Working with this magazine over the past five years, I've seen an expansion in the variety of tires available. At the same time, there's a lack of uniform category descriptions, especially when the manufacturer designates a tire as Ultra High Performance and then a retailer calls it Max Performance.
The true measure of the tire's performance also takes into account the type of vehicle on which it is installed. Because a tire with a Ultra Performance designation might be just that on one vehicle and might be Extreme Performance on another. For example, about a year ago I tested a 150-hp VW Rabbit and 290-hp GTI, each equipped with identical suspension modifications. Each used the same 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/35 Continental ContiSportContact 2 rubber. On the GTI the tires performed well and I would have rated them a 7 on a scale of 10. Those same tires on the Rabbit, however, would earn a rating of 9/10, meaning on this car they performed exceptionally well.
When choosing the perfect tire for your vehicle, you should take into account the vehicle's performance needs, your usual driving conditions-and of course, your budget-and try not to be overwhelmed with the manufacturer or vendor's performance description-Ultra, Performance, Max, Extreme, Street, or some combination thereof.
Deciphering The Sidewall
Let's look at the sidewall of the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric
225 - Width of the tire in millimeters
35 - Height of the sidewall as apercentage ratio, the sidewall of this tire is 35% of 225 millimeter width
R - Radial construction
19 - Rim Diameter
88 - Load Index, amount of weight the tire can handle at max air pressure, 88 = 1,235 LBS
Y - Speed Rating tire has been tested up to 186 MPH
Made in Germany - Country of manufacturing
E13 - European Union attestation marks, where the product was tested and certified, in this case Luxembourg
DOT - Department of Transportation mark certifies the tire is in compliance with all US Laws
Extra Load - Indicates the tire side wall has been reinforced to handle greater stresses, and it some instances will require different inflation pressure
Treadwear 240 - Wear rating given by the government based on the results of controlled tests
Traction AA - Stopping ability of the tire on wet asphalt and concrete with AA being the highest grade
Temperature A - Heat dissipation ability of the tire as it makes contact with the road, A being the highest grade
Inside/Outside - Indicates how the asymmetric tire is to be mounted on the rim (unidirectional tire will have terms Right/Left to indicate how they are to be mounted and their position on the vehicle)
Sidewall Plies 2 Rayon - The number of plies found in the sidewall
Tread Plies 2 rayon, 2 Steel, 3 Polyamide - The number of plies found in the tread portion of the tire
2 Steel, 3 Polyamide
Max Load 560kg
(1235lbs) 340 kpa
(50 psi) Max Pressure
|- Recommended max load and psi
BFG g-Force Sport
My behind-the-wheel experience with the BFG g-Force Sport was limited to a 20-mile test drive through back roads of the Santa Monica Mountains. The tires were installed on a friend's 1999 BMW 528i and only had few thousand miles in the corners. The tires held their own especially for a car of that size and mileage. The ride was a little rough but I think that had more to do with the 80k miles the stock suspension had on it than the tires.
• g-Control sidewall inserts during cornering help resist deflection, resulting in greater stability
• Dimensionally-stable polyester carcass has been enhanced with the ETEC (Equal Tension Containment) System , a spiral-wrapped reinforcement placed below the tread designed to stabilize and reinforce, increasing strength and maneuverability
• Two deep, wide circumferential rain channels help disperse water to increase wet traction
• Sizes 17- 20-inch Treadwear 340 Traction AA Temperance A
I have always had good luck with Contis. From day one, my A3's Privat rims were wrapped in a set of SportContact 2 tires that were heavily abused, subjected to DSG burn-outs, and at one time or another driven over every pothole and bad street L.A. has to offer. Not only did they last over 30k miles but even up to the balding end they were still performing. My relationship with the ExtremeContact DW's has not been as involved, but we did spend some meaningful track time together during one hell of a day at the California Speedway. After putting the ExtremeContact DW through a battery of wet and dry tests, their outstanding handling and braking showed that they belonged in the Continental family of performance tires.
• Tuned indicators in the tread informs driver of the tires performance level dry or wet
• Dynamic Temperature Distribution reduces tread distortion, which reduces heat and rolling resistance, and increases tread-life
• High void to tread ratio with enhanced groove pattern allows water to be quickly evacuated to optimize wet performance
• 45-degree angles cut tread blocks maximize contact with the road surface and increase dry performance
• Sizes 16- 21-inch Treadwear 340 Traction AA Temperance A
Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A Pole Position tire with Unit
The name is a mouthful and they probably should have stuck with just Potenza, which means power in Italian and is representative of what the tire brings to a vehicle. Outside Phoenix, I had the opportunity to participate in the Mercedes AMG Experience at the Firebird International Raceway. The AMG E63 that I drove was a monster-uber power and uber torque and it takes an equally powerful tire to tame this beast, especially around a long course under a blazing Arizona sun. Under the most extreme S-curves and every corner representable by Euclidean geometry, I was still unable to break the tires loose. They held steadfast and strong lap after lap.
• Uni-T is a combination of three primary technologies designed to improve the tire casing, bead and tread
• Circumferential groves and 3-D tread block shapes channel water away from the tread reducing the risk of hydroplaning
• Block and Slick tread design improves traction and breaking
• High lateral stiffness block and semi-slick center rib combine to improve cornering and handling response
• Sizes 16- 20-inch Treadwear 280 Traction AA Temperance A
Bridgestone Americas Tire
Hankook Ventus V12 EVO
Hankook's South Korean state-of-the-art test facility can stimulate every driving condition known to man and probably even some that we don't know about or have yet to experience. They had a unique bull's eye-shaped skidpad with each circle simulating a different road type (from Phillipino asphalt to Autobahn concrete) in wet conditions. The A4 Quattro I was test driving was equipped with Hankook's Ventus V12 evo which were so super sticky that they held throughout the entire 360 circle. These all around great tires outperformed my expectations in braking, handling, and endurance tests. At the end of the day, I had a newfound respect and awe for these Korean-made slicks.
• The tread blocks located on either side of the solid center tracking rib utilize diverse angles on the edge of the tread blocks creating a 3-D effect that helps maintain even contact with the road surface optimizing handling and braking
• High Tg Polymer & Specific Resin(HPSR) tread compound increases wet traction and decreases wet braking distance
• High-density nylon reinforcement belt located below the tread reinforces the tire structure and ensures even distribution of pressure during cornering
• Wide linear grooves, aggressively Y-shape channels, and Multiple Tread Radius (MTR) help drain water away, increasing the tire to ground contact area
• Sizes: 17- 21-inch Treadwear Traction AA Temperance A
Dunlop Sport MAXX TT
The 12-million dollar BMW Performance Center located in the backyard of BMW's factory in Greer, SC, normally used for the BMW Driving School and BMW Testing, was graciously opened up to Dunlop for a tire testing event. Dunlop set up tire evaluations for numerous Dunlops, including the Sport MAXX TT set up on a 2008 BMW 328i sedan. Dunlop succeeded in demonstrating how a performance-oriented tire was still able to handle itself in wet conditions -too bad they didn't have a demonstration to see if the Kevlar sidewalls were bullet-proof. Though I wish I had more time to spend with the tire, I did walk away from the event with the feeling that the tire had a lot of potential.
• Sidewalls are reinforced with DuPont Kevlar to enhance driver feedback
• Jointless band technology helps the tire carcass maintain shape at high speed
• Flat tread profile creates a larger contact patch for increased cornering capability
• Sizes: 16- 22-inch Treadwear: 240 Traction: AA Temperance: A
Though I have never technically owned a set of General Exclaim UHP tires, I have had two opportunities to run them around the track at General's Testing facility in Uvalde, TX. On the downside the car I drove both times was a Mustang (bleh) but I was blown away by how the Generals were able to keep that unwieldy beast on the super-soaked and super-slick road conditions. I could only imagine that if the Exclaims could keep that thing on the road, then they would be able to really perform on a vehicle with great handling and suspension. So I recommended them to a friend who installed them on his 2006 A3 2.0T. He was equally impressed with the tire's handling characteristics and even more surprised at the reasonable price.
• High void-to-solid rubber ratio combined with the double V directional tread pattern helps expel water away from the tread, reducing the risk of hydroplaning
• Silica tread compound increase in traction when compared to standard carbon-black technology
• Wide, solid shoulder lugs and high-tech tread contour help evenly distribute the forces exerted on the tire to help optimize handling
• Sizes: 15- 24-inch Treadwear 380 Traction A Temperance A
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric
The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires are the most recent tire addition to my 2006 A3 and with the first few months of their life they have already been put through the paces with two extended road trips, in addition to the normal daily grind of the 405 freeway. What's great about these tires is that they are forgettable-I don't need to think or worry about whether or not the tires can handle a particular driving situation. No matter if it's raining or I'm just pulling some crazy maneuver to avoid every pit and pothole (or bad driver) on the road, they handle it, all the while giving me a quiet and supportive ride.
• New generation of polymers to enhance tread stiffness
Tread compound combines carbon black for dry traction, silica for wet traction
• Wide solid outboard shoulder blocks to enhance cornering, a continuous center rib for high speed stability
• Wide circumferential grooves with an open inboard tread pattern to disperse water
• To reduce noise frequency peaks the tread blocks are staggered and vary in size
• Sizes: 17- 20-inch Treadwear 240 Traction AA Temperance A
Vredestein Ultrac Sessanta
An elegant name for a beautiful tire, and so it should be, having been designed by the famous Giugiaro Design in Italy. One of my most memorable experiences came from this tire. Seated in the passenger seat of the Spyker barreling down a racetrack in Spain, these tires gripped the road as hardfast as I gripped my seat. My brother was lucky enough to have the ultra exclusive Ultrac Sessenta on his 2001 S4 and they complemented the performance and handling qualities while even adding another dimension to what the S4 is capable of. With the exclusivity of ownership and stunning design they truly are a showstopper.
• Parametric design, a mathematical formula designed to optimize tread construction, shape, and contours for each size tire
• Longitudinal design tread with four circumferential grooves is designed to reduce road noise and reduce the risk of aquaplaning
• Handling tuned sidewall helps maintain comfort while increasing contact with the road surface for a more direct steering feel
• Sizes: 17-20-inch Treadwear 280 Traction AA Temperance A
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
The Pilot Sport PS2 tire was inspired by Formula One design and is outfitted on many of the top automobiles around the world, from Bugatti to Maybach to Porsche. Michelin is the go-to company for performance tires and is known for fulfilling the most demanding requests from demanding sportcars and supercars: more power, more handling, more grip. These are premium tires that come at a premium price, and I was fortunate to have a set of 235/35 19s on my 2003 A4 FWD. When these tires are pushed to perform on a daily basis they give quiet and well mannered performance, but after a maximum threshold value they taper off slowly losing a bit of their luster. The wick that burns hottest burns quickest.
• The inner grooved and sipes shoulder blocks of the asymmetric tread uses a 40-percent groove-to-rubber ratio to increase wet traction
• Outer shoulder blocks have a 30-percent groove-to-rubber ratio for increased dry traction
• Tread contains two different rubber compounds, each designed to enhance both wet and dry handling characteristics
• Sizes 17- 22-inch Treadwear 220 Traction AA Temperance A
Michelin North America, Inc
For more than a decade, a set of Nittos have at one time or another graced the wheels of one of my cars or a friends' car or even both. Nitto has a solid history of making a superior performing and long-lasting tire for an unbelievably great price. Whatever new compound they are using to get the great handling also gives off a weird odor for the first six months of the tire's life. However it's a small detail since the NT05 represents the best of their performance qualities-super-sticky, exceptional handling from the stiff sidewall construction, but yet so comfortable that you can take a long road trip with no complaints. Keep in mind, they are a track oriented tire, so during heavy rains a greater attentiveness is needed at the wheel.
• The large inner and outer shoulder blocks and continuous center rib are designed to provide stability during cornering and breaking
• Special formulated tread compound and reinforced internal construction designed to maximize dry performance
• Sizes: 17- 20-inch Treadwear 200 Traction AA Temperance A
Nitto Tire USA
Toyo T1-R has a good balance of wet and dry performance qualities which came in handy for this past year's weird weather in LA-rainy one week and hot the next. The tire itself looks aggressive and the tire pattern is striking -it complemented my 19-inch Neuspeed silver rims perfectly. Whenever I parked, I unconsciously always kept the wheel turned for all to admire. But at the tire's half-life, due to the unidirectional tread pattern, they started to acquire a wooing sound when the car came to a stop, decelerating from 10 mph to zero.
• Generation S silica-reinforced tread compound reduces heat, gives the tire a higher wet coefficient of friction, and ultimately giving the tire a perfect balance between wet and dry performance
• V-shaped main grooves reduce the chance of hydroplaning
Specially engineered high-modulus bead apex rubber and casing, wide high-tensile steel belts, spiral-wound jointless edge and cap plies increases steering response and high-speed stability
• The ultra-high molecular polymer enhances tread compound with rigid shoulder rib-bands and promotes optimal even wear
• Trial offer: 500 miles or 45 days
• Sizes: 14- 22-inch Treadwear 280 Traction AA Temperance A
Toyo Tires USA
Phone: (800) 442-8696