Helping You Choose The Best Performance Tires

Michael Accardi
by Michael Accardi
Michelin is the standard choice by Porsche

Performance tires are engineered for speed; prioritizing grip and driving dynamics over year-round functionality and durability.

It doesn't matter if you're tearing up the racetrack, conquering autocross events, or navigating winding back roads– these tires are a must-have for enthusiasts seeking ultimate performance.


The key factor in selecting performance tires is understanding your driving habits and needs.

Chevrolet chose the Trofeo R for the Camaro Z/28

If your vehicle is a daily driver that occasionally participates in light track days, autocross, and spirited drives, high-performance street tires are your ideal choice. These tires offer an extended lifespan and superior wet weather capabilities compared to pure competition tires, striking the perfect balance for daily-driven performance cars.


Running DOT-spec competition tires full-time can be a compelling option if your car sees occasional or minimal street use but is primarily a track day or autocross vehicle. These tires are purpose-built for track events, offering unparalleled grip and handling characteristics tailored to high-performance driving. Their behavior on the road in less-than-ideal conditions can be sketchy, so be careful if you go down this route.


Weekend cars only driven in perfect conditions are better off with high-performance street tires or performance all-season tires. The peace of mind provided by quality tires capable of handling an unexpected rain shower far outweighs the added performance ceiling unsafe for street driving.


If your car sees regular track or autocross use, you should consider investing in dedicated wheels for your high-performance tires. This will preserve the mileage on your track tires and allow you to maintain the comfort of regular all-season tires for daily use.

Different size wheels for track tires can be a benefit

Investing in a second set of wheels allows for precise adjustments to your wheel and tire size. Your OEM wheel size was likely not optimized for the race track. As a general rule select a wheel size large enough to clear brakes and suspension components without unnecessary bulk. Sometimes this could mean a smaller rim with a taller sidewall tire than you would run on the street. You can also play with track width by opting for different wheel offsets. This can have benefits on cornering performance and acceleration.


Larger rim sizes increase unsprung weight, reducing this unsprung weight with a smaller wheel size will change the moment of inertia–affecting both acceleration and deceleration. Additionally, shorter and stiffer sidewalls of low-profile tires lack the relaxation length of a taller sidewall, causing sharper and more immediate steering response.


While that may sound like a benefit, shorter and stiffer sidewalls lack the ability to have a dynamic conversation–this is called the relaxation length. Instead of being able to communicate gradual grip degradation and loss of traction as you push to the performance envelope, the tire will feel great right up until traction disappears. Of course, too tall a sidewall is also detrimental, causing excessive deflection while being even more sensitive to tire pressure changes. Sidewall changes also drastically affect your spring rate, as an undamped spring in contact with the road, the sidewall is an effective part of your vehicle's suspension.


Moving to wider wheels or wheels with a different offset can cause changes to scrub radius, spring rate, and roll rate. Sometimes it can even be a cheap way to mildly alter the handling of your vehicle without investing too much money in different suspension components.


Research your specific vehicle before committing to a different-sized wheel and tire combination. Be mindful not to compromise the overall diameter, as it directly influences your car's effective gearing.


AUTOGUIDE'S TOP 5 CHOICES:

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2

Renowned for its exceptional dry grip and handling, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 has been the standard for ultra-high-performance tires. Offering a well-balanced compound, PSC2 is a top choice for daily-driven performance cars. They are expensive, and they won't channel a lot of water very well, but performance is good on wet roads.

Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R

The Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R is a streetable track & competition tire. Pirelli is known for extremely soft compounds, sacrificing durability for performance, but if that's what you're after these tires are capable enough to drive on the street. Best suited as a more durable track tire option than the Trofeo RS.

General G-MAX AS07

The General G-MAX AS07 is a great affordable choice for those looking for a performance all-season tire. They have good wet-weather performance, a quiet highway ride, and can somewhat deal with light early-season snow if you were to get caught out.

Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS

The Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS is the defacto 200TW SCCA autocross tire. It's capable enough to handle clean and dry roads even when it's wet. Like the Michelins and Pirellis, these tires won't deal with heavy volumes of water well.

Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02

The Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02 offers excellent grip and handling, making it a versatile choice for street cars seeking track-ready performance. Excellent wet weather performance from both the compound and tread block design.

Toyo Proxes R888R

Known for exceptional grip and predictable handling, the Toyo Proxes R888R is a favorite among HPDE enthusiasts seeking maximum performance. A street-legal tire best suited for track-only use. Famously used on Ken Block's Hoonicorn.

Michael Accardi
Michael Accardi

An experienced automotive storyteller known for engaging and insightful content. Michael also brings a wealth of technical knowledge and experience having been part of the Ford GT program at Multimatic and built cars that raced in TCR, IMSA, and IndyCar.

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