Table of Contents
What is a sticky tire?
Just to be sure we are on the same page here, we are referring to sticky street tires. These tires are meant to provide extra grip for high-performance vehicles on regular streets and on the track.
There is another kind of tire called a sticky tire. They are more meant for off-roading and providing extreme traction and grip while driving by using an extra soft compound that literally hugs the road. We are not referring to this kind of tire, and wouldn’t recommend using an off-road sticky tire on a performance car.
Are sticky tires unique?
For drivers just getting into racing or performance cars, you’ve probably just heard of all-season tires that are meant to be used in all weather. Sticky tires, whether they are in the category of performance, high performance, or ultra high performance, have rather specific goals in mind when it comes to what they should do. Some are designed more for heat, others for cornering best, and for a variety of other reasons. Sticky tires tend to be more intentionally unique as the driver notices these differences more.
Any downsides to a sticky tire?
For people who come from the world of regular all-season tires, you’ll notice that sticky tires don’t last as long, and sometimes need replacement after 20,000 to 30,000 miles. They are also softer, which is part of what leads to what feels like early treadwear. The reality is that sticky tires with thicker treads might also affect performance and weight - so you might not actually want sticky tires that can go 50,000 miles.
What kind of cars need sticky tires?
Without naming off a number of manufacturers and probably missing a few: Any vehicle that can be driven on a track, or otherwise competitively is a solid candidate for “sticky tires.” Some Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Audis (again, among others!) come with “sticky tires” as a performance baseline, and because the engineers who make the cars know what they are made for.
You probably won’t need sticky tires if your vehicle isn’t considered a high performance car. For example, the average SUV or sedan is made for practical, everyday driving which doesn’t fit the strengths of a sticky fire at all.
How do you evaluate sticky tires?
We look at tests that compare how well tires perform under the conditions they were designed to do well out. Our reviews also factor in comfort, road noise, performance, and price. Price is weighted a bit less because people who drive with sticky tires know that the tires are not priced like an all-season tire, nor do they work the same way in terms of length of service.
Our Favorite Extreme Performance Sticky Street Tires:
Extreme Performance Sticky Street Tires Leader:
Yokohama Advan 052
Yokohama Advan earns high marks on TireTrack here it matters Dry performance. The Advan manages a solid 9.3 in dry performance, including a 9.6 in dry traction, and some decent comfort with 7.7. Yokohama outshined competitive track tires like the Falken Azenis and the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect in a four way test, successfully performing better at handling and cornering on a controlled course.
How does Yokohama do it? They have a proprietary compound they call MS into an asymmetric design that thrives under the pressure of high speed grip. The center ribs are wide to provide extra traction, and the broad shoulders give the Yokohama a feeling of serious stability when taking turns you’d only take on a track.
Compared to other tires in the category, the Yokohama handled the wet portion of the test surprisingly well - considering that none of these tires are meant to drive in rain. A 5.5 second slalom time cut off a quarter to a half a second from other competitor’s times of 5.7 plus seconds. Wet lap times were as many as 3 seconds faster.
Stopping on dry pavement - an important part of being able to control a high performance vehicle, also shows that the Yokohama is a well built tire. Yokohama stopped a few feet shorter than the Continental, and at least 15 feet shorter than all other tires in the rain.
At $248 per tire, the Yokohama isn’t the cheapest tire available, but it makes up for it with a well balanced set of handling and wet skills.
No tire is perfect, and some drivers reported that the Yokohama doesn’t grip or perform as well in temperatures under 55 degrees. This sounds about normal for an extreme performance summer tire.
Sticky Tire Runner Up:
Falken Azenis RT660
The Falken Azenis slightly outshines our star performer with the Yokohama Advan in one key area: It handles slightly better. Falken makes the vehicle feel more responsive, if not overly responsive, and feels realistic. The actual cornering traction suffers just a little bit, which is part of what put Yokohama above the Falken Azenis.
How does Falken achieve what it’s done here? For some geeky stuff, the Azenis uses Falken’s motorsports compound, which is soft and sticky. The center rib is continuous throughout the vehicle to provide as much road contact as possible, constantly, and the shoulders take up a broad space, giving drivers the ability to corner with ease.
One minor downside to their use of extra wide shoulders and the achievement of great overall grip, rated at 9.3 on TireTrack, is that the tire is not as comfy or quiet as Yokohama. While quiet isn’t that important, comfortable helps absorb some of the road, especially in older cars and those that were designed purely for track - and not to absorb little bumps.
Safety wise, the Falken stopped just a couple of feet short of the Yokohama on the dry tests, and offered the second best performance on a wet braking test at 125 feet.
At around $164 per tire, the Falken is also less money than the Yokohama Advan. Falken balances the need for assured handling with better pricing, which for people who assume they will regularly burn through tires - might be a good thought to have.
Sticky Tire Honoroble Mention: New In Class
Continental ExtremeContact Force
The Continental ExtremeContact Force is a newcome in the category of extreme performance for summer tires. Continental has a good track record of making a very wide array of tires and making a bit of a splash when entering new markets.
The ExtremeContact Force offers similar designs to the previous tires while adding a bit more to their circumference wide grooves that proper water away from the tire. They also come with a built in system to determine the remaining tread depth with a quick look of the eye.
So why is this the honorable mention? Well, it does some things well, and some things bad, and we are looking for a better balance. The ExtremeContact Force did better than competitors on steering characteristics and was appropriately responsive to all turns of the wheel. It was also very competitive in lap times and slalom - finishing in the same second as competitors.
The ExtremeContact Force is not as well built for braking under high speed and takes a few more feet to stop, and isn’t great on wet braking taking almost 25 feet more than Yokohama.
At around $171 per tire, it’s a little more than Falken, though we feel like you don’t get quite as much. If you run a chance of occasionally driving hard in the rain, there might not be your best option. The Continental otherwise steers like a dream.
Best Sticky Tire for Supreme Handling:
Bridgestone Potenza RE-71
Earlier, we suggested some manufacturers make tires that are good, primarily at one thing. The Bridgestone Potenza RE-71 corners like a tire above its class. On a handling test against a Dunlop Direzza, the previously mentioned Yokohama Advan, and the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival, the Bridgestone Potenza truly stood out for taking commanding, precise, and accurate corners. The Bridgestone also offered better than average braking and average lap time, meaning that it didn’t necessarily enable drivers to completely get out of corners that much quicker.
The Potenza uses a slightly stiffer outside edge to provide nice, controlled cornering, which especially ideal on cars built for the purpose of delivering tight, precise handling at high speed.
Wide shoulders and a stiff outer edge result in one thing that keeps this tire from really being at the top: It is louder than the competition. For people who like tires that handle very well, but you can hear than handle the road well, this might be for you. If you don’t care how loud a tire is, than it might not matter!
At about $185 per tire depending on the size, you get a bargain in comparison to Yokohama and others for the purpose of pure handling. If you bought your car to truly feel the engineering of the ability to turn, take corners, and get serious traction while doing so, this is one of your best bets.
Best Sticky Tire for Comfort
Dunlop Direzza ZIII
The Dunlop Direzza wasn’t an especially high performer in it’s own test, but it’s compromises also reveal a strength. The Dunlop Direzza feels really good to drive, earning some of the highest scores on handling and noise, as well as on steering and responsiveness. Excelling at these categories is what some extreme summer performance tires are all about - but the Dunlop is a bit different.
It doesn’t do as well on lap and slalom times, meaning that it doesn’t quite keep up with others on taking the tightest corners or gripping and accelerating out of a controller turn. This isn’t a big deal for some, especially if the corner itself is comfortable, or you are looking for the thriller of a drive and aren’t seeking personal best lap times. The wet lap was nearly 2 seconds longer than the leader in the category. The difference is that Dunlop is a bit quieter and more, comfortable than other tires in the same category.
At around $170 per tire, this is a pretty low priced high performance tire. You’ll still feel like you are accelerating hard out of a corner, maybe not knowing that other tires might be slightly faster.
Best Max Performance Summer Tires:
What’s the difference between extreme performance and max performance?
Believe it or not, there are multiple levels of performance for a sticky street tire. The extreme performance tires discussed above are meant primarily for track competition and are not daily drivers - and are not meant for driving in traffic through the rain. A max performance tire tends to be a more comfortable ride, but is also meant as a summer tire - and not a daily driver.
Best Overall Max Performance Summer Tire:
Pirelli P Zero
The Pirelli P Zero offers one of the best balances between performance handling and actual comfort in class. In a test between the Pirelli P Zero, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, and others, the Pirello P zero had the best comfort and road rating with a very solid 7.75 rating for noise and 7.5 for ride quality - the highest on the test.
Road handling isn’t actually the greatest, but certainly on par with other tires on the same test in a very competitive category. The lap time and slalom times were very much in category with a solid dry lap time of 30.5 seconds.
They also did quite well on the rain test and maintained a very solid 8.3 out of 10 on wet handling, which beat competitors by at least a half point.
Pirelli relies on a unique Formula 1 based silica formula to provide the right softness for serious cornering in advanced vehicles like a Lamborghini, Audi, or Ferrari, while also providing the right level of comfort - and lack of repetitive road noise.
At $236 per tire, they are well priced for what they are capable of.
Runner Up for Max Performance Summer Tire
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S had a best in class showing by just a little bit with some nice handling numbers at 8.25. It also had amongst the lowest ride quality ratings at 6.67 though the overall comfort was still good.
The Sport uses sicila hybrids to improve the overall wet rating to be highly competitive with Pirelli and other in class tires. The shoulder is kept low, but balanced to allow drivers the best control possible around corners without creating immediate, excessive wear.
The Sport isn’t the cheapest tire in the class, and is part of the reason why we selected Pirelli as the #1. At around $300 per tire, these aren’t a bargain for the class, but they perform quite well under strained conditions and will provide outstanding overall handling - but with a slightly rockier performance feel.
Max Performance Summer Tire Honorable Mention
The Continental ExtremeContact seems to be developed with a bit more caution in mind compared to other tires on our list. Continental offers a unique blend here - it’s not the most comfortable tire on our list, but it provides excellent handling and some of the best braking performance available in the class, beating everyone on both the wet and dry courses.
If you are possibly going to be driving in wet weather, these tires are a great option. They don’t get the same outstanding lap times - by a second, but if you aren’t going for absolute performance and want a wide, aggressive tread that will most likely keep your car under good control, these are great.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding