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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!

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.

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

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.

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...


@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.

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"! :-)

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.

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 . . . !)

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 :-).


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?

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.

corning => cornering

Stupid lack of edit or delete. :(

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.

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 :-)


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.

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.

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

Nope, none. Only performance tires are available.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

@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.

IOW 21" tire is low profile tire.

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