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Buyer's tips

The best performance summer tires of 2014

Published April 28, 2014

Metroland Media Group for Wheels.ca

Shopping for summer performance tires can be daunting if you are unsure of what you want. There is a lot of choice with the top tire brands contributing to this complex genre. There are five classifications: grand touring, high performance, ultra high, max and extreme.

Grand touring summer tires have the hardest tire compound and place the greatest priority on ride comfort and balanced wet and dry grip. As you move up the classifications, max and extreme performance summer tires place a greater emphasis on dry grip and handling but ride comfort and tread longevity are reduced. Essentially, the rubber compound of extreme summer tires is softer (more “sticky”) than a grand touring tire. They handle better in dry but wear much quicker. Generally speaking, summer tires have a much shorter tread life than all-season tires because they have a softer tire compound. Summer tires should not be used in freezing temperatures or on snow and ice as they will offer no grip.

I’m not a tire expert but I am well connected in the car enthusiast scene. I tapped into my resources and took a three-part approach to researching and choosing which ultra high performance (UHP) summer tires to purchase. First, I talked to my friends in the automotive community to learn what tires they’re using. Next, I talked to my mechanic for his input. Then, I talked to my tire retailer to see what was recommended based on my intended use. I’ll break down the recommendations based on five categories while focusing on UHP, max and extreme performance summer tires.

Best overall performance

Michelin Pilot Super Sport: I needed new tires for my Nissan 300ZX so I asked Billy Lau, owner of Tires 23 in Mississauga, what he recommends. I told Billy that I wanted the best performance summer tire and money was no object. He recommended the Michelin Pilot Super Sport. “The Super Sports are the best max performance tire on the market in terms of overall performance with incredible wet and dry grip, high speed handling, track capability and tread life” commented Lau, “I have them on my BMW M3.”

Going with Billy’s recommendation, I’m now running Michelin Pilot Super Sports on my 300ZX. My initial impression of this tire is very good and I’m sure I’ll be impressed when I get a chance to escape the city to do some spirited driving. Already I can appreciate the improvement in ride comfort and reduced road noise over the Bridgestone Potenza RE01Rs that they replaced. Second choice: Continental ExtremeContact DW

Michelin Pilot Super Sport

 

Below are Billy Lau’s other top summer tire recommendations:

Best value for the budget conscious

Hankook Ventus V12 evo K110 is a popular choice for sports car drivers looking for a well-rounded summer performance tire. The evo is highly regarded for it’s superb wet and dry handling and braking efficiency plus comfortable ride quality, low road noise and long tread life. The evo is being replaced by the evo2 K120 which carries forward all these great attributes and a better UTQG tread wear rating of 320. Both evo models are bang for the buck winners and now is a good time to get a deal on the already value priced evo K110, while quantities last. Second choice: Yokohama S.drive

Hankook Ventus V12 evo K110

Best for track use (and streetable)

Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A takes the RE-11 line further with better traction, handling and control plus good ride comfort and relatively low road noise for a track-oriented tire. The massive outer shoulder blocks enhance steering response and cornering traction. This tire performs incredible in dry conditions and is very good in wet. Second choice: Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R

Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A

Best for street use (wet/dry combined)

Falken Azenis FK453 features a superb balance of wet and dry handling resulting from its silica enriched compound. Its nylon-reinforced construction enhances high speed stability while delivering a quiet and comfortable ride. This tire is ideal for the spirited driver who demands top performance in all street driving conditions. Second choice: Hankook Ventus V12 evo2

Falken Azenis FK453

Best for tread wear longevity

Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport is a well-rounded performer with a good 340 UTQG tread wear rating. This tire is an excellent choice for someone who wants sport handling attributes without sacrificing comfort, road noise and tread wear. Second choice: Dunlop Direzza DZ102

Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport

Other Recommendations:

Top picks in the UHP (max and extreme) summer tire categories from my long time mechanic Leo Nucci, co-owner of Mississauga Auto Repairs.

Best overall performer: Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Best value for the budget conscious: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2
Best for track use (and steerable): Michelin Pilot Sport Cup
Best for street use (wet/dry combined): Michelin Pilot Sport 3
Best for tread wear longevity: Continental ExtremeContact DW

There are a lot of choices in performance summer tires and many factors weigh into the decision of which model to choose. It is prudent to do your homework, consider the options and choose wisely based on your needs. After all, tires are the part of our car that keeps us planted to the pavement.

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