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The highest performance tyre might not be the best choice for everyone. Likewise, a mid-range performance tyre has its place - it all comes down to your needs.
Category: Car Technical Advice
Even with the best brake kit and suspension setup, you'll still need tyres that are capable of holding onto the road in order to stop on a dime and handle like the car's on rails. Tyres are the only points of contact that your car has with the road, and you'll want the best you can get to keep it that way.
But what is the best tyre that you can get? Well, it depends on plenty of factors, and what your needs are. There's a reason why racing slicks aren't legal to use on public roads despite offering maximum grip in the dry - you'll likely end up in a wall when it rains. For the typical driver, there are many factors to consider apart from dry grip - it includes wet grip, noise level, comfort, longevity and price. So, here are some advice for choosing your tyres.
1. Understand that there is no 'perfect' tyre - there has to be some trade off
Like many other things in life, you simply can't have it all. Yes, that is even if you are willing to pay.
Ultra-ultra high performance tyres or trackday tyres will offer an immense level of dry grip that is comparable with semi-slick tyres of the yesteryears, all while being legal to use on the streets.
However, these tyres that are created with track duty in mind might not be the best choice for the average driver, or those who are looking for more performance out of their daily rides.
Such tyres tend to have shallower and aggressive tread patterns, which trade water displacement capabilities for maximum surface area and sturdier tread blocks in order to maximise response and grip in the dry.
As such, these 'trackday tyres' might not fare as well in the wet as other less performance-oriented tyres. Additionally, these purpose-built tyres will also wear out much quicker due to their sticky and soft compound.
Similarly, you shouldn't expect an eco tyre that's focused on longevity and fuel economy to provide gobs of grip at the race track - there is always a trade off. This brings us to the next point...
2. Know your needs, don't buy blindly
Since there isn't an omnipotent tyre that does everything perfectly, you will have to consider your needs and preferences, in order to choose the most suitable tyre.
If you wouldn't buy a set of winter tyres to use in Singapore, why would you go for a set of trackday tyres for your daily transportation?
The type of car and driving that you do affects your choice of tyres. High-powered performance cars will benefit from tyres with matching performance. In fact, you'll notice supercars and high-performance sports cars tend to come equipped with grippy tyres right out of the factory.
Of course, there's no one stopping you from putting a set of sticky ultra-ultra high performance tyres on your econobox. But you should be aware of the downsides of doing so - these tyres are costly and wear out fast. Furthermore they tend to generate jarring road noise and perform poorly in the wet. Are you ready to live with these consequences?
In most cases, a set of performance tyres that sits a tier or two lower than a hardcore 'trackday tyre' would already bring about a sufficient level of grip and control without as many downsides when used on a daily car. So, don't just splurge for the most expensive and grippiest tyre available without thinking it through.
3. The different types of tyres
These are general tyres that offer acceptable levels of comfort, wet and dry grip, and longevity. All-rounder tyres are typically affordable and easy to source, but they are also unlikely to satisfy the needs of performance driving.
That said, among the many choices, there are options that can have an edge on certain aspect, catering to each driver's specific needs such as comfort.
Eco tyres are for people who want the best in fuel efficiency. They are a good match for, and often found on hybrids and electric vehicles that place much importance on efficiency.
These tyres are able to achieve lower fuel/energy consumption as they are engineered to have lower rolling resistance. Consequentially, these tyres also tend to be rather quiet. Eco tyres tend to be more costly, but you can look forward to making the cost up with the fuel savings they provide.
SUV/Crossover specific tyres
SUVs and crossovers tend to also have a taller body and higher ride height, which places its centre of gravity in a rather high position, resulting in a lack of stability, especially at highway speeds.
Thankfully, tyre manufacturers have noticed these issues and most offer SUV/crossover specific tyres, which are designed to provide extremely stable handling. These tyres are also designed to take the heftier load and reduce wobble, which is usually present on such cars with raised ride heights.
Premium performance / luxury tyres
These days, most luxury cars pack quite a bit of power, especially when you get to the higher tier models. These cars are not only expected to offer a cushy ride, they need to perform well to truly impress.
Naturally, these performance luxury cars need to have a fitting set of tyres in order to meet the expectations of drivers. This is where premium performance tyres come in. While these tyres tend to offer excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions, they also keep comfort and noise level in check to complement the premium ride quality.
Extreme performance / Ultra high performance / Ultra-ultra high performance tyres
These 'trackday tyres' are designed to cut down your lap times at the track. They are extremely grippy in the dry and offer performance through and through.
Noise and comfort is of little consideration, and naturally wet grip and longevity takes a back seat as well when it comes to these tyres. Of course, you can expect to shell out top dollar for them.
4. Consider keeping a spare set of tyres (and rims) for track duty
Due to the poor wet weather performance and longevity of ultra-ultra high performance tyres, you might want to consider keeping a spare set of them solely for track duty instead of having them on your car all year round and wear them out prematurely.
As the sticky and soft compound used on these tyres will also harden with excessive heat cycles, it would be wise to avoid using them for your daily commute if you want maximum performance out of them when the time comes to put them to the test at the track.
Here are some articles related to improving your car, have a look and make the correct decisions:
What they don't tell you: Lowering your car with coilovers isn't going to magically perfect its handling
What they don't tell you: The downsides of installing a big brake kit
6 types of car performance modifications to make your car faster on the track
Unsure of which type of tyres to go for? You can visit any of the recommended tyre workshops to get some useful advice.
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