Aug 232011

If you’re in the market for new tires for your BMW or another kind of performance car , you might be a bit confused right now. The proliferation of categories — Extreme performance, Max performance, Ultra High performance – can make selecting the right tires very difficult.

I’m researching right now because my 1999 M3 needs new tires. In my opinion, the proliferation of categories is a product of technology and marketing. Advances in technology have allowed for tires that can combine formerly incompatible attributes like comfort, dry handling and wet handling. Marketing also plays a role, since more categories gives tire brands a better chance of differentiating themselves in a very crowded market.

Technology can only go so far, and every tire involves a trade off. Basically, the more grip you want the more you need to compromise on ride quality and tread life.

A fantastic resource for tire information is Tire Rack. Their site conducts tire tests and shares their findings, along with many customer reviews as well. Here’s an explanation of performance tire categories, from their site. As you move down the list, performance wanes and comfort/durability waxes:

Extreme Performance (Summer Only)
-Trade some comfort, tread depth and hydroplanning resistance to deliver dry road response, traction and handling for serious driving enthusiasts.

Max Performance (Summer Only)
-Technologically advanced tires that provide superior dry and wet traction, handling and high-speed capabilities.

Ultra High Performance (All-Season or Summer)
-Low profile tires designed to provide high-speed capabilities and quick steering response along with stable cornering and traction on dry and wet roads.

High Performance (All-Season or Summer)
-Crisp steering response and predictable  handling for both wet and dry conditions.

Performance All-Season
-Upgraded looks and handling over passenger all-season tires.

Grand Touring (All-Season or Summer)
-Blends many attributes of a performance tire’s bold appearance and responsive handling with a passenger tire’s smooth, quite ride.

So those are the categories, but some of the differences can seem pretty subtle. What’s the difference between Ultra High summer tires and Max Performance summer tires? That’s an example of technology creating a new category. According to Tire Rack, Ultra Highs trade some grip for longer tread life than Max tires.

I don’t need Extreme tires, since I’ve only tracked my car once and I don’t want to be replacing tires after less than a year of use. Also, I don’t drive the M3 in winter. So the two categories I’m focusing on are Max and Ultra High summer. As for price, I want to keep it around $150 per tire.

I’ve narrowed my search down to a handful of finalists. They are the Dunlop SP Sport Max TT, the Sumitomo HTR ZIII, the Continental ExtremeContact DW and the Kumho ECSTA SPT. Final decision will be affected by availability and the best price. I’ll update this post when the M3 is wearing her new rubber.


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