Some performance tires stand out because of their low profile, but Rohlwing says, “Not all low-profile sidewall tires are in the performance category.”
What makes them deserve the performance title? According to Edmunds.com, performance tires feature large tread blocks with a high lateral stiffness, which wide grooves that expel and separate water.
“Almost everything about a performance tire is different from the average tire,” Rohlwing says. The construction, rubber compounds, and tread design determines the category; not the profile of the sidewall.
High performance tires generally have speed ratings of H (sports sedans and coupes, up to 130 mph), V (sports sedans, coupes and sports cars, up to 149 mph), or Z (in excess of 149 mph). UHP tires are speed-rated V, Z or Y (up to 186 mph).
The most common differences between passenger tires and performance tires are tread life and ride comfort, Rohlwing says. “The sidewall on a performance tire is stiffer than the average tire because sidewall flexing is not an optimal feature when the goal is handling and responsiveness. Likewise, the tread compound of a performance tire is designed for maximum grip so it cannot be expected to deliver the same mileage as a tire with a tread compound engineered for the best tread wear.”
IntelliChoice, the car-buying website, says grip is everything. High-performance tires should have impressive grip, on both wet and dry surfaces, and a crisp steering feel. With ultra-high-performance tires, IntelliChoic says “grip is king,” along with precise steering feel.
Know your tires
Do you know what your tires can tell you? Since 2000, all tires are required to have identification numbers – 10, 11 or 12 letters and/or numbers that tell you where the tire was manufactured, the tire size and manufacturer’s code, and the week and year the tire was manufactured.
Look for DOT on your tire, and at the end of the series of numbers and letters, you’ll find the week and year it was manufactured. For example, the last four digits 3208 mean the tire was manufactured during the 32nd week of 2008.