Evaluating Tire Performance Features

When selecting new tires, it is important to know that there is not always one perfect tire for all driving conditions. Each tire is designed for specific driving conditions and will have pros,cons and performance trade-offs.

Skip to a specific tire type:

All-Season Tires Summer Tires High Performance Tires
Ultra-High Performance Tires Winter Tires Run-Flat Tires
Track and Competition Tires Highway Truck Tires All-Terrain Tires
Mud-Terrain Tires Sport Truck Tires

All-Season Tires

Pros: All-season tires are designed to provide reasonable performance in a wide range of driving conditions, such as dry, wet, and light snow. These tires typically feature tread patterns with a harder rubber compound for increased tread life and siping for both wet and light winter traction. All-season tires typically last longer than tires that are designed for only one specific driving condition. The main goal of all-season tires is to provide moderate traction for a wide variety of seasons.

Cons: Since all-season tires are designed to be adequate for a wide variety of driving conditions, they will not be the best in any one specific condition. As the weather gets colder, the rubber compound in all-season tires becomes more rigid. By the time temperatures are at or below 45 degrees, the rubber is stiff enough that the tire loses flexibility, leading to a loss of traction. Winter tires are designed for these temperatures and therefore provide better winter traction. When compared to a summer tire, all-season tires typically have deep tread blocks and a harder rubber compound, leading to more tread squirm and a loss of cornering and handling abilities.

Summer Tires

Pros: Summer tires are designed for responsive performance in dry and wet driving conditions. They typically have large contact patches and low profile sidewalls that deliver excellent traction and responsive cornering. They have high speed ratings and soft rubber compounds for optimum traction and performance.

Cons: The softer rubber leads to faster treadwear and increased rolling resistance which makes these tires less energy efficient. The lower profile sidewalls create a less comfortable ride, and the larger contact patch can contribute to an increase in road noise.

High Performance Tires

Pros: High performance tires are engineered to provide excellent traction and responsive performance. They feature a softer, enhanced rubber compound for better traction, handling, and braking and are able to disperse heat more efficiently. The higher speed ratings lead to better handling than standard tires and feature large contact patches and shorter sidewalls for improved traction and steering response. These tires are available in summer, winter, and all-season designs.

Cons: The shorter sidewalls can create a rougher ride and the softer rubber compounds may lead to a decrease in tread life when compared to standard tires. It is also possible for the larger contact patch to generate increased road noise. With the advanced performance features, there is typically an increased cost associated with high performance tires.

Ultra-High Performance Tires

Pros: Ultra-high performance (UHP) tires provide the highest level of performance and grip in dry weather conditions. They feature low profile sidewalls for responsive handling and super soft rubber compounds for excellent grip, handling, and braking. They also feature the highest speed ratings for heat dispersion and are comprised of lightweight materials for enhanced handling and high-speed control, and large contact patches for increased grip.

Cons: The shorter reinforced sidewalls can create a harsher ride than standard tires and larger contact patch can potentially lead to more road noise. While the softer rubber compound provides excellent handling and traction, they tend to wear faster than standard tires. The advanced features and technology that provide the higher performances, tend to lead to higher overall costs associated with UHP tires.

Winter Tires

Pros: Winter tires are designed for traction in harsh conditions brought on by winter weather. Winter tires have a special tread compound that is designed to remain flexible at temperatures below 45 degrees. They feature special tread patterns with extra-dense siping for grip in snowy and icy driving conditions. Some winter tires can be studded to provide more grip in icy conditions, one of the most dangerous road conditions drivers can encounter.

Cons: With winter tires being designed for winter driving conditions they do not do as well the rest of the year. They will typically wear out faster in hot temperatures and will not handle as well as an all-season or summer tire. A good rule of thumb is to change back to your standard tire when temperatures no longer drop below 45 degrees.

Run-Flat Tires

Pros: Run-flat tires have a reinforced sidewall or, in some cases, an internal support ring that will support the weight of the vehicle after a loss of air pressure. These tires enable a vehicle to be driven at reduced speeds for a limited distance in the event of a flat tire. This eliminates stopping in a potentially dangerous situation to change a tire.

Cons: Reinforced sidewalls in run-flat tires tend to lead to a harsher ride when compared to standard tires. While run-flat tires provide support for air loss, they can still blow out. If the tires are driven on while underinflated, internal damage can occur, leading to tire failure. This is why it is necessary to have a TPMS system equipped on your vehicle if you intend to use run-flat tires. There is often an increased cost associated with run-flat tires due to the advanced technology that reinforces these tires.

Track and Competition Tires

Pros: These tires feature the highest level of street-legal performance. There are several segments of Track and Competition tires: wet, dry, autocross, road, and drag racing. Track and competition tires meet the minimum tread depth and construction criteria for Department of Transportation (DOT) approval. They offer maximum tread contact and tread designs optimized for exceptional dry traction, cornering and braking. Being street legal, they can be driven to and from events without having to be changed at the track. Track and competition tires are available in a wide range of sizes and fitments to suit the needs of almost any enthusiast.

Cons: The shorter reinforced sidewalls, that deliver responsive performance, can create a harsh ride. The soft rubber compound, which delivers outstanding grip and performance, tends to wear out rapidly. While these tires are street legal, they are not always intended for street use. They are designed for high-speed traction and performance, and should be used conservatively on the street. They often need a break-in period to achieve optimal traction and performance and are designed for very specific performance, such as extreme traction in dry conditions with sacrifices in wet performance. Should track conditions change, your tires may need to be changed out to continue racing. These tires are not intended for temperatures near freezing.

Highway Truck Tires

Pros: Highway truck tires provide a smooth, quiet ride for trucks and SUVs. They tend to have less aggressive tread designs to prevent vibrations and road noise. They are designed with basic all-season tread patterns and deliver good cornering and braking in comparison to other truck and SUV tires. They are produced in a wide range of sizes in order to meet the requirements of a huge array of vehicles.

Cons: The less aggressive tread designs of highway tires may not provide adequate traction for winter or off the road driving conditions such as dirt, gravel, sand, and mud.

All-Terrain Tires

Pros: All-terrain tires combine the best elements of highway truck tires and mud-terrain tires. They are designed to have adequate wet traction and braking on pavement in addition to off-road capabilities. They have larger tread blocks and deeper, diagonal grooves to remove debris more efficiently. They have a wide variety of ply ratings to support multiple classes of trucks and SUVs. All-terrain tires have larger tread openings near the sidewall for additional grip off-road and most feature thicker, reinforced sidewalls for added protection off-road.

Cons: The large openings near the sidewall allow more air to flow through the tread area, which can create road noise. With the tread blocks being larger, there is an increased risk of tread squirm, which can lead to less stable on-road handling. In order to provide the off-road capabilities, some wet weather performance is sacrificed.

Mud-Terrain Tires

Pros: Mud-terrain tires are engineered for off-road performance, geared toward enthusiasts. These tires have the largest diagonal grooves for exceptional grip in a variety of off-road conditions with special rubber compounds for increased durability, stability, and wear. The tread designs often extend down past the sidewall to enhance off-road traction. The sidewalls are often reinforced to be cut and bruise resistant when used in low air pressure conditions off-road.

Cons: The larger tread blocks create more road noise at higher speeds and produce tread squirm leading to less stability when used on pavement. They are designed for off-road performance, so ride comfort and longevity are not usually taken into account. While their tread pattern provides excellent grip off-road, it does not perform well in wet or icy conditions.

Sport Truck Tires

Pros: Sport truck tires are intended to provide better handling, cornering and braking than any other tires for trucks and SUV's. They come in a wide range of sizes to suit many different trucks and SUVs. They work great in dry and wet conditions, and are available in a variety of speed ratings.

Cons: Because sport truck tires have higher speed ratings and softer tread compounds, they will likely wear out faster than highway truck tires. They typically have shorter sidewalls and will absorb bumps less efficiently, which can lead to a stiffer ride. They have less off-road performance capabilities than other truck tires.