The testing department at Car and Driver knows everything there is to know about choosing the right tires. They’re the rare set of automotive journalists who, with engineer backgrounds and decades of track experience, can legitimately hold instrumented performance tests of new tires. The following tires are not the result of a C/D tire test; however, they’re based on the collective subjective experience of our editors.
Our advice still counts for a lot. We drive everything, and our job description includes finding the weakness and strength in cars. More often than not, that includes tire quality. Summer tires prioritize wet and dry grip in warm months. (If you live north of the Sun Belt and you’re thinking of swapping to summers, you’ll want to invest in winter tires, too.) Summer tires are sold in several categories, from the casual “touring” grade often found on all-wheel-drive sedans to barely street-legal treads on supercars. In this article, we’ve focused on the higher-spec summer tires meant for sports cars and sedans (we’ll get to summer-rated SUV and truck tires another time). Many of them are factory fitted on some of the most track-capable vehicles on sale today. If our experience and a car manufacturer’s dedicated engineering team don’t give you confidence in buying a set of summer tires, then we don’t know what will.
Because tire sizing, load, and tread-wear ratings are unique to your specific vehicle, pricing will vary.
What to Bring to a Track Day
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Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
The winner of our last summer-tire test, Michelin’s follow-up to the Pilot Super Sport (an incredible tire in its own right) delivers top-notch grip in both dry and wet conditions. But with tires, you generally have to pay peak prices for peak performance. Plus, these are very capable should you choose to attend a track day or friendly autocross. The soft felt-like texture on the sidewalls is like a parsley sprig topping this gourmet piece of rubber.
Bridgestone Potenza S007
Designed as original equipment for the Ferrari F12, this tire can handle extremes while providing decent comfort. After all, those big V-12 coupes are grand touring cars meant for long-distance travel, at high-speed, natch. Does the name ring a bell? You’ll also find them on a few Aston Martins.
Hankook Ventus S1 evo3
Volkswagen specs these tires on the 10Best-winning GLI, a sporty four-door that handles remarkably well for a nose-heavy front-wheel-drive sedan. Credit the steady grip and good steering feel these Hankooks deliver.
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050
Infiniti specs this Dunlop for performance versions of the Q50 sedan. It prioritizes increased tread life over outright performance, but it feels noticeably better than most all-season tires.
Continental ExtremeContact Sport
When it was new for 2017, C/D tried this tire during a product launch and found the stiff sidewall and heat resistance impressive during track laps in a BMW M3. It scored best in wet in our last test as well as being the quietest on the road. It comes in lots of sizes, even “smaller” 17-inch wheel fitments popular in late-model sports sedans.
Firestone Firehawk Indy 500
The Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 may leverage the name of what is arguably the most iconic motor race in the world, but it made its own name as an amazing value. Bang for buck is one of our favorite quotients.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3
The Eagle F1 Supercar 3 is a great choice and available in many sizes. Chevrolet puts this tire to use on the Camaro ZL1 and 1LE, but the top-dog ZL1 1LE uses the Supercar 3R, a car and tire combo that delivered 1.18 g’s of grip on a skidpad. (If you don’t know, that’s very, very good.)
Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R
The P Zero PZ4 is a ubiquitous tire found on sedans, exotics, and even SUVs, but this P Zero Trofeo R is the pointy tip of Pirelli’s spear. Lamborghini Aventador? Check. Porsche 911? Check. Acura NSX? Trofeo Rs are so sticky that pebbles constantly stick to its tread. Best to take it easy in the wet, Ayrton.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
In the same track-focused class as the Trofeo R, the Pilot Sport Cup 2 is, in our collective opinion, the tire all other rubber makers are chasing. The engineers who work on inexpensive, no-name generic tires wax poetic at the water cooler about the Cup 2. Sure, it is peaky, with just a lap or two of top performance before the kung-fu grip wears off, but you can enjoy a full track day and still make it home for dinner. It’s the tire of choice for high-profile cars such as the C7 Corvette ZR1, BMW M4 GTS, and Porsche 918 Spyder.
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