Top 7 Best Performance Tires
By | Last updated: March 5, 2020
best performance tires

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.

1. Editor's Choice: 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

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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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

6. 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

7. 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

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.

(Editor’s note: 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.)

[Main photo credit: Bhakpong / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

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