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Best Rated High Performance Car Tires of 2021 Including Winter Swap Outs

Here’s the latest from Consumer Reports on what they found from extensive testing the best high performance tires you can buy in 2021 for all-season use and a recommended winter swap out for your gentler all-season tires.


Shopping For the Right Tires

Earlier we learned about the latest update from Consumer Reports about their best recommended choices for SUV and truck tires. And, we also learned that with Labor Day and fall just around the corner, that we can expect some new car deals to emerge. Which is why now is the time to start planning ahead when researching that new car deal and decide what tires you are going to have placed on your vehicle as part of the bargaining process when negotiating with a car dealer.

Tire Classifications

As such, automotive analysts from Consumer Reports recently released their findings on high performance tires designed for cars under the categories of:

• All-season and performance all-season
• Ultra-high-performance all-season
• Ultra-high-performance all-season summer, winter/snow
• Performance winter/snow

What to Look for in Your New Tires

Tires can make a huge difference in your driving and riding experience and safety. And while looking for tires, don’t fall for advertisement gimmicks and tire models a tire center may be pushing because of poor sellers that they need to unload. Instead, be sure that you base your buyng decision less on the price, and more about what impact the tire choices have toward braking, handling, ride, noise, and fuel economy.

Tire Testing

According to Consumer Reports, their analysts test over 40 tire models each year for cars, trucks and SUVs at their Consumer Reports Auto Test Center and on thousands of miles of public roads to determine what each model really brings to tire buyers in performance rather than rely on manufacturer claims.

To see how they do their testing, here is a YouTube video showing what their analysts are looking at in tires in what has to be a dream job for the car enthusiast---being paid to go on road trips.

Car Testing: The One Day Road Trip

Tire Test Results

Just to be clear, the distinction between a performance tire and a standard tire is that performance tires are “grip tuned” for enthusiastic driving and are typically a higher speed rating than standard tires, while providing better handling and braking capabilities.

That said, here is a summary of CR’s recommended best car tires by category:

The Top Recommended Best All-Season Tire---It turns out that the Michelin Defender T+H is their top choice for not just the larger SUVs and trucks, but is also an excellent choice for many car model due to its superior dry surface braking, road handling and resistance to hydroplaning performance.

Priced at $156.99 - $160.99 per tire, this all-season tire provides a good overall blend of the aforementioned tire qualities during testing (It had average or greater performance in every test conducted) including a projected tread life of a remarkable 85,000 miles.

For a less expensive cost-saving alternative, for this category they also the General Altimax RT43 as a solid performance tire with a projected tread life of 70,000 miles.

The Top Recommended Performance All-Season Tire--The Michelin CrossClimate2 with its unique tread designs and enhanced rubber compounds that increase traction across a broad temperature range made it as CR’s top choice. Unless you expect to drive your car under extreme snow conditions, there no need to swap this all-season tire for winter/snow tires when bad weather hits this winter.

One con to this tire, as with many snow and ice capable tires, rolling resistance measurements indicate that fuel economy is likely to be affected. One notable shortcoming is in rolling resistance—a test-based assessment of a tire’s impact on fuel economy.

Although a predicted tread life of 75,000 in comparison, CR recommends the Continental PureContact LS as a good alternative performance all-season tire.

Top Recommended Ultra-High-Performance All-Season Tires---Intended for upscale sedans and sport vehicles, the Goodyear Eagle Exhilarate got top marks for better handling and more responsive steering under wet and dry conditions (including braking on wet and dry surfaces)---but does not measure up as well when it comes to treadwear and ride comfort.

Fortunately however, CR found four alternatives that tied overall offering a better balance with higher marks for tread life and comfort with the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+, the General G-MAX AS-05, BFGoodrich’s G-Force COMP-2 A/S, and the Vredestein Quatrac Pro.

Top Recommended Ultra-High-Performance Summer Tires---The Michelin Pilot Sport 4s provides the maximum in handling and braking with its better grip under warm weather and dry road conditions. That stated, CR warns that with decreased temperatures, it loses some of its better gripping abilities and owners may want to swap for winter rated tires if traveling under snow and ice conditions.

Alternative tire choices include the Continental ExtremeContact Sport and the General G-Max RS.

The Top Recommended Winter/Snow Tire---
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 rates best with its excellent snow traction abilities as well as its above average dry braking, resistance to hydroplaning, and ride comfort performance qualities. Because it is a winter/snow tire, it has extra deep tread that allows a vehicle to handle snow significantly better than an all-season tire, and therefore does not qualify for an accurate comparison when discussing expected tread life against other tire types. At a cost of $131per tire, it is another reasonable tire buy.

An alternative offered is the Michelin X-Ice Snow; however, its handling score is below average, and it is more expensive.

The Top Recommended Performance Winter/Snow Tire---The Vredestein Wintrac Pro is the for-winter-only swap for the gentler-season ultra-high performance all-season and summer tires. CR testing shows that it excels in hydroplaning resistance, snow traction, and ice braking; and therefore, is the top choice for the most challenging winter driving conditions. As always with tires designed for snow and ice, however, its rolling resistance factor does affect fuel economy.

A runner up alternative includes the Michelin Pilot PA4, but at a lesser comparison when it comes to snow gripping abilities.

And finally…

For more about the latest tire-related information about car repair, maintenance and care, be sure to check out these related articles on tire repair sealants, which tires to avoid, the differences between 2-wheel, 4-wheel and all-wheel drive, and common tire center scams.

COMING UP NEXT: Can you mix tires when one is damaged but the rest are still good?

Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.