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Performance Winter Tires

Performance winter tires are the ideal choice for some, but not every, winter tire buyer. True to their name, performance winter tires provide greater handling and steering response on cold, damp and wet roads than studless ice and snow tires. And compared to all-season tires, performance winter tires provide better traction in snow, slush and ice.

But performance winter tires fall short of the snow and ice grip of studless ice and snow tires. “The outright snow and ice traction of a performance winter tire is not quite as good as a studless ice and snow tire,” says Woody Rogers, product information specialist at Tire Rack Inc.

So which option is best for a driver who wants extra comfort and safety in the cold months? The answer depends on the vehicle, the local climate and the customer’s driving style.

Performance versus mainstream

Drivers who put studless ice and snow tires on their cars give up a bit of the steering response and handling and the “connected driving feel” of a performance tire.

“The performance winter tire is geared around a more powerful, higher performing vehicle, or a driver who wants to retain more of the sporty handling of his or her vehicle when the roads are clear,” says Rogers.

Performance winter tires typically have higher speed ratings and tend to come in lower profile sizes, making them better suited for American muscle cars, European performance cars, Japanese sports cars and performance luxury cars such as higher-end Lexus, BMW, Audi, and larger Mercedes.

“Performance winter tires are definitely more for these performance vehicles and not the mainstream,” says Rogers. But manufacturers offer performance winter tires for some mainstream sedans. “I’d say it’s fifty-fifty as to more mainstream fitments,” says Rogers. “You may find there are both options available or you may find there’s only the studless tire.”

He notes that a performance winter tire has better snow and ice traction than an ultra-high performance all-season tire. Performance winter tires bear the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol that indicates the tires meet the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association standards.

A performance climate

Most climates in the U.S. are what Rogers calls “performance climates,” where the roads are clear and wet during the winter months.

“You get icy patches, but it’s not like you are driving through slush and snow six days a week. As a general rule, more clear, dry and wet days, versus snowy days, shift you toward a performance winter tire.”

Ask what customers really want

Get through the snow with 1958 Mercedes Benz Unimog 401 available today! 

As in all tire sales, the type of winter tire a dealer recommends to customers comes down to what they need for their style of driving, the kind of vehicle they have and the available fitments. But the difference between performance winter tires and studless ice and snow tires adds another layer to the buying decision.

“Do customers want maximum snow and ice traction or a balance of snow and ice traction plus clear road handling? That will help them decide between a studless ice and snow tire or a winter performance tire,” says Rogers.

If a customer wants something better than an all-season tire and is willing to give up some snow and ice traction in exchange for better handling on clear roads, the choice is the performance winter tire. ■

Or plow through a snowbank with this 1990 VW Golf Counry Allround! Available Now!

Performance winter tires: a subset of UHP
Tire Rack considers performance winter tires to be a subset of the UHP tire category. “We drop the ultra-high part of it because it is not ultra-high performance from a traditional perspective, which is the dry and wet traction side of the equation,” says Woody Rogers, product information specialist.

“Because of the step down in dry and wet performance for this performance winter segment versus ultra-high performance summer or all-season, I don’t know anyone who is bold enough to say a tire is ultra-high performance and winter at the same time.”

Although the snow performance of all-season tires as a whole is improving, they lack the ice traction of a dedicated winter tire. Performance winter tires have been improving in the snow, too, but to a smaller degree.

“The winter performance is very high even for performance winter tires, so tire manufacturers are making them quieter, improving the wet traction, and working on other aspects, like dry road steering response. And that’s true for both studless ice and snow tires as well as performance winter tires.”

If a customer wants something better than an all-season tire and is willing to give up some snow and ice traction in exchange for better handling on clear roads, the choice is the performance winter tire.

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Ann NealSenior Editor

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What Is Trail Braking & How To Trail Brake

The number one skill that our race car coaches see across all levels of racing that separates the great drivers from the good drivers, and then the good drivers from the bad is the ability to trail brake.  Before we get into how to trail brake let’s first discuss what is actually is and why it is so important.

What Is Trail Braking

Trail braking means having a small amount of brake pressure still being applied as the driver carves the car all the way down to the apex.  It is important to understand that during the trail brake zone (after initial turn in all the way down to the apex) we are not applying a lot of pressure.  Instead, it should feel like you are simply resting your big toe on the brake pedal.

The goal here isn’t really to be slowing the car down.  Yes we are doing that, but in my mind I’m conciously doing this simply to try and keep weight on the front nose as I turn.  That is the big reason why I am doing it.

Do We Ever Not Trail Brake?

Yes, there are a few exceptions.  But these are exceptions to the rule.  Example corners of where we don’t trail brake are almost all limited to high-speed corners where there we do not need to brake on corner entry.  Some examples of corners on different race tracks would be:

The Kink at Road America

Turn 8 at Thunderhill

Turn 12 at Road Atlanta

You will notice there is a constant theme in these corners.  All high-speed corners where we don’t brake at all. So, for nearly every other type of corner where we will be braking, we will have some form on trail brake.  

This may mean we will see less initial brake pressure to be able to extend our brake zone to be longer but with lighter pressure for corners with typically short brake zones.  This is a great technique for the higher speed corners where we still need a little bit of braking to be done. The lighter pressure allows less weight to be transferred to the front end, which will keep the rear more settled.  This will allow us to still have the front grip we want without getting that over ration after turn in.

How To Trail Brake

The way I like to trach trail braking is as a 3 step process.  The first step of this process is identifying where our initial throttle application spot comes in.  

Initial Throttle Application – This is a golden rule that our race car coaches focus on.  We tell our drivers the following, “You are not allowed to get to throttle until the apex.  Until the point, you can start to unwind the steering wheel.”  

We really want to develop this discipline.  To understand why let’s talk about the two reasons why we see drivers apply the throttle before the apex:

  1. They feel the car has too much oversteer and the throttle settles the rear.
  2. The driver has over slowed, and when we overslow the only thing we can do is get to throttle.

So, let’s talk about point 1 first.  It is totally true that a little bit of maintenance throttle will settle the rear and create understeer.  There are some cases we want to do this, but in almost every scenario this will hurt us more than it will ever help. For most drivers the oversteer they are trying to fix is actually a good oversteer, we want that oversteer to rotate the car so we have the car pointed in the right direction mid-corner.  

We have a great article on oversteer and how to control it here:

How To Control Oversteer

I like the drivers I work with at Racers360 to think about maintenance throttle in the following way: Sure, it may make the car feel better.  But, you are essentially taking the ceiling of the ultimate amount of grip your car has, or the ultimate amount of entry speed you can bring in while still getting the perfect exit, and significantly lowering it.  

We need that weight on the front nose and that rotation to drive at a high level.  So, I would rather them focus on learning car control and experiment with the line for where a good level of rotation turns into too much rotation, rather than preventing any rotation from happening at all.

Now for point 2.  I want to break the bond between over slowing and getting to throttle.  The two should NOT be related in our minds.  

If we can be completely disciplined on not allowing throttle before the apex we may feel too slow on entry but we don’t turn one negative into two negatives and create a bad habit along the way.  Instead, once we feel like we are over slowing while turning into the corner and we take away the option of going to throttle to fix this issue our brain will naturally look for another solution to its problem.  

There are only two ways to fix over slowing. Those options are:

  1. Picking Up Throttle Too Early – Bad Solution
  2. Rolling More Entry Speed Next Lap – Good Solution!

Rolling More Entry Speed

So, now that we have built our discipline of not picking up initial throttle before the apex, we can focus on rolling more entry speed.  The first step of this next process is NOT braking deeper.  

We first focus on the back end of our brake zone.  Initially, I want the drivers I work with to do everything in the brake zone the same.  

Once they have mastered the discipline of the throttle application they will want to naturally start to roll in more entry speed.  Once they get to this stage I want them to focus on braking at the exact same initial spot, with the nice threshold pressure early in the brake zone.  But, here is the key thing that we tell them.

Focus on getting off of threshold brake pressure earlier and extending our brake zone to be longer but with much less time spent at heavy pressure and much more time spent on very light brake pressure.  Releasing the brakes should be a very slow process as we enter the corner.

The following graphic explains what we want to see using a data graph example.  The red line would be how their brake zone initially looks and the green line looks like what we see our drivers doing after a session with a Racers360 coach.

how does trail braking work

The Final Part

The very last thing that we want to see our drivers start to work on is braking later.  Only once they have mastered step one and two. Once they have mastered step 2 and still feel like they are over slowing, that is when we can focus on braking deeper.

It is so important to do this last not only because it is the highest risk part, but also because for lap time braking deep does nothing for us if we can’t combine it with good entry speed, a good turn in, a good apex, and a great exit.  Figuring all the rest out first lets us know what it all is supposed to feel like and we will know if we brake too deep because we won’t execute the rest of the corner how we want to.

So, when race car drivers get to this stage we teach our drivers to slowly bring their brake zones later and later lap by lap. Our objective here is to get it to the point that we start to make small mistakes such as:

  • Missing our turn in point
  • Too much brake pressure still on after turn in
  • Locking up the tires during straight line braking
  • Too much entry speed so we miss the apex or can’t get to throttle where we want to

Once we start making these mistakes we back up that brake zone slightly and then we know we are right at the limit!

By Dion von Moltke | December 7, 2018

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10 Porsches To Buy Before It’s Too Late

These models are either at the bottom of the depreciation curve or starting to tick up in value.

If you had told someone 20 years ago about the price of a used air-cooled Porsche 911 today, the person wouldn’t have believed you. Where ratty mid-1980s 911 easily went for sub-$20,000 at the time, values today have jumped to double that amount or more. This slideshow might prevent you from feeling regret again for not buying a Porsche before the prices jump.

Some of these models, like the Boxster, have simply depreciated as much as they can. A drivable example of these roadsters is readily available for less than $10,000, and there’s nowhere left for prices to fall.

Conversely, don’t ever expect a 997-generation 911 GT3 to be so cheap. However, these cars give buyers fantastic performance and the possibility of making a few bucks when the time comes to upgrade.

Even if you get one of these cars, and the value drops in a few years, there are the fantastic memories of driving a Porsche.

Porsche 924

For years, the 924 was the cheapest entry to classic Porsche ownership. It wasn’t that long ago you were able to buy a usable one for a few thousand dollars.

Recent celebrations of the transaxle vehicle family’s 40th anniversary has started to bring greater attention to the 924. Getting a Turbo adds a welcome performance increase over the base model. The later 924 S shares an engine with the 944 for a useful improvement in throttle response.

AutoFact: The 924 was the first of the family of front-engined ‘transaxle’ models that underpinned Porsche’s 1980s resurgence.

Porsche 914

Porsche has built more attractive cars than the 914. The company has built faster ones, too. But both of these factors play in your favor, if you want a classic Porsche at an affordable price point.

After years of relative obscurity the 914’s recognition is growing and values are on the rise, but it’s still a bargain compared with the rear-engined alternatives. The introduction of four-cylinder engines to the 718 Boxster and Cayman range has, belatedly, given it some historical relevance too – a car once considered a ’70s curiosity and “poor man’s Porsche” is now able to hold its head high. Catch one while you can!

AutoFact: The 914 was the first Formula 1 Safety Car, making its debut at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix.

Porsche Boxster (986)

Previewed as a concept in 1993, the first-generation Boxster production car launched a few years later and has nibbled at its 911 big brother’s heels ever since. Brand snobs may have sneered, but fans were quick to realize they were getting 911-level engineering for a lot less money, not to mention a more balanced mid-engined package.

First-gen Boxsters are unlikely to be appreciating assets any time soon but with the cheapest cars now under $10,000, and there are plenty of decent ones for under $15,000. It’s truly the affordable way to enjoy a classic, flat-six Porsche.

AutoFact: If you’re looking for an investment-worthy 986 consider the limited edition 550 Spyder of 2003, of which just 1953 were made.

Porsche 911 Carrera (996)

Now 20 years old, the 996 was perhaps the most controversial 911 generation because of its break with traditional styling and introduction of water-cooled engines. The notorious “fried egg” headlights also weren’t popular at the time.

Well-documented engine issues put a lot of people off now. Plus, the currently low prices of the 997 models keep a lid on values. These combine to make the 996 a viable sub-$20k 911. Appreciation of the styling is slowly coming round, and prices are quietly creeping up for the more desirable versions. As such, a two-wheel drive Carrera coupé with a manual transmission and solid service history looks like a sensible buy.

AutoFact: Unfashionable orange-indicator models with 3.4-liter engines have a cable rather than electronic throttle that some enthusiasts prefer.

Porsche 911 (G-series)

Is there such thing as a bargain air-cooled 911? Not really.

The days of a classic Porsche for hot hatch money are long-since gone. If there’s an unfashionable early 911, the impact bumper “G-series” models are it, especially the earlier 2.7-liter versions that succeeded the more attractive and traditional ‘long hood’ variant.

Euro-spec 2.7-liters with mechanical fuel injection basically had RS engines and have already become popular with collectors. The detuned US-spec versions are slower and visually sit awkwardly between the classic chrome of the 60s cars and the more iconic 1980s SCs and 3.2-liter models. However, they are emerging from the shadows and are, relatively, a sensibly priced entry to classic 911s.

AutoFact: An emissions-strangled G-series four-cylinder 912E was reintroduced in America alongside the 2.7.

Porsche 912

If you want the iconic Porsche in its purest form without going bankrupt, the 912 is the one to have.

The four-cylinder 912 has the style of the early 911s and, though not the overlooked bargain it once was, can still be found for a substantial savings over its six-cylinder sibling.

Some will say it’s a false economy, given restoration costs will be the same and you’ll always be two cylinders down on the full experience. But the 912 has charm of its own and, if you find a good one, can represent a considerably more affordable entry point to classic Porsche ownership.

AutoFact: If anyone accuses your 912 of having a ‘Beetle engine’ remind them it’s in fact from a 356!

Porsche 964 Targa

The 993 is prized as the last of the air-cooled 911s, but for many fans the 964’s perfect mix of classic character and modern manners make it the one to have. Little wonder Singer decided that the model provided the perfect foundation for its mega-money restorations.

A manual Carrera 2 coupe will always rank highly for desirability. Attention inevitably is now turning to previously unloved variants like the Targas. Porsche’s return to the classic roll-hoop look for the current 991 Targa has helped the 964 version start to chase the coupe in terms of desirability. They’re still a little cheaper to buy, but this price advantage won’t last long.

AutoFact: Although the current version revives the classic look, the 964 was the last of the true 911 Targas with the roll hoop and removable roof panel.

Porsche Carrera GT

With prices now nudging into a million dollars, the Carrera GT is hardly cheap. Yet it still looks like a relative steal, especially when you consider what you’re getting for the money, and what its contemporary rivals would cost.

Ferrari Enzos are nearly three times the money and a comparable Pagani Zonda 7.3 S with a manual gearbox about the same. Lexus LFAs are in another league altogether, too. The Mercedes SLS Black Series isn’t as exotic but isn’t far behind on cost.

The fact you’re getting a carbon monocoque, screaming race-derived V10 engine and “last of the scary supercars” reputation all add up to a wise investment.

AutoFact: The updated N0-rated Michelin Pilot Super Sport tire developed exclusively as a retrofit dramatically improves the Carrera GT’s road and track performance.

Porsche 911 GT3 (997 Gen.1)

Given the fuss over the limited availability of GT3 models and their position as the hardcore, track-optimized 911 variant, you might be surprised to see one here. And, true enough, prices for the 2006 first-generation 997 iteration are holding up strongly, typically starting at around $95,000.

With an uprated version of the 3.6-liter Mezger engine from the 996 GT3, it redlines at 8,400rpm and boasts 409 hp, which isn’t a huge deficit compared with the 429 hp of the second-generation 3.8-liter version. These later models are considered more desirable and are now well over $100,000. The earlier coupe don’t lose much in performance but are significantly cheaper to buy.

AutoFact: The 997 GT3 was the first to introduce PASM adjustable damping to this track-focused model.

Porsche Panamera S with manual gearbox

When the 928 was killed off in the mid-90s, so was the concept of the luxurious, front-engined and V8-powered long-distance Porsche GT car.

This vehicle reappeared in rather different form in 2009 in the shape of the five-door Panamera. The range eventually diversified into V6s, hybrids and ballistic Turbo versions, but it was originally defined by the 4.8-liter naturally-aspirated V8 S.

A technical showcase, most Panameras are four-wheel drive and have PDK automated transmissions. But a very small number of buyers chose rear-wheel drive V8s with manual gearboxes and, if you can find one, these represent an unusual and driver-focused twist on the formula.

AutoFact: The 395 horsepower V8 S two-wheel drive manual is a whole 441 pounds lighter than the flagship Turbo version of the time.