Performance tires?

Performance tires?

I don't understand the difference between the tire options and was hoping for a little information from all the car folks here. Quite a few people on this forum have said that they view "performance tires" as a negative, mostly it seems because of additional costs down the road due to maintenance and replacement (?). Do they effect the quality of the ride? Maybe make it stiffer and more sportscar-like? Also, the size differential between the performance tires and the regular "all season tires" - is that just the hubcap size (maybe that's called the wheel these days) or the actual circumference of the rubber tire? So does your choice of tire effect turning radius? I'm really hoping that we can test drive different vehicles with the various tires because I like the look of the high performance tires, but I don't want a stiff, bumpy, sports car ride. I have reservations for both a production model and a Signature model and am trying to figure out if these tires are something I want. If it matters, I live in Northern California and this car will never be in true winter driving conditions. Thanks! I appreciate any info all you people with far more automobile knowledge can impart!

phb | January 4, 2012

Aside from the size of the tires, the difference between all-season and performance tires comes down to rubber compound (there are also likely tread pattern differences). The rubber compound on the all-seaon tire is harder at most high operating temperatures but softer when it's cold out. The performance tires are stickier (softer rubber) but require higher temperatures in order to get there. The result of the stickier compound is that they wear faster and provide better grip in cornering.

For many vehicles, the chassis will limit performance to the point where there is no real point to getting performance tires. I expect that the Model S will handle well with the all-season tires and like a slot car with the performance tires.

Mycroft | January 4, 2012

Yeah, with almost all the weight of the car centered around the hubs of the wheels, I'm really looking forward to giving that slot car a whirl! :-D

Mycroft | January 4, 2012

StephRob, the total circumfrence of both the 19" and the 21" tires should be about the same. The 19" tire will have a wider sidewall to it which will make it slightly more comfortable rolling over bumps than the 21" tire. Either way you go, you'll soon get used to the ride and if you don't, you can always change it later.

With my location, (I need all-season tires 4 months of the year), I really should just go with the 19" wheels and be done with it. But I love the look of those big turbines on the car, so I'll be getting the 21" and buying a set of the 19" for swapping out in November.

MitchL | January 4, 2012

I want the 19" wheels as well, mostly because I think the performance tires will skew the operating cost for the model S too negatively. I wish I had real data on how long these performance tires really last, especially for "non-performance" drivers like me.

If performance tires could last 30K miles if driven gently, I like the looks enough to stick with them. That's not what I'm reading though.... it seems to be more like they'll last a year (10k miles) if I'm lucky.

It's a particular dilemma for me, since I upgrade to Signature, and there doesn't seem to be a price break for choosing the normal wheels/tires. (it's odd, you pay _more_ for adding a feature like the sunroof or the rear seats, but for this one option you can't pay _less_ for deleting a feature like fancy wheels).

Tesla seems aware of this issue and is thinking about it, because I think I'm not alone...


phb | January 4, 2012

@Mitch: You'll get more than 10K miles if you're a regular driver. It also depends on the performance tire. For instance, I got 22K out of my first set of Michelin Pilot Sports on my Audi TT Roadster; many of those miles were just regular commuting miles but many of them were me going like a bat out of hell through the mountain passes around here.

Your milage will, literally, vary, but I think that you should do okay with the performance tires if you don't flog it every day.

StephRob | January 4, 2012

Thanks for all your responses. It's very helpful.

A couple of reactions:

Mycroft - I can't imagine changing tires twice a year (though I'm sure I wouldn't have to do that given my climate)! How do you even do that? Bring them to a repair shop in your trunk (or frunk!) and have them do it? Or do it yourself?

Mitch - Only 10,000 miles for a set of tires? That seems crazy! I have a Prius and a Land Rover right now (they offset each other environmentally in my mental calculus!) and both have about 40K miles on them. Prius has original tires and the Land Rover got new snow tires at around 30K because we take it up to the mountains. Seems just nuts to have a set that would only last 10K, so I'm with you - they'd better give us some good information on just what we can expect from the tires in terms of longevity!

I think I would love to have the option to get a price break on the Signature for not taking the fancy tires, but I guess we'll see. Of course, my husband thinks I should get "performance-everything"! :-)

ckessel | January 4, 2012

I've had Z rated tires and they're really not worth it. If you're even a moderately aggressive driver, they lifespan is just miserable. You'll use the enhanced aspect of them maybe .001% of the time and the other 99.999% of the time you'll be a normal driver. The price you're paying for that .001% is just insanely high.

If you like the 21" and can find a longer lasting tire, go for it, but tire life, expense, and ride comfort are why I'm going with 19" even though the 21" tires look nice.

StephRob | January 4, 2012

phb: That sounds more reasonable - 22K or maybe 30K miles if you're just a pretty regular driver taking the car mostly around town. As long as the ride is not too bumpy, it sounds like it will just come down to looks for me. I don't think I'm really the kind of driver who needs to take a corner like it's on rails. (Or maybe this cool car will make a race car driver out of me . . . !)

MitchL | January 4, 2012

StephRob: Take my comment with a grain of salt, these #'s are from random posts on web sites found via the great oracle (Google) :-). I have zero real information, which is why I'm asking here.

I read somewhere that performance tires don't last as long as regular ones.... so I wondered how much. I started seeing these low numbers posted, and it spooked me. I haven't found any concrete data, so I am living in fear of the worst ...

My main ride for the past 11 years has been a Honda Odyssey minivan. I love the van, but it's not a performance car. I do not expect my driving habits to change, except for the occasional fun experiment, so I'm hoping that driving like a "minivan dad" will make the tires last longer.

I get 45-50K from the tires in my past cars, I'd be happy with 25K if I must have the performance tires, and would be happier still if I could just get the regular wheels on a Sig at a discount :-).


john.m.hennessey | January 4, 2012

I was told by my contact at Tesla that the performance tires will also reduce your range. He didn't have specifics. What do you all think?

ckessel | January 4, 2012

If you can get 25k off performance tires, I'll be stunned. I've never had a pair last more than 20k in the last 15 years (first a Dodge Stealth, then an RX8). And that's V rated rather than Z. However, I don't do much freeway driving which is probably easier on tires than corning in the city.

ckessel | January 4, 2012

corning => cornering

Stupid lack of edit or delete. :(

phb | January 4, 2012

As far as ride quality goes, not all performance tires are created equal. I had a set of much less expensive Kumho tires on my Audi for all of about 500 miles before I got rid of them (yes, it hurt to waste the $$$) because they made the ride so incredibly harsh. I would predict that Tesla will put a set of really good performance tires on the Model S. I'm a big fan of the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 but I'm not sure if they come in the correct sizes. I've also heard good things about the Continentals.

MitchL | January 4, 2012

ckessel: What you say is more in line with what I've seen posted elsewhere (sub-20K). If that's the norm, it's clear to me that I'll want the 19" wheels and regular tires.

Now we just need to convince Tesla not to charge Signature buyers more for less :-)


CurrieG | January 4, 2012

I have at least 40K on my RX-8 Performance tires and they are still good/ safe for more miles... We do not baby the car either.

EdG | January 4, 2012

I'm intrigued by the look of the "no cost option" (a.k.a. "you want less, we'll give it to you at the same price") 19" aerodynamic wheels. The photo on the Options & Pricing page is too small to see much, so I'm waiting till I see it live.

Peter Spirgel | January 5, 2012

Anyone know of all season tires that would fit the 21" rims?

Mycroft | January 5, 2012

Nope, none. Only performance tires are available.

Robert.Boston | January 5, 2012

So, do performance tires have a higher rolling resistance? Which would lead to lower range?

Mycroft | January 5, 2012

Possibly. If they stick to the roads better, then they would have very slightly more resistance to rolling. That slight resistance might add up over distance to reduce range a bit.

ggr | January 5, 2012

One thing to remember is that it is rear-wheel-drive, and almost all of your day to day braking will be regen, which will also go through the rear wheels. On the Roadster, it's typical to go through three sets of rear tires before swapping out the fronts. When people talk about only getting a certain distance out of the tires on Teslas, they are mostly talking about only two tires.

Brian H | January 5, 2012

I take it the fronts/rears cannot be rotated/switched?

olanmills | January 5, 2012

@Mycroft, I think Peter is asking if there are such tires available anywhere from anyone, not necessarily provided by Tesla.

ggr | January 5, 2012

Not on the roadster, they're different sizes. I'm not sure about the Model S, but it's common on performance cars for the driving wheels to be wider.

David M. | January 5, 2012

My wife's Lexus IS250 has stock low profile performance tires. Apparently, there is a notice on the car's price sticker that says performance tires will have better performance, but reduced range (didn't see it). She drives very gently, yet we barely got 15,000 miles out of the tires before we replaced them. Fortunately, not all performance tires wear the same. We replaced them with tires that are rated for 30,000 miles. So far, so good.

I can't tell any difference in performance.

dsm363 | January 5, 2012

The beta car in Chicago had the Continental ExtremeContact DW tires. On, looks like people are getting anywhere from 15-25,000 miles on them. I'd imagine the Model S may need rear tires sooner than the fronts (like the Roadster) due to regen and massive amounts of torque. Who knows what tire they'll actually pick for the 21" rims though.

David M. | January 5, 2012

Continental performance tires have much better wear than most others. 15-25,000 is really good.

bblnews | January 9, 2012

Anyone know if the standard 19" tires will fit on the rims for the 21" performance tires shown? We love the rims for the 21" but would prefer the 19"' ride/range.

Robert.Boston | January 9, 2012

@bblnews: No, they won't. The reason why 19" has a better ride is because they have much higher sidewalls, providing more shock absorption (but also less lateral rigidity, adversely affecting handling on corners). The key point is that the outer diameter of the 19" tire is the same as the outer diameter of the 21" tire.

Timo | January 9, 2012

IOW 21" tire is low profile tire.

Mycroft | January 9, 2012

The tire size for the 21" wheel is supposed to be 245/35 R21.

I checked and for that size, there are only Summer performance tires available. My favorite tire, Continental ExtremeContact, isn't even available for that size, either A/S or Summer. :(

I'm in WA state and I really want the 21" wheels, so I'll most likely be buying the Winter tire set from Tesla as an add-on and rotating out the wheels in November and March each year. Plenty of room in the garage, so it's not that big a deal for me.

If you live in the northern states and you either don't have storage, (some tire shops will store your off-season tires for a small fee), or you don't want to spend the money for the alternate tire set, the best course would be to skip the 21" wheels and go with the 19" All Seasons.

phb | January 9, 2012

340 tread wear's pretty good for a high-performance tire.

TikiMan | January 9, 2012

From my experience, 'performance tires' are typically known as 'low profile' tires that use a softer rubber for better grip, and also have less space between the rim and tire surface.

1)Better connection and grip with the road, and less 'slipping' in turns at high speed on both wet and dry surfaces.
2)They make even the most average car look more ‘sporty’.

1)They are typically more expensive than standard tires (as much as triple the price).
2)They don’t do as well in snow or ice (chains don’t fit them as well)
3)You are more likely to ‘dint’ your rims when you hit or graze a curb.
4)You will ‘feel’ the road more, thus the ride is going to be somewhat harsher depending on what suspension you get.

Mycroft | January 9, 2012

@Brant, Great news on the Contis! I wonder why TireRack doesn't list that size. They only have 285/30 and 295/30 in the 21". :(

brianman | January 9, 2012


TireRack listed it a week or two ago (when I lasted looked). Now it only shows 5 instead of the 6 back then.

phb | January 9, 2012

Remember, Tirerack doesn't list all tires or even all options for a given tire line. They present search results for tires that they carry. It would be an error to assume that Tirerack is the definitive resource. I grant that they can be quite useful and that they usually have good prices, but I've often found tire options that didn't show up on Tirerack.

brianman | January 9, 2012

@phb - Noted.

At least for today...

Sears didn't have a direct link but had teh Continental.

- Bridgestone Potenza RE050A @ 140
- Continental ExtremeContact DW @ 340
- Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 @ 280
- Hankook Ventus V12 evo K110 @ 280
- Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 @ ? 220
- Nitto INVO @ 260
- Pirelli PZero Nero @ 220
- Pirelli PZero RFT @ 220
- Yokohama ADVAN Sport @ 180

brianman | January 11, 2012

Roughly on the same topic...

What's the difference between...
High performance tires

21" Performance
High performance tires

The latter are listed as only available on Perf and Sig Perf and the image on the Options page is slightly darker for the latter (4th pictured) than the former (3rd pictured).

gagliardilou | January 11, 2012

I had runflat tires on my bmw 545i and they only lasted 20,000 miles. I have since replaced them with non run flat tires and the ride is smoother. If the ride is too stiff in the sig s, I will hopefully be able to find a tire with a little higher sidewall but the car looks sooo nice with the turbine wheels that they are a must have. I have always thought the rims on a car make a big difference.

Robert.Boston | January 11, 2012

@brianman: speculation: forged vs. cast

Kallisman | January 11, 2012

@brianman: Until I get facts saying otherwise, I assume it's just a difference in color of the rim. Maybe to match the carbon fiber accents on the perf better.

dsm363 | January 11, 2012

I think Robert.Boston is correct. That's the way it was between the stock rims and the Roadster Sport rims at least.

William13 | January 11, 2012

+1 Kallisman. Basically certain they are talking about wheel/rim color.

brianman | January 11, 2012

This reminded me to take a look at the Roadster's Design Studio for comparison. And of course that made me wander beyond Wheels...

The Interior section in the Roadster Design Studio is fun to fiddle with. I hope we have that kind of flexibility in the Model S.

Mycroft | January 11, 2012

We will... and more!

Robert.Boston | January 11, 2012

Hmm, not so sure, Mycroft. Certainly there was no "Executive Leather" option posted last month. Even if I wanted bolstered orange Alcantara with black rally inserts on the Model S, I'm reasonably sure that that's not an option. (Frankly, all I really wanted was the "Saddle" color. Why can't leather look like leather, a nice rich brown?)

Mycroft | January 11, 2012

I was talking about the capabilities of the Design Studio, not the options available.

Jason S | January 11, 2012

The interior section in Roadster Design Studio really helps me see what kinds of differences to expect for Reg vs Sig vs Perf. I had no idea the kinds of changes there could be.

petero | January 11, 2012


It would cost about $2,000 for aftermarket leather in the saddle color, perhaps a bit more for orange and black. You will probably keep the “S” for many years. Why not spend a bit more, and get what you really want? I prefer the saddle color too, the tan I saw in Fremont was hardly inspired!