Tire Performance Categories Explained

A selection of different tires
Tup Wanders / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

If you've ever shopped for tires, you've probably asked yourself or your local Tire Person a question like:

  • “What's the difference between UHP and Grand Touring?”
  • “Do I really need Extreme Performance, or is Ultra High Performance good enough for me?”
  • “Just who the heck is this Max Performance guy anyway?”

Or something like that...

Tire performance categories can be enormously confusing. This can be very important information ​because you're going to want a tire that fits your car and driving style.

If you don't know the differences, it can be very easy to upsell you into a higher performance, more expensive tire when what you really wanted was something with a smooth ride that will get you to the store and back, or vice versa.

So here for your edification are my general definitions of the various categories that street tires will fit into. One thing to keep in mind, though - tire performance categories can be kind of slippery around the edges. In general, tires tend to cluster in certain categories but in specific there sometimes isn't a huge amount of difference between, say, a low-end Extreme Performance tire and a high-end Max Performance tire.

Extreme Performance

The highest level of street performance, these tires trade off wet grip capabilities and comfortable ride qualities to deliver the maximum dry grip and performance available. While these are not specifically track tires, they are best used in situations where competition-level performance is needed, as simply using them to get to the store and back is like using dynamite to kill flies.

This category includes tires such as:

  • Bridgestone Potenza RE-11
  • Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec
  • Hankook Ventus R-S3

Max Performance

Max Performance tires provide high-speed handling, superior performance and a somewhat better ride than Extreme Performance, along with some wet grip and hydroplaning resistance.

As with Extreme Performance tires, these are not best used as daily drivers

This category includes:

  • Michelin Pilot Super Sport
  • Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position
  • Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT

Ultra High Performance Summer

The highest level of performance many street drivers will ever need, UHP summer tires are generally low-profile, high steering response monsters made for cornering the hottest cars at the hottest speeds. They will almost always carry “V” or higher speed ratings. Their wet capabilities will be more towards the useless side.

This category includes:

Ultra High-Performance All-Season

Much the same as UHP Summer tires, but with siping or other technology added to enhance wet grip and hydroplaning resistance. Despite the All Season label, with the notable exception of the Conti DWS these are not usually tires to be trusted in any kind of snow or ice.

This category includes:

    High-Performance Summer

    A slight step down from UHP tires, these are built for good performance and predictable handling at high speed, along with good ride quality. Many OE tires, except for those on very high-performance cars, will fall into this category. HP tires are much more likely to carry “H” speed ratings.

    This category includes:

    • Pirelli P6000
    • Yokohama ADVAN A680

    High-Performance All-Season

    HP All Season tires are made for good performance, while adding in wet capabilities. As with most tires labeled “All Season” they should not actually be trusted in any kind of real winter conditions.

    This category includes:

    Performance All-Season

    These tires are generally designed for decent handling and good looks along with somewhat upgraded ride quality.

    This category includes:

    • BFGoodrich Radial T/A
    • Goodyear Eagle GT II

    Grand Touring Summer

    Grand Touring tires are primarily designed for ride quality and fuel efficiency more than pure performance and handling, although most will have good to acceptable levels of performance in that area. GT tires will have a smooth and sometimes even a pillowy ride, and generally make for great daily driver and road trip tires. They are also almost always less expensive than their higher-performance cousins.

    This category includes:

    • Michelin Primacy HP
    • Bridgestone Turanza ER30
    • Continental ContiPremiumContact 2

    Grand Touring All-Season

    GT All-Seasons add in substantially more wet grip to the smooth ride and low rolling resistance of their summer counterparts. Although many do have somewhat more light winter capability than UHP All Seasons, for example, I would still not consider most of them winter-capable in any real sense.

    This category includes:

    Standard Touring All-Season

    Much like Grand Touring, but Standard Touring generally features higher aspect ratios, lower speed ratings and lower prices.

    This category includes:

    • Michelin Defender
    • Continental ProContact with EcoPlus Technology
    • Pirelli P4 Four Seasons
    • General Altimax RT
    • Bridgestone Turanza EL42

    Passenger All-Season

    Generally lower-priced, lower performance tires, but on the other hand Passenger All Season tires can also tend to be slightly more winter-capable.

    • Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season
    • Michelin Harmony
    • Continental ContiEcoContact EP

    Winter

    Designed for cold temps and deeper snow, winter tires should be put on as soon as you can see your breath in the air and taken off again when you can't.