As our famous Canuck winters fade into the calendar, we can be assured of a few annual traditions: the appearance of temporary garden centres at Canadian Tire, new cold drink flavours at Tim Horton’s, and the slow march of Ron MacLean’s trousers up his chest during the playoffs on Hockey Night in Canada.
Another surety? Gearheads swapping their winter tires for a set of gummy summer rubber. We’ve waxed at length about the virtues of mounting a dedicated set of winter tires
with their benefits of sipes and special compounds well documented. But there’s something to be said for tires which have a laser focus on warm weather performance – ones which grip tightly whether you’re on a road trip
or circling the local autocross course.
Gearheads know there’s more than meets the eye in terms of technology when it comes to high-performance summer tires. Every tiremaker has a secret blend of rubber and chemical compounds to create extra adhesion when warm – think of the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices but with more complex chemistry. Tread design, whether asymmetric or directional also plays an important role.
That said, it’s important to point out that everyone’s needs are different. The owner of a sporty Mazda MX-5 might prefer to balance cornering grip with a dose of real-world comfort. While that vehicle is one of the purest forms of driving enjoyment on the market today, its limit handling is relatively low compared to supercars from Germany. Fitting super-sticky tires would be akin to walking around the house with flypaper on your feet because you’re afraid of slipping on a freshly mopped floor; in other words – total overkill.
Consider a tire’s treadwear rating as well. That’s the assessment given to a set of rubber by the manufacturer in an attempt to estimate how long the tires will last under normal conditions. Extreme track tires, with few grooves but lots of sticky compound surface, generally drop off from peak performance much more quickly than their more pedestrian (but still sporty) cousins. This is not a design flaw, rather a product of prioritizing grip over longevity by using a soft compound rubber.
Joe or Josephine Consumer can educate themselves in this regard simply by looking at a tire’s sidewall marking. In this country, Uniform Tire Quality Grading is a three-digit rating of standards for passenger car tires which measures treadwear, temperature resistance and traction. While not a perfect rating system by anyone’s yardstick – a multitude of variables including a brand’s own marketing can affect the rating – it can serve as a clue as to what a customer can expect from a tire in terms of its longevity. A tire with a 200 treadwear rating is all but assured to wear out far more quickly than one with a 600 rating. The latter may not last three times as long as the former but it’s a decent harbinger of the future.
The following is a list of top performers, and a budget-friendly consideration as well.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S
(priced from $304)
It should be no surprise to see the Michelin brand
on this list, given its long history of research and development in the field of motorsport. The current generation of Pilot Sport 4 S tires strike a good balance between excellent handling and treadwear, meaning they will provide tremendous grip but won’t need to be changed after every run to the grocery store. It is suggested these tires will have a longer life than Michelin’s other gummy tire, the vaunted Cup 2, as proven by the fact they have no treadwear warranty while the 4 S tires have a 50,000km limited guarantee.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3
(priced from $221)
For some drivers, Goodyear is as synonymous with tires as Folgers is to coffee. This particular summer tire, of which the brand has several, offers a grip-boosting tread compound to enhance road adhesion plus an asymmetric tread pattern for powerful traction in the turns. That solid centre rib you see on the tire should help provide quick response and accurate on-center feel. Available in a wide range of popular sizes, there are also frequent mail-in rebate offers to put a bit of cash back in your bank account after purchase.
Pirelli P ZERO
(priced from $265)
It’d be tough to write about high-performance summer tires without mentioning the famous Pirelli P ZERO
. Once the stuff of posters on walls of young gearhead’s bedrooms, there’s no denying Pirelli brought ultra-high performance to the masses with this tire and cemented its brand as one to which to aspire. These days, Pirelli continues to infuse the asymmetric P ZERO with the latest tire technologies like a nano-composite compound to ensure maximum grip and a special structure to improve steering response.
Hankook Ventus S1 evo3 SUV
(priced from $577)
Since we’re living in an age of SUVs and crossover-type vehicles packing world-destroying amounts of performance, it’s only appropriate we mention this set
of performance tires designed specifically for those machines. Interlocking outside grooves create wet grip and prevent hydroplaning to reinforce performance while cornering in the rain without compromising dry handling performance. Hankook says its highly purified and quality silica compound is vulcanized at low temperatures, making for good tire wear properties compared to regular tires. This allows for the increased blending between molecules that, in turn, secure solid driving performance and improved mileage.
Sailun Atrezzo ZSR (priced from $131)
In recent years, there has been an emergence of tire options from brands with a less-established presence in North American than some of the other names on this list. Their price points tend to be a bit different than those of the so-called major brands, making them an attractive option for some consumers. Mark Pereira, director of marketing – North America for the Sailun brand
, explained their ZSR high-performance tire offers wet and dry high performance in tread pattern that’s suitable for daily driving, compared to their R01 tire which is track-focused with a competition rubber compound. Available in popular sizes, the ZSR can also be had in a run-flat version as well.
Continental ExtremeContact Sport
(priced from $198)
Said to be developed with the help of racecar drivers who know a thing or two about tires, this is a tire which aims to maximize street performance without beating up your passengers or your wallet. Continental
says angled tread blocks with chamfered edges permit an increased surface contact area when the tire is under pressure, enhancing traction in cornering and braking scenarios. Large shoulder blocks help in dry conditions, while a 340 treadwear rating is backed by a 50,000 km limited warranty.