How do performance tyres affect a car's performance?

By Camelia Maftei

Performance tyres were originally intended for use by track day vehicles and racing cars. They quickly became popular with drivers of hot hatchbacks, coupes and other similarly sporty cars due to the improvements they made to vehicle aesthetics, braking distances and lateral stability when cornering. In recent years, however, they have attracted a new following amongst people who simply wish to improve the safety and overall performance of their commuter vehicle.

wheel on a car

Performance tyres are now being made in a variety of sizes and for a number of different environmental conditions. There are models from a wide range of tyre manufacturers, including leading brands such as Falken, Pirelli and Bridgestone, aiming to accommodate this new trend for fitting standard vehicles with performance tyres.

How Tyres Affect Car Performance

It is easy to forget that the tyres are the only thing keeping a vehicle in contact with the road. It doesn't matter what car you drive, how well you drive or the conditions in which you drive - if your tyres are perished or unsuitable for your car, handling will be adversely affected. Conversely, fitting your vehicle with correctly inflated tyres for its type, size and function will always enhance safety, providing you with better traction, steering and fuel economy. This is true, irrespective of the cost of the tyres, as even a budget brand is tested to rigorous safety standards prior to being made available on the open market.

Tyres are hugely important, to the point that many vehicles that fail their annual MOT do so on tyres. This is because it is widely recognised that tyres are a significant factor in maintaining driver safety. A vehicle with insufficient tread on its tyres, or that is driving on perished or damaged tyres will not be able to stop as effectively in an emergency and this could result in an accident.

When choosing tyres, it is important to remain within the parameters set by your vehicle manufacturer and to always ensure that the tyres fitted at each end of an axle are of the same size and tread, even if they are made by different brands. Fitting tyres of different sizes on the same axle is an MOT failure as this will adversely impact vehicle performance and safety.

What Makes Performance Tyres Different?

Performance tyres are made with a special blend of softer rubber compounds and have rigid sidewalls to allow for increased grip when travelling at speed and on cornering. They are specially constructed with unique tread patterns to improve the handling and stability of the vehicle to which they are fitted and are very responsive to driver inputs, making them fully compatible with modern steering, suspension and Antilock Braking Systems (ABS).

Many features are common to all performance tyres, regardless of manufacturer, and these include a low profile sidewall which enhances the tyre's ability to maintain stability when cornering; large tread blocks that deliver increased traction in dry conditions; fewer blades and aggressive tread blocks that enhance handling and a combination of rubber compounds which allow for higher speed ratings.

Several tyre manufacturers include a range of other functional features in their performance tyres to improve their ability to perform at high speeds, on tight bends and under harsh braking. These vary between brands and sizes, so to determine which performance tyres are best suited to your style of driving and the make and model of your vehicle, we recommend speaking to our tyre professionals who will be happy to provide tailored advice for you.

Advantages Of Performance Tyres

High performance tyres provide a more responsive driving experience, allowing you to corner more aggressively and brake sharply. They offer excellent manoeuvrability and control, especially when used in wet weather conditions. The rigidised sidewalls and rugged tread patterns can also improve durability, making your tyres last longer when used under normal driving conditions. It is worth noting that subjecting them to extreme forces or routinely using them on uneven surfaces will create tyre wear that may exceed that of a standard tyre, due to the softer rubber compounds used to manufacture them.

Performance tyres, being made of a heat-resistant compound, are less likely to experience failures or blowouts due to overheating, making them popular with drivers whose commutes include travelling long distances at speed on motorways.

Considerations When Upgrading To Performance Tyres

It is important to consider the impact of tyres on car performance when choosing to change from the manufacturer's recommended tyres to ensure that you will not only benefit from the enhanced performance but also be prepared for any consequences of that decision.

Some performance tyres are made slightly wider than the tyres originally fitted by the vehicle's manufacturer and in such instances, it is important to ensure that safety parameters are not breached when upsizing your tyres. Doing so can adversely impact vehicle performance and increase the risk of accidental sidewall, tyre arch and suspension damage. In general, it is recommended that you can increase the tyre size by 1.5% without creating unwanted impacts elsewhere on the vehicle chassis, suspension and steering systems.

The softer rubber of performance tyres is designed to be used in warm climates and generally does not perform to the same high levels when used in temperatures below 7 °C. For improved handling in cold weather, you may wish to consider fitting appropriately sized winter tyres to your vehicle instead, which are better able to handle cold temperatures.

The extra grip provided by performance tyres increases the rolling resistance of your vehicle and requires it to use greater effort to accelerate. This can reduce fuel economy and also increase cabin noise, so if driver comfort is a requirement, performance tyres may not be the right choice for you.

If you feel that your vehicle would benefit from being fitted with performance tyres, you can book a free tyre check online or contact your local Protyre garage to discuss your options with our qualified fitters.

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About the author

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By Camelia Maftei
Camelia leads Protyre's customer service team and is skilled in customer communications.
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