face on it not unlike that of an F1 wet tire — at least for those not wholly familiar with F1. A silica-reinforced high-grip compound permits excellent wet and dry handling performance, while those too-cool v-shaped grooves evacuate water so you don’t become a YouTube star during the next track day.

Targeted at sporty sedans and coupes, the Toyo Proxes T1R this summer tire has elements baked in the shoulder area to promote strong cornering and long life. Parallel lines along that same shoulder permit a bit more rigidity on that part of the tire. This helps prevent the tire from laying over like a bored teenager

Pros: F1 looks, available in sizes up to 22 inches

Cons: Hard to find online until Version 2.0 appears

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4. Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S

michelin pilot sport 4 s

Building on the success of the Pilot Super Sport, Michelin is said to have started with more than 3,000 compounds when developing this ultra-high performance rubber. Essentially, the combined might of the Michelin empire is said to have taken everything that was good about the Pilot Super Sport and improved upon it.

With dual steel belts wrapped in Aramid and nylon, the PS4S is more durable than expected for a tire with such extreme performance characteristics. Knowing customers of these tires are likely piloting Lambos instead of Ladas, Michelin baked in a slight rim protector to guard against curb rash and styled a premium sidewall design with a velvet-look finish. This is yet another dual-compound tire, with wet weather chops on the inner portion and carbon black — a material which does a great job of managing and dissipating heat — living on the outer shoulders.

Pros: Outrageous performance characteristics, Michelin’s cubic acres of R&D

Cons: Take ‘em off the instant the forecast calls for cold weather

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5. Pirelli PZero Nero GT

pirelli pzero nero gt

The GT portion of this tire’s name stands for Grand Touring in the purest sense, with the rubber being formulated from a balanced content of silica to promote too-fun levels of grip without giving up much in the way of durability. Wide and continuous ribs and an asymmetric design to the tread pattern makes for fast cornering and dandy handling.

These characteristics help to explain why many customers report a quieter and less choppy ride than more extreme rubber from other brands. Reviews are middling, perhaps due to unrealistic expectations of customers looking for a PS4S analog. For that purpose, other options exist just a pencil’s width away.

Pros: Yee-haw performance without beating up the passengers

Cons: Softer than other extreme rubber on this list

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6. Continental ContiSportContact 5

continental contisportcontact 5

Your author appreciates a good marketing effort and Continental delivers with its so-called Black Chilli compound. The ContiSportContact 5’s short-chain polymers react to braking forces by building heat to shorten stopping distance on asphalt. This is one of the reasons we see pro racing drivers warming up their tires during pace laps.

The compound’s long-chain polymers then release the absorbed energy more efficiently at constant speeds to reduce rolling resistance. In this manner, the tire can stops faster or remain cooler depending on that moment’s demands. Some sizes are built with the brand’s which involves the manufacturer adhering a layer of sound-absorbing foam to the inner liner of the tire to reduce cabin noise in the vehicle.

Pros: Available in 68 sizes, contains actual Black Chilli

Cons: Reports of terrible wear characteristics

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7. Nitto NT555 G2

nitto nt555 g2

This is Nitto’s second-gen NT555 tire, explaining the G2 suffix in its name. Compared with the original, it is said to outperform it in every track-based measure. Large, tapered tread blocks provide grip and stability while those circumferential tread grooves move water out of the tread on rainy days.

The shoulder block and tread itself is promoted as having a high stiffness factor, designed so in a bid to promote dry and wet cornering (is there any other kind?). Size max out at 20 inches.

Pros: Excellent reviews, reasonably priced for a UHP tire

Cons: No sizes for ballers

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[Images provided by the manufacturer. Lead image: Bhakpong/]

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22 Comments on “Stuck Like Glue: Best Performance Tires...”

  • avatar

    I run Bridgestone S007A which are replacement for the RE-11s, which themselves are just a step below the magical RE-71s. The RE-71 are fantastic road legal track tires but the tread life is measured in hours not miles and they are LOUD.

    My C7 came from the factory with the Michelin’s Pilot Super Sport run flats. I found them greasy on track once hot plus stiff riding so I don’t understand why everyone raves about them. Switching to the S007A took 3 seconds off my lap time and they are MUCH cheaper along with being noticeable smoother. Granted this comparison isn’t completely fair since the S007A are non run flats.

    • 0 avatar

      Runflat was there issue there – they are universally awful. The non-RFT SS’s that came on my M235i were superb. So much so that I fully plan to get a set for my GTI when the crappy factory Bridgestones are done for.

    • 0 avatar

      The RE-71R is a great tire but the new road-legal competition king seems to be the Yokohama Advan A052.

      I just put a set of MPSS on my CX-3 (because they were less than $100 each in 235/50-18 at DiscountTireDirect) and found them to be excellent street tires but, yah, I wouldn’t run them in anger on a track.

  • avatar

    I suppose if you’re a track junkie this might be helpful.

    I’ve kinda figured out years ago that high performance tires on the street actually suck for the most part.

    Get decent summer tires that can handle some temperature swings, push some rain out of the way, and absorb crater-sized potholes without blowing a tire or causing a slipped vertebrae and that’s good enough, even on a sports car.

    Tires have gone where horsepower has gone. By the time you can use the performance you’re risking jail time. No point except bragging rights.

    • 0 avatar

      what Jerome10 said.

      Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. OMG. Great for daily use, great in the rain, and if you’re outdriving the grip in summer you NEED to be in jail.

      I’m going to stretch the A/S aspect of these and see how they work in the winter cold and some slush and light snow. I don’t want high performance per se; I just don’t want “unusable”.

      • 0 avatar

        They are one of the best all around tires available today, I’ve worn out a set of the 3 and have 3+ on our front line cars. They do pretty good in the cold. Not too good in real ice and haven’t driven them in snow.

        • 0 avatar

          They A/S 3+ isn’t that great in the snow since they lack the sipping that allows all-seasons to work in the snow.

          They are really for places like my AO where you get a lot of cold rain and a little bit of snow – typically not enough where a full on snow tire would be required.

          What makes the A/S 3+ a great tire is that it works really well as a summer tire. I can’t comment on the Nitto NT555 G2 but the A/S 3+ flat blew the gen 1 Nitto away in performance.

          Its my go to recommendation for people looking to improve their vehicle performance without having to worry about a dedicated summer tire’s issues when the temperature dips into the 40’s and 30’s or worry about wet traction (although the Pilot Super Sport doesn’t have a problem there even down into the 50’s) and the A/S 3+ tends to last longer.

          • 0 avatar

            I had both A/S 3 and Continental DWS06 on the same car. The A/S 3 were superior in the dry, but the Contis were much more confidence-inspiring in both rain and snow.

      • 0 avatar

        I came here to also sing the praises of the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. Excellent grip in wet and dry conditions down to around 45-50 degrees, in my experience with it.

        I actually ran them on the 135i for one winter in Delaware (the first year I got them), and it was ok on dry roads and even a little rain or light powdery snow, but you can feel the difference, even at typical driving speeds. Despite its A/S moniker, its really a 3 season tire.

        Now that we live in Hawaii, however, its excellent in dry and wet conditions year round.

        If you have the budget for them, and its available in the size you need, get them.

        • 0 avatar

          “Despite its A/S moniker, its really a 3 season tire.”
          “Now that we live in Hawaii”

          So why not get the 4S?

          • 0 avatar

            “So why not get the 4S?”

            According to Tirerack, – “This tire isn’t available for your 2010 BMW 135i Convertible Sport Package.”

            The staggered set up of the 135i sport package really limits selection. Not every manufacturer makes both sizes we need that are also not run-flats.

            Plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My wife likes the ride as is.

          • 0 avatar

            I hate staggered setups. I know the intention is to make it harder to slide the rear out when driving aggressively but oversteer is part of the fun of a RWD vehicle. If I ever purchase a vehicle with a staggered setup one of my first purchases will be new wheels and tires to get things back to “square.”

          • 0 avatar

            @PD, chances are you can’t just switch to a square set up as the traction control won’t be happy.

          • 0 avatar

            >>>chances are you can’t just switch to a square set up as the traction control won’t be happy.<<<
            If your car has a "snow tire" setup that has same diameters front and back, you could switch the computer to that and then run tires of the same diameter. Also, most cars that have wider rears also have shorter profile in the rear, making the tire diameter very similar; I owned a staggered car that had a front tire as a spare, which could be used front or back.

          • 0 avatar

            What about vehicles that come with a wide variety of tire fitments?

            As an example I can think of sports sedans like the Stinger, the G70, the BMW 3 series, the MB C-class that come with staggered and non -staggered sizing depending on the engine and other options selected.

            As was pointed out many of these vehicles keep overall tire diameters similar but likely have wider tires in the rear.

            I should have helped my BIL figure out whether he could swap his mother’s C-class SPORT to a non-staggered setup. She bought it in Texas shod with summer rubber and then moved to Tennessee to be near him.

          • 0 avatar

            “If your car has a “snow tire” setup that has same diameters front and back, you could switch the computer to that and then run tires of the same diameter.”

            I did a -1 all around, so they were still staggered, just 17″ instead of 18″. But the rear tires were still wider. I’m not sure there is a driver accessible function as you describe on a 2010 135i. I never dove deep into the manual or asked BMW about that.

            At the time, I did inquire at the BMW service center about just going to a non-staggered 17″ set up all around, like the 128, because there are MANY more tires available for that size. The tech said that to do that ‘right’, we shouldn’t just swap out the wheels or change something in the CPU. It would mean also swapping or altering the tuning of the suspension parts to account for the difference, which was possible, but it would really change the characteristics of the car, and would leave us more prone to the rear sliding out.

            This sentiment was echoed by other owners on two different BMW forums as well.

            Plus the labor quote alone to do all that was…well, I think the cost to benefit ratio was DEFINITELY not there.

  • avatar

    In a place where it’s chilly and rainy for a substantial part of the year, but almost never snowy, summer tires are a hard sell for daily-driven cars. It might be different if you were in a place where the temperature rarely drops under 50.

    Around here, I look for performance-biased all-seasons, because they tend to be the best tires in 37-degree rainy weather. I think the best ones I’ve had on any car were the Continental DWS06 that I had on my LS 460.

  • avatar

    Mickey Thompson or go home! ;)

  • avatar

    We run BFG g-Force COMP-2 A/S. They are good tires for all year but if we get more than a couple inches I take the truck with Blizzaks. The BFG do decent if I get caught at work and it starts snowing. Good wet/rain traction as well.

    I have M/T on the Cobra. They are not as good in the wet as the BFG. :)

  • avatar

    I have Michelin PS4S on two cars, my Golf R daily driver and an E36 M3 track car (for transit to, and wet driving on, the track).

    Excellent in the dry and surreal in the wet, the PS4S is also surprising for its decent ride quality. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

    And yeah, I did just put the Blizzaks on the R this week.

  • avatar

    I have first hand experience with the toyos, if only using for dry track days, theyre excellent, but the are WORTHLESS in the wet, even in damp pavement, you slide all over. Better tires for the money, like dunlop direzzas

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