Ultra-High Performance Tires 101 Explained

Ultra-High Performance Tires 101 Explained

How surprising is it that cars were once capable of traveling at 25 mph? Well, it is not a myth at all, it is a specific truth of the 1880-1890 years. Back then, no one could even imagine that in a few years, the car manufacturing industry would build racing vehicles able to handle over 200 mph. With the development of this industry, the tire makers figured out that all vehicle components must be adjusted so that they resist the nervous and agile spirit of racing driving.

And when I say "components", I mean, first of all, the tires of a car. We, here at Neotires, like to believe that tires are the most crucial component in the construction of a car. Some might say that it is the engine, others that it is the suspension system. But in fact, tires are what establish contact with the road and ensure the performance of a vehicle in various conditions.

History shows us that the tendency to improve the performance and quality standards of tires increased with the development of the car manufacturing industry. Today, performance vehicles easily reach 300 mph and this is also due to the reliability of the tires that support their dynamics and tenacity. Moreover, tire makers have never stopped only at speed performance. They have always kept in mind superior comfort, noise control, as well as fuel efficiency. Having said that, it is not wrong to state that tires have a real science behind them that is constantly developing. In this article, we will talk about this science in more detail, namely the science of ultra-high performance tires.

UHP Tires Quick Overview

Each tire has a certain speed rating. This rating is also established depending on the agility capabilities of the vehicle as these, in the end, must match each other. Many mistakenly believe that the speed rating indicated on the tire suggests the vehicle's speed. But in fact, it indicates the maximum capacity that the tire can support in terms of speed. In other words, a tire with a Y speed rating effectively supports a speed of up to 186 mph. Technically, the driver can exceed this speed. But in this case, the tire will begin to undergo the heat build-up process, among other things, which will impact its performance and physical condition.

In the same sense, tire manufacturers build UHP tires specifically for vehicles that support UHP driving. So, you can't just get UHP tires for any vehicle, just because you want it. They must correspond to the type of vehicle because that is the only way the vehicle will perform as it should.

Therefore, tire engineers make different types of tires meant for different types of cars. Below, you have a graphic illustration where you can see the compatibility between the type of tire and the type of vehicle. Here, I will mostly refer to the Passenger Tire segment, which is the most sought-after in the market. After that, we will examine what is the specifics of UHP tires and how their science differs from other types of tires. 1

Passenger Tires Segment

There are tens of thousands of passenger vehicles and hundreds of thousands of drivers with various needs and priorities. Some of them look for comfort, ride smoothness, and low-cost maintenance, while others look for dynamism, energy, tenacity, and a nervous driving spirit. So, a UHP tire is unlikely to meet the expectations of the first group of drivers. Instead, they will be extremely suitable for the second segment. Just like tires, different passenger vehicles are built to meet different drivers' needs and expectations. The image above is an approximate segmentation model of passenger vehicles and their tires. However, please leave room for variations because each vehicle and tire manufacturer might follow a different type of segmentation.

In the same context, you must know that manufacturers have different priorities for different tires. The priorities of a UHP tire differ contrastingly from those of a grand touring tire, for example. While performance is the absolute priority in a UHP tire, the touring one will have comfort and wear resistance in its DNA. Take a look at the image below to get a general impression of the manufacturers' priorities in various types of tires. 2

What Makes A UHP Tire Different From Others?

The UHP tire segment has a specific clientele. Motorists driving on UHP tires are usually demanding and want performance at any cost. They are ready to pay exorbitant prices so that both the car and its tires meet the highest performance standards.

When we talk about the production of tires, their performance profile usually falls under two categories. It is about the basic and the additional performance profile.

Any UHP tire must meet the basic performance profile. This aspect has more to do with tire safety and includes, among others:

  • correct positioning on the rim
  • matching the technical specifications of the vehicle
  • matching speed/load ratings with the vehicle's capabilities
  • enough durability to withstand speed stress
  • sufficient integrity to resist wear and damage

The basic performance profile may be different for each tire maker. A premium-class manufacturer might put more emphasis on basic performance aspects while a low-budget one might include less. Either way, basic performance is an absolute must for the viability of any UHP tire.

UHP Tires' Specs

Tire engineers take into account the specifics of UHP vehicles when building such a tire. For a UHP tire to meet the basic performance requirements, the tire maker implements the following features:

- low tread depth

A UHP tire usually has a tread less deep than a common tire. This type of design is not the most optimal for the longevity of the tire. However, longevity is not one of the priorities of UHP tires. So, tire makers sacrifice it in favor of speed and agility performance. The tire with a less deep tread offers less resistance while rolling. As such, it is more dynamic and responsive, increasing the tenacity of the vehicle.

It is important to mention that the engineers produce both summer and all-season UHP tires. Obviously, the thread depth of the all-season one will be deeper because the tire has to cope with changing weather conditions as well as offer longer durability. This is because longevity is a priority for all-season tires, even if it is a UHP version.

- softer compounds

Unlike a traditional tire, the UHP type will have stickier components in its construction. These components are beneficial for increasing traction. Softer compounds increase the grip on the road, and this is crucial for a tenacious tire. Indeed, softer components wear faster, but again - longevity is not a priority for UHP tires.

-rayon compounds instead of the usual polyester

An essential difference in UHP tires is the presence of rayon components. While regular tires contain polyester, the rayon in the UHP ones increases the tenacity and agility of the tire at high speed. This component is nothing more than a purified cellulose material. Its properties include but are not limited to dimensional stability, wonderful thermal resistance which is essential at high speed, and great vigorous performance.

Additional Performance Profile

Earlier we told you that engineers incorporate basic performance criteria into tires. However, UHP tires are not yet ready to hit the market until the additional ones are incorporated. The additional performances are what differentiate a UHP tire from a regular one. Their ensemble enhances the strength and spirited nature of a UHP tire, making it more dynamic than the others.

Each tire segment (UHP, summer, all-season) has its additional performance profile. In addition, each manufacturer might add more or less performance, depending on its budget range. Here you have an aproximate Additional Performance profile that manufacturers add to their tires. It will help you better understand which aspects improve the quality of a UHP tire. 3

The table above shows the general additional performances. As for UHP tires, in particular, engineers necessarily take into account certain criteria that must not be missing by definition. One of them is the specific design with lower tread depth that I talked about previously. Apart from this, here you have some other essential additional features for a UHP tire:

- high compression of silica compound

Matter-of-factly, almost all tires contain silica compounds in their composition. However, the UHP tires have a maximum concentration. This component is essential in agile and short braking, especially at high speed and in wet conditions. In addition, this component is beneficial for the preservation of the tread so that it does not get worn extremely quickly. A summer UHP tire has the highest concentration of silica for superb performance in hot conditions. However, this tire becomes hard as the temperature drops, which compromises performance. In this sense, engineers produce All-Season UHP tires to provide temperature versatility. These tires have a somewhat lower concentration of silica than UHP tires. However, the engineers make sure that the concentration is sufficient to deliver higher performance ratings than a regular All-Season tire.

-small apex and stronger sidewall

The construction of the UHP tire will always differ from a traditional one. Tire makers pay attention to the smallest details to improve their performance. In this sense, a UHP tire comes with a pretty small bead reinforcement (small apex) and reinforced sidewall. Altogether, these changes increase the handling. The point is that such adjustments make the tire act as one whole piece with its rim, which improves handling.

- more rigidity in the Summer UHP tires

Comparing Summer UHP tires with All-Season UHP tires, the first ones will always be stiffer. Their tougher tread pattern favors the dry braking of passenger vehicles. The ALl-Season treads are a bit more malleable as they are meant for longevity and snow performance. So, the malleability allows them to wear slower and provide enough traction and grip in light snow conditions. Below you have the difference between a Summer UHP tire and an All-Season UHP tire illustrated. As you can see, the tread structure differs enormously, including sipes for snow traction in the All-season UHP one. By the way, the treads in the image belong to UHP Summer Yokohama and UHP Yokohama All-Season tires. 4

When Should You Consider UHP Tires?

Generally speaking, UHP tires are a great option for when you want some extra performance boost. But you also have to take into account the type of your vehicle because not all cars are compatible with UHP tires. As a rule, these tires are compatible with vehicles featuring powerful engines, sport-tuned suspension, and powerful brakes. I recommend you consult an expert to confirm that your vehicle is compatible with UHP tires.

What Changes do UHP Tires Bring Compared to Regular Ones?

UHP tires can upgrade the overall car performance. They are built according to a specific design and with various materials to improve the grip of the vehicle as well as the cornering, braking, and accelerating properties. In addition, they are much more capable of dissipating heat at high speed. This is a major benefit as the tire can resist better speed without undergoing the heat build-up process. And as you know, heat accumulation is the fiercest enemy of any tire.

What Are the Disadvantages of UHP Tires?

The biggest drawback is their early wear compared to regular tires. The priorities of UHP tires include tenacity, dynamism, and maneuverability. To offer these benefits, tire makers have to sacrifice their longevity by making them from more easily degradable components. Either way, an all-season UHP tire has a higher tread mileage than a summer UHP tire.

Another shortcoming of UHP tires is their higher price than regular ones. The engineering and special technologies in them increase their value and respectively the price. This aspect is a dealbreaker for many drivers, especially considering their relatively short longevity. In this sense, UHP tires are an option for spirited drivers who want optimal performance at any price.

What Cars Are Matching With UHP Tires?

This type of tire fits like a glove with vehicles with a sporty spirit. These include but are not limited to sporty coupes, sporty cars, or racing vehicles. In addition, tire makers offer UHP tires for all those who favor responsive handling and grip over wear and touring comfort.

UHP Tires: FAQs

What is The Difference Between HP and UHP Tires?

Both types of tires have high performance in their DNA. However, what makes them different is their longevity. UHP tires place more emphasis on agility and grip and less emphasis on wear resistance. On the other hand, high-performance tires balance both grip and traction as well as higher tread life. In general, a UHP tire is a bit more tenacious and balanced when at the limit, but its tread wears faster. The HP tire provides great grip and traction but yields easily to the UHP ones. However, its tread life is longer.

How Long Do UHP Tires Last?

The lifespan of UHP tires is relatively short compared to other types of tires. On average, they serve around 30,000 miles. The reason for the short longevity lies in the special composition of UHP tires. For them to be maximally efficient, the manufacturers use fairly soft rubber. It provides excellent grip, traction, and balance, but does not resist much wear and tear.

Are Ultra High-Performance Tires Worth It?

It all depends on the drivers' priorities. UHP tires are the best choice if the driver is ready to sacrifice the longevity of the tires in favor of agility and excellent performance. UHP tires are the most tenacious, safe, and balanced when at the limit. If the driver loves pushing the limits while benefiting from superior performance, UHP tires are the right way to go. Still, he will have to sacrifice with short tire lifespan and pay pretty much for them. UHP tires are not the cheapest tires.

What Are the Advantages of UHP Tires?

When used for their purpose, UHP tires provide superior safety while reaching the highest performance levels. These tires have impressive braking capabilities, superior balance when at the limit, impressive lateral grip, and phenomenal acceleration capabilities. In addition, these allow the driver to handle the vehicle safely as they behave very intuitively and are precise in responsiveness.

Are Ultra High-Performance Tires Good in Snow?

If we are talking about harsh snow conditions, it is best to choose specialized winter tires. UHP all-season tires cope decently well, but only if it's about mild winter conditions. A UHP all-season tire is recommended when the temperature is relatively warm around zero degrees Celsius, more or less. Many UHP all-season tires have the "M+S" marking on their sidewall, which means "mud+snow". This marking can mislead many drivers. In fact, the marking says that the tire is viable for LIGHT snow conditions, not the harsh ones.

Why Trust Us?

The activity of the NeoTires team is not limited to tire deals. In fact, we are a team that is fully involved in everything rubber means. This means that we test tires, review them, develop ourselves in tire science, and keep up with all the news and trends in the industry.

With this in mind, we have a large team of specialists that includes but is not limited to mechanics, testers, content writers, specialists in the automotive industry, as well as experts with a broad background in tire production and repair. As such, we know a lot about tires and want to share our knowledge with the general public.

Every specialist in the NeoTires team takes his work seriously to deliver the most truthful and validated information, review, or tire recommendation. The industry partners we collaborate with help us offer quality services and products. In the 5 years of NeoTires activity, we managed to become loyal allies of thousands of drivers both through our tire deals and through the professionalism of the assistance services we offer.

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Brian Darr is a passion-driven enthusiast who has become an expert in the tire industry. His passion for rubber started with his first driving experience. He firmly believes that the performance and safety of any vehicle are due, first of all, to the quality of the tires mounted on it.
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