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Top Five Tires for High Performance Cars

Ferrari California on Pirelli P Zero (Ekko Media)
iKnowAuto Staff
You’ve got a hot screaming ride. Performance is your middle name and you’ve tweaked your drivetrain to yield a max of horsepower and torque. Mechanically your ride is ready to go. But what about where it reaches the road? We’re not talking about wheels, we are talking about high performance tires, that rubber that transfers all that power to the asphalt and keeps you pointed on a line you choose.
APR 29, 2019

“Slip-slidin' away” makes for a classic rock lyric but it’s a term you don’t want to be associated with performance tires. Car and Driver recently did an exhaustive test to find the best high-performance tires. They narrowed the test down to 5 grippy 245/40R-18 finalists priced between $153 and $198. While they stipulate that grippier rubber is available, the five they selected hit a sweet spot with good performance for dry grip, impressive wet-weather performance, and expected tread life of 20,000 to 30,000 miles.

It’s no surprise that these tires show up as OEM on Porsches, BMW M cars, and Corvettes.

Testing the Best High-Performance Tires

The test measured lateral grip, braking from 50 mph, and lap times around a short autocross course. No long straightaways here. This evaluation is a chain of constant cornering with a slalom, a half-lap around the skidpad, and several tight right-handers that demand precise braking, a tidy line, and measured accelerator inputs. Car and Driver repeated the exercises in both dry conditions and on pavement saturated by a sprinkler system spraying 380 gallons of water per minute.

Here’s what they came up with.

Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3  high performance tires
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3  high performance tires
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3  high performance tires

Best High-Performance Tire: Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 

Price $180, UTQG wear rating 300

Despite its relatively high price, the Goodyear was the goat in this test of the best coming in last in every performance metric but one. Its 107-foot stop is good enough to rank it as third among the five. Maybe the most unsettling characteristic is a lack of high lateral firmness which dampens steering feel. Also, in curves, the Goodyear was more unsettled by bumps than the other contestants. On the plus side, Goodyear’s ride is less harsh and significantly quieter than the rest of the pack, thus solidifying as one of the best high-performance tires.

Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 high-performance tires
Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 high performance tires

Best High-Performance Tire: Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 

Price $156, UTQG wear rating 320

The Ventus V12 Evo 2 possesses the rare ability to maintain high grip compared with its peak grip even as it begins to slide. Where other performance tires sail off the driving line, the Hankooks hang on with only a slight drift from the line chosen. Put another way, you can push this performance tire beyond max and still get away with sloppy piloting. When you discover your mistake, the Hankook will recover quicker than most when you try to reel it all in. Lateral firmness is stiff providing excellent input to steering. It does, however, make an annoying, high pitch whistle at speed and when you hit a bump you most definitely will hear it. Despite this, the Hankook Ventus remains as one of the best high-performance tires.

Pirelli P Zero high performance tires
Pirelli P Zero high performance tires
Pirelli P Zero high performance tires

Best High-Performance Tire: Pirelli P Zero 

Price $153, UTQG wear rating 300

Pirelli reengineered this performance tire in 2016 (you can tell by small PZ4 molded on the sidewall) and overall, they did a decent job. On dry pavement, it performs well demonstrated by its second-place finish in lap times. Remember, there aren’t any long straight runs in this test, it’s all curves and high lateral Gs. If you pay close attention, the Pirelli is fairly easy to drive at top speed. However, if you’re not focused it’s easy to oversteer and grip drops off dramatically when that happens. On wet pavement, it’s a whole different ballgame. It has the lowest lateral grip of the group on a wet surface. On the plus side, it really is an inexpensive performance tire.

Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S high performance tires
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S high performance tires

Best High-Performance Tire: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S 

Price $ 215, UTQG wear rating 300

This is your winner from a pure performance perspective. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most expensive. The Pilot Sport 4 S had the fastest lap times and the highest lateral firmness measurements. It’s a confidence builder. You can drive this rubber at top speed knowing it is not going to lose its grip on curves or bumps on the road. Not only that, it’s quiet. Michelin is the best-tested max-performance tire and you’ll probably see a lot of these as standard equipment on the hotter sports cars and sport sedans.

Continental ExtremeContact Sport high performance tires
Continental ExtremeContact Sport high performance tires
Continental ExtremeContact Sport high performance tires

Best High-Performance Tire: Continental ExtremeContact Sport

Price $ 164, UTQG wear rating 340

Unlike the Pirelli, the Continental will make you a wet weather hero. This tire swept all three wet tests with big margins and showed the smallest performance drop-off between dry and wet tests. Probably its best characteristic is it continues to hold grip when it slides making recovery a snap. On dry pavement, the Continental turns in an excellent performance, second only to the winner of the challenge. It is also only one of two tires tested that offers a tread-life warranty (30,000 miles).


That’s the list. Your decision should be based on what your normal driving conditions are, how much performance is too much performance, and budget.