Performance Tires

The Motorhead’s Guide to Performance Tires

The world of performance tires doesn’t translate quite as clear as most of us would like. What’s a motorhead after a race-worthy tire to do? Check out Automotive Training Center’s (ATC’s) handy post “The Motorhead’s Guide to Performance Tires” before you head to the tire shop.

Keep reading to find out which pair you should select and what the various performance tire tiers really add up to.

All-Season vs. Summer Performance Tires

TiresWhy are summer tire sets famed as the ultimate racers? To maximize traction at below-freezing temperatures, all-season tires tend to trade out a good dose of their race grip. This is why if you’re seeking elevated dry road performance, you want to stick with a summer or three-season tire series.

Note that most summer tires become nearly useless when temperatures dip and the roads get slick. These performance tires are built for optimized handling in dry, temperate conditions.

Time to take a look at a tire classification factor many motorfans are keen on finding out: speed rating.

Decoding Speed Ratings

The final letter of a tire’s seven-part sizing sequence (located on a tire’s sidewall) denotes the maximum top speed that the tire can handle.

For example, family sedans and vans often wear S class tires, a 112 mph rating. Where do performance tires live on the list? A few steps above S, in letters H through Y. Check out the following chart for associated tire speeds:


130 mph

Sport Sedans & Coupes


149 mph

Sport Sedans, Coupes & Sports Cars


168 mph

Exotic Sports Cars


186 mph

Exotic Sports Cars

Source: Speed rating chart from

Tire Type 1: High-Performance Summer Tires

Designed for enhanced grip and even handling at top speeds, high-performance summer tires are the common default tires that manufacturers install as original equipment on new sports sedans. They often carry a speed rating of H, which indicates that they can manage a maximum of 130 mph. Confident across dry conditions, this tire type can handle light rain on the road but isn’t recommended for heavy rain or cold temperature cruising.

Tire Type 2: Ultra High-Performance Summer Tires

Tire ServiceUltra-high-performance summer tires are low profile tires with heightened steering response designed for optimal cornering and control at speeds well into the triple digits. These summer tires wear V or higher speed ratings, which makes them qualified for upwards of 149 mph.

If maintaining some sense of ride comfort for multiple passengers is one of your priorities, these tires or high-performance summer tires (tire type 1) are your best bet.

Along the same tread, if you’re considering daily drive tires, ultra-high-performance tires are considered the top tier set that’s sensible for everyday driving.

Tire Type 3: Max Performance Summer Tires

The next set up the performance tire chain is max performance summer tires, an ultra-low profile tire reserved for race-minded owners after exotic sports car performance. Max performance summers mark where wet road capabilities fade away; save these babies for sunny day runs where competition-level performance is required.

Tire Type 4: Extreme Performance Summer Tires

Serious motorheads after all-out insane grip and track-equivalent performance turn to extreme performance summer tires. These ruthless grippers translate the car’s power to its acceleration and cornering efforts through big block tread patterns and fortified inner constructions.

As the cream of the crop, extreme performance summer tires are only suitable for dry racing and should be set aside for your truest lap tests on the track.

Tire Teachings to Be Continued

It’s amazing how a solid set of performance tires can totally change a car’s behind-the-wheel feel. ATC’s Hi-Performance students become familiar with the advantages of these performance tire picks and get to know the advanced under-the-hood equipment that powers cars and trucks rigged up for the racetrack!

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