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Best Performance Tires

By: Carl Laron on September 21, 2017

The champions of speed and handling are high performance tires

For most drivers and most vehicles, the best all season tires provide sure handling under most weather conditions, including light to moderate snow. If you live in an area where winter is a non-event, or religiously mount snow tires (which are covered in a separate report) before Jack Frost comes calling, a summer tire provides notably better performance, though typically at the expense of treadwear and ride comfort. But if you want to exact every bit of performance out of your sports car or exotic, a true performance tire might be what you are hankering for.

These tires are optimized for one thing, and one thing only -- peak performance on dry roads and race tracks under near ideal weather conditions. They should not be driven when temperatures approach freezing, let alone when any trace of snow or ice is in evidence, and some are more susceptible to hydroplaning if you encounter standing water. The ride also tends to be stiffer and tread life shorter that with any other type of tire -- in fact, most tires in this category offer no warranty at all when it comes to tread life. They are also among the most expensive options.

However, for certain drivers and certain cars, all of that is offset by their major advantage: As noted by the experts at TireTrack.com, they provide "dry road response, traction, handling and high speed capabilities for serious driving enthusiasts." Most of them look pretty cool, too.

If a performance tire is right for you and your ride, the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 (Est. $150 and up per tire) looks like a top choice -- especially if you want a tire for something other than competitions. It's been around for a number of years and undergone some modest modifications in that time. Most notably, in 2013, the tire received a compound upgrade that added a little grip (the upgraded tire was marketed for a time as the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A, but is now, once again, simply the RE-11). The result was a UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grade) treadwear rating of 200, making them legal for most street tire completion classes, notes Marshall Wisler on the TireRack.com blog.

While the RE-11 is most definitely a performance tire, it's probably one of the more practical choices for driving on roads as well as at the track. After testing, TireRack.com called the RE-11 (then being denoted at the RE-11A) "A well-rounded Extreme Performance Summer tire." While wet traction and breaking won't measure up to what you'll find in less extreme tires, it's called very good for the class. It also provides a "civilized" ride on the road to go along with very good, though not best-in-class, track handling.

Driving enthusiasts are enthusiastic about the RE-11. It's the top rated Extreme Performance Summer tire (out of eight) in TireRack.com's consumer survey, based on more than 375 submissions covering over 2.4 million driving miles. Dry performance, of course, gets the highest scores, but comfort, wet performance and treadwear get ratings in the "good" range, which is good for a tire in this class. Like most performance tires, there is no warranty on tread life. There is a five year workmanship warranty, though that "May be voided if caused by abuse, competition, race/track application."

If eking out the best times are more important than the best road manners, there are a few other performance tires that should be considered. The RE-11's brand mate, the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R (Est. $130 and up), "presents an amazing package on track, with huge grip in every direction, wonderful balance and steering precision that is second to none," the editors at TireRack.com say. However, it doesn't present the most comfortable ride -- the editor's say that "Ride and noise comfort were obviously low on the priority list during the tire's development," and the tire draws only so-so ratings when it comes to ride quality and noise in TireRack.com's user survey. Treadwear draws the lowest grade from owners -- just fair -- and as is typical for the class, there's no treadwear warranty. When it comes to performance under dry conditions, though, things are rosier, and the tire earns user ratings of 9.5 and above in steering response, dry traction and cornering stability.

The BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S 1.5 (Est. $135 and up) does nearly as well as the RE-71R in the same TireRack.com test, though with different strengths and weaknesses. It rocked the fastest average lap times thanks to its "huge lateral grip," and provides a more comfortable ride on the road. However, its steering as well as its performance when faced with wet conditions lag, the editors say.

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