A guide to performance tyres


You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘performance’ tyres are only found on Formula 1 and V8 Supercars. Or you may have seen them in the tyre store and thought: ‘Oh, only fancy cars need those!’ However, performance tyres aren’t just for the boy racers or the wealthy. As tyres generally become cheaper, performance tyres are frequently offered at reduced prices, making them more accessible for more people.

What are performance tyres?

You may be thinking: ‘What’s the difference between performance tyres and regular, cheap tyres?’ Quite simply, you are paying for the technology – and the characteristics of the tyres that make them perform better. It’s the same with buying a car; generally speaking, the more you pay, the better ‘quality’ you can get, and this is found in the technology, safety features, and workmanship put into the car.

Performance tyres are often the pride of their manufacturers, boasting their latest technologies. This can help keep you safe on the road, and able to get a greater performance out of your car. This is achieved through the tyres being made of a softer compound. You may have seen that, in Formula 1 racing, teams change tyres on their cars quite frequently. This is because of their extremely soft compound, and the car’s speed makes the softer tyres stick to the tarmac better, which allows for better cornering and handling. The sticky rubber means Formula 1 cars burn through tyres quickly, as the rubber literally melts lap by lap.

Why do people buy performance tyres?

Fear not! You don’t have to worry about performance tyres melting off as you drive to work. The Formula 1 tyres are an extreme example of performance at work, however consumer performance tyres do stick to the road better than cheap, harder tyres, especially in the wet.

People buy performance tyres quite simply because they help your car handle better, and this is evident nearly straight away. With a full set of performance tyres, you can expect better handling, better steering wheel feedback, better braking and increased assurance that you will remain safe when going around a bend in wet weather.

You don’t need a powerful car with big wheels either. These days the manufacturers are realising that people in small city runabouts also want a tyre with a slight performance edge, and brands now offer many options with smaller tyre sizes.

How much do performance tyres cost?

Performance tyres vary in price as much as cars can! There are three main factors that determine the price:

  • How well they ‘perform’
  • The wheel size
  • The brand of tyre

Considering the first factor, this can vary from ‘city car needing a bit of extra grip’, to ’12 cylinder track beast wanting to win pole position’. For the second factor, most small city runabouts have around a 15 inch wheel. If you have an SUV, wheels are often 17 inches or above, and if you have a sports car or a high performance V8 saloon, wheel sizes can reach 19 inches and above! Obviously, increased wheel size means extra rubber demands, so you’ll pay more for your tyres.

The third price factor is a little harder to determine – you may or may not have a good idea about which tyre manufacturers are considered ‘elite’, and which aren’t. Michelin and Pirelli are two of the more high-end brands, and this is reflected in their contracts with motorsports leagues around the world. Their performance tyres often fetch a premium due to their name alone. More mid-range brands include Bridgestone, Goodyear, Yokohama, Kumho and Hankook. That is not to say they make an inferior tyre, rather their name is not as associated with such high prestige.

The price of performance tyres ranges dramatically. You can expect to pay as little as $120 per tyre for a smaller size, all the way up to $1,600 for a large, track-use tyre! This example is at the extreme end, but expect to pay anywhere between that, and we suggest budgeting around $200 per tyre for a 15 inch wheel will leave you very satisfied on the road.

Are performance tyres worth the money?

Value can be a very subjective thing, depending on your own circumstances. While an executive for a large company who likes to use his sports car on tracks at weekends probably won’t scoff at a $1,600 performance tyre, many Australians would, and understandably so. You can buy a full set of cheap tyres for less than $400, so really you just need to ask yourself if you’re willing to spend extra for greater ‘performance’ and peace of mind on the road.

You will likely feel the difference straight away through the steering wheel, and increased safety while driving is a value that can’t be determined in dollars. Let’s finish by weighing up the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of performance tyres

Pros Cons
Improved grip in dry and wet Poorer fuel economy
Improved handling and braking distance Soft compound means durability is sacrificed
Increased safety and technology More expensive
Quieter and more comfortable on the road More likely to pay for ‘name’ and ‘prestige’

The choice is yours. But remember, it doesn’t matter which type of tyre you drive on, if you drive like an idiot, you’ll be putting yourself and other road-users in danger.

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