Performance cars often come equipped with special tires. Take a minute to consider what that means.
A couple years back the Tesla Model S began to appear in California in earnest. Sales were brisk, not just for an EV, but by premium performance sedan standards as well. Not long after the cars had been in circulation, owners began to fill the forums and blogs with concern that there was something about the Model S that caused premature tire wear. Cars not much more than a year old needed new tires. Owners with cars between 10,00 and 15,000 miles were shocked to discover that the tread had been worn down. Many assumed it was something specific to the Model S that caused the rapid wear. It wasn’t the car, and the wear was not premature. Performance tires are not designed like passenger car tires and this type of life was not unusual, nor should it have been unexpected.
Many of the initial Tesla owners came from green cars like the Prius, or more conventional passenger cars like Audi A6 sedans. Tesla should have warned its shoppers that the tires it was using were in many cases ultra-high performance tires with summer-only compounds and the least possible thread depth. The sticker at the top of this story is common now at Lexus dealerships. Lexus sells more and more performance coupes and sedans compared to a few years ago, and the company places warning stickers right on the windshield of its performance models like the RC-F where they cannot be ignored. The stickers are a heads-up to owners not used to performance tires and performance cars that they need to be aware of the unusual rubber on the car. It is a way of managing expectations. In this writer’s opinion the sticker should also warn drivers if the car has “Summer-only” rated tires.
Tires like the Michelin Pilot Supersport are not only shorter in life-span than conventional “touring” tires, they are also not rated for use in the snow or even in cold weather. Tires rated for summer-only use begin to lose traction fast below about 40 degree F. They can even crack in some extreme circumstances as shown in the last image courtesy of Tire Rack. Enthusiasts know this from experience. Shoppers considering a performance car for the first time might not be aware of the special tires their new car might come with. Less than 3% of the tires sold in the US market have the performance traction rating of AA, and tread-wear rating of 300 the tires shown in our second photo do according to Tire Associates.com.
If you are shopping for a new car that offers a performance trim, or you are considering buying a dedicated performance car, be aware that the tires on the car may need to be changed more frequently that you are used to, and that they may not even be rated for the temperature on the day you drive them home.