If you drive mostly on cleared roads, experts say all your car may need is a good winter performance tire. These tires are designed to keep sports cars and performance sedans safe at high speeds in cold weather on wet or dry pavement -- and the best ones handle confidently on snow and ice, too. Note that the prices estimated reflect the smallest size readily available; performance cars and performance winter tires often use larger rims than nonperformance cars.
The Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 (Est. $245 for 225/40R18 XL) is pricey, but experts and owners say it's worth it for maximum winter driving fun. "They really do feel like summers," raves one owner at M3Post.com, after feeling the way his BMW M3 handles cold, dry roads on the PA4s.
When the snow flies, the PA4 just gets better. On a winding mountain two-lane covered with thick slush, "I was flying," writes another rear-wheel-drive Bimmer owner at M3Post.com. "I passed basically everyone including the 4x4s and Subies ... It was so much fun."
The PA4 replaces experts' longtime favorite, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3. The new version impresses the pros just as much: It wins awards at TireRack.com and another major testing agency, where it's a top pick "for winter driving without compromising handling." Testers confidently plow through snow, stop on ice, swerve and corner on dry roads, and cruise through standing water without hydroplaning.
The PA4 isn't the best tire for drivers who must contend regularly with severe winter weather -- the top-rated Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $105) is a better choice for extreme conditions, experts say -- but it's sharper than the Xi3 on cold, clear roads, wet or dry.
A solid runner up in several reviews is the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D (Est. $115 for 205/55R16). TireRack.com experts mention the Dunlop right alongside the Michelin as "great options" for performance cars in winter. Both tires shrug off ice and snow in one top test -- and the Dunlop costs a lot less and comes in smaller sizes.
The catch? The Dunlop can't carve up bare roads like the Michelin. Testers judge it just "fair" for handling. That was true for its predecessor, the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D, too -- a weakness that owners at TireRack.com found as well. Still, owners liked the Dunlop 3D a little better than the Michelin on snow and ice. It all evens out, and the two tires tie for first place in TireRack.com's owner survey.