Best car tyres 2023: evo performance tyre test

Which tyre should you choose for your performance car? This year’s evo tyre test puts eight strong contenders through their paces to find the very best of the bunch

The popular 225/40 R18 high-performance tyre is the subject of our comprehensive 2023 tyre test. What makes the evo test especially challenging for the test tyres and useful for you, the tyre customer, is that we don’t simply rely on measured performance to determine the finishing order. We also assess the tyres subjectively, rating them for qualities such as steering feel and character, progression up to and over the limit of grip, and ride comfort and noise, to give the most rounded picture of each tyre’s performance. As in previous tests, the scoring is weighted 60 per cent objective and 40 per cent subjective, with a general bias towards performance in the wet as you’re much more likely to find the limit in low-grip scenarios. 

The top three finishers from our last test of the 225/40 R18 two years ago are here –  the Pirelli P Zero, Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport and Bridgestone Potenza Sport – though the test vehicle is quite different this time. In 2021 we used an Audi S3; this year it’s the Toyota GR86, which is both lighter and rear-drive. Other tyres in this test are the Continental SportContact 7, Falken Azenis FK520, Maxxis Victra Sport 5, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S (the new S 5 isn’t available in our test size) and Toyo Proxes Sport 2. It’ll be one of the closest tests we’ve run, with strong performances from all eight tyres.

> Best 19-inch tyres - R19 235/35 performance tyre test

The car

The Toyota GR86 isn’t especially potent but it is very highly rated by us for its fabulous feedback, wonderful poise and freely exploitable rear-drive handling. Especially useful is the separation of steering and power; a fast hatch asks the front tyres to steer and deploy the power at the same time but the GR86’s rear-drive chassis gives pure, uncorrupted steering and the option to steer the car on the throttle from the rear, making it superb for revealing the performance and individual characters of our test tyres.

The track

We’re familiar with Continental’s proving ground in Hannover, Germany, which allows us to complete all tests on site, including on its wet handling circuit, which provides a consistent level of friction across its varied and demanding lap. As usual, much of the objective testing is carried out by proving ground staff, including the straight-line wet braking using specialised equipment, while we set the lap times on the wet and dry circuits and appraise noise and comfort on special surfaces within the site for the ‘road route’ scoring.

The tyres

Prices shown are an average from a number of suppliers. EU tyre label ratings are in brackets: RR = rolling resistance, on a scale of A (best) to E (worst); a better rating should mean better fuel economy. Wet = wet grip, again from A to E, derived solely from a straight-line brake test. Noise = exterior (pass‑by) noise, given in decibels and rated from A (quieter, < 69 dB) to C (louder, > 72 dB).

 SizeRatingWeightPrice
Bridgestone Potenza Sport225/40 R18 92Y RR D, Wet A, Noise 72 B9.96kg£95
Continental SportContact 7225/40 ZR18 92Y RR C, Wet A, Noise 72 B9.5kg£98
Falken Azenis FK510225/40 R18 92Y RR C, Wet A, Noise 70 B9.8kg£89
Goodyear Eagle F1 Super Sport225/40 ZR18 92Y RR D, Wet A, Noise 72 B9.9kg£113
Maxxis Victra Sport 5 VS5225/40 ZR18 92Y RR C, Wet A, Noise 72 B10.0kg£80
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S225/40 ZR18 92Y RR D, Wet A, Noise 72 B9.8kg£146
Pirelli P Zero PZ4225/40 ZR18 92Y  RR D, Wet A, Noise 68 A9.48kg£119
Toyo Proxes Sport 2225/40 ZR18 92Y XL RR D, Wet A, Noise 71 B10.0kg£83

Wet handling

The wet lap is all in third gear and is a great challenge, but in a fun way as it’s mostly about maximising traction at the rear. In percentage terms, all eight of our test tyres are reasonably close on lap time, the eighth-placed tyre just five per cent off the best, but the GR86 feels different on every one.

Quickest is the Continental (82.6sec), which is also rated highest subjectively. It’s the only tyre that generates enough traction to make the Toyota’s engine feel like it’s bogging down out of the slowest turns, and with great steering feel and strong grip, particularly at the front, you can carry speed into braking areas in a way that isn’t possible with most of the others. The only caveat is that rear breakaway at speed can feel abrupt. 

The Maxxis gets within half a second of the Continental but gives the Toyota a quite different balance. There is less detail through the steering but its nose-led balance is usefully exploitable, the rear being less eager to slip wide, especially in faster curves. Even when it does slide, the rear moves slowly, so you can carry speed with confidence. 

The Goodyear is just a couple of tenths shy of the Maxxis and seems to bring the best out of the Toyota, with terrific front-end bite and precision, and although the rear is a little snappy, good feedback makes it manageable. 

Fourth fastest is the Pirelli, and from its feel and feedback it feels like it should be the fastest, with a great front end and strong rear that falls slowly into oversteer. It just lacks outright grip. The Michelin is similarly well balanced but further off the Continental’s pace, the nose pushing wide more easily and the rear less ready to hook up out of corners. It gives good steering, good composure when the rear slips, but it lacks outright grip. So does the Bridgestone, which sets the same lap time. That said, it’s an easy tyre on which to find the balance, the handling predictable and poised at the limit.

The Falken is further off the pace and although you’d like a bit more steering feel and a bit more grip, it is a very friendly tyre with a gentle breakaway, making slides easy to catch. Over four seconds off the pace of the best is the Toyo. It has so much less bite than the others and lacks responsiveness on turn-in, traction and grip generally, but it’s a soft, playful tyre. It can suffer late-corner breakaway, but it’s easy to catch and balance.

Wet handling – lap time

 Seconds%
Continental 82.6100
Maxxis83.099.4
Goodyear83.299.3
Pirelli83.598.9
Bridgestone84.497.8
Michelin84.497.8
Falken85.097.0
Toyo86.795.0

Wet handling – subjective

 Points%
Continental 63.5100
Goodyear61.596.9
Maxxis61.096.1
Michelin58.592.1
Pirelli58.592.1
Bridgestone54.085.0
Falken52.582.7
Toyo46.573.2

Wet circle

It’s no surprise to find the Continental at the top of the table in the wet circle test, just as it was in wet handling. All the tyres are within five per cent of the best on the wet circuit lap time and this closes to within three per cent on the wet circle lap, so although there is some shuffling of the order, notably the Bridgestone gaining three places to claim second and the Goodyear dropping four places to seventh, in reality all of our eight contenders perform well.

Results

 Seconds%
Continental11.07100
Bridgestone11.1099.7
Pirelli11.1699.2
Maxxis11.1899.1
Michelin11.1899.1
Toyo11.2398.6
Goodyear11.2798.2
Falken11.3997.1

Braking and rolling resistance

According to their self‑certified EU labels, all of our test tyres are rated A for wet braking, and happily they mostly conform to this grouping, the tyres placed second to seventh in our test stopping from 80kph (50mph) within 0.5m of each other. The outliers are the overachieving Continental, which at 24.1m tops the table with a stopping distance a whole 1.0m better than the best of the rest, and the underachieving Toyo, which takes 26.8m to come to a stop, 1.2m further than the seventh-placed tyre. 

It’s a similar story in dry braking, with the Continental being the stand-out best, stopping from 100kph (62mph) in just 34.0m. That’s an impressive 1.3m ahead of the second-placed Pirelli, which leads the third-placed Toyo by just 0.1m. The Bridgestone is just 0.1m behind that, and the rest aren’t far behind, the Falken, Maxxis and Michelin tied on 35.8m and the eighth-placed Goodyear just 0.1m shy of them.  

There’s more differentiation in the rolling resistance test, which is again headed by the Continental, giving it a clean sweep in this section. It’s rated C, as are the second and third-placed Falken and Maxxis, while the other five are rated D and range from the Toyo, which has a rolling resistance very close to that of the Maxxis, down to the Goodyear, which has by far the highest rolling resistance.

Wet braking

 Metres%
Continental24.1100
Bridgestone25.196.1
Michelin25.196.1
Pirelli25.494.7
Falken25.594.4
Goodyear25.693.8
Maxxis25.693.8
Toyo26.889.0

Dry braking

 Metres%
Continental34.0100
Pirelli35.396.1
Toyo35.495.9
Bridgestone35.595.6
Falken35.894.9
Maxxis35.894.9
Michelin35.894.9 
Goodyear35.994.4

Rolling resistance (official rating)

 EU test value%
Continental0.826 (C)100
Falken0.874 (C)94.5
Maxxis0.895 (C)92.3
Toyo0.904 (D)91.4
Pirelli0.949 (D)87.0
Michelin0.956 (D)86.4
Bridgestone0.991 (D)83.3
Goodyear1.095 (D)75.4

Aquaplaning

The ability to clear standing water is a rarely called upon but crucial ability, because if water lifts a tyre clear of the surface, it can no longer offer any steering or braking. In the straight-line test we measure the speed at which the driven wheels slip by 15 per cent in 9mm of water. 

The Maxxis tops the table – just – from the Falken, which manages almost the same speed. As in previous tests, the high quality of the field is illustrated by the small spread of performance, the Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear and Continental all very similar in the middle order and even the Pirelli and Toyo in seventh and eighth places being within three per cent of the Maxxis. 

There’s more of a range in the curved aquaplaning test, which measures residual lateral acceleration in 5mm of water at speeds from 60 to 90kph (37-56mph). The Goodyear’s table-topping performance is again almost matched by the Falken and the Bridgestone. The Michelin and Pirelli are a little off the best, the Maxxis and Toyo a touch further adrift, and the Continental props up the table, just under eight per cent off the Goodyear. 

Straight-line aquaplaning

 Max kph%
Maxxis77.6100
Falken77.599.9
Bridgestone77.199.4
Michelin77.199.4
Goodyear77.099.2
Continental76.999.1
Pirelli76.598.5
Toyo76.097.9

Curved aquaplaning

 m/sec2%
Goodyear3.09100
Falken3.0699.0
Bridgestone3.0598.7
Michelin2.9595.5
Pirelli2.9595.5
Maxxis2.8993.5
Toyo2.8993.5
Continental2.8592.2

Dry handling

As usual, the spread of lap times on the dry handling course is much closer than on the wet track but, as in the wet, there’s a bigger difference in how the tyres feel, and this is reflected in their subjective ratings. The short but tricky course starts with a steady-speed sweep into a high-speed, 135kph (84mph) left, quickly followed by a slower but still fast left that is the opening corner of a demanding, gradually tightening left-right-left-right sequence. This is followed by a short run to a large-radius left-hand hairpin and another straight leading into a fast left-right chicane to finish. 

Topping both the time sheet and the subjective rankings is the Continental, but in both instances it’s a very close thing. The Continental carries speed confidently into the opening sequence, hangs on well and accurately picks out the lines, taking the last right with a useful, stabilising bit of understeer. It feels a little keen to oversteer midway through the long hairpin but overall it’s controlled, grippy and exploitable: a strong performance. The Bridgestone is a mere tenth behind even though it feels like it’s working with a little less grip. It’s not quite as precise but has a malleable balance, great traction and lovely steering connection. Pipping it subjectively is the Toyo, which is equal third fastest with the Goodyear. Like the Continental, the Toyo is properly hooked up and offers good balance, poise and adjustability. Willing and very capable. 

As well as setting a strong lap time, the Goodyear is well rated subjectively. It doesn’t feel as grippy as the top three and so lacks their absolute precision, but it’s adjustable and calm, carrying speed well and delivering good steering, so not far off the best. Same goes for the Michelin, which is just over half a second off the Continental. What it lacks in outright grip it makes up for in adjustability and composure, allowing impressive on-limit correction of lines. Terrific traction and great steering feel too. The Maxxis is a tenth quicker and initially feels right up there, with a strong front end and traction, but it seems to lose its edge quite quickly and the second lap is much more tail happy. 

The Pirelli is seventh fastest, still within a second of the fastest, and although it isn’t as neat and precise, almost as if the car is heavier, it compensates with excellent poise and adjustability. Slowest and also lowest ranked subjectively is the Falken, which in this very high-quality field feels less precise, positive and poised from the first turn. Predictable but lacking precision. 

Dry handling – lap time

 Seconds%
Continental51.8100
Bridgestone51.999.8
Goodyear52.299.2
Toyo52.299.2
Maxxis52.398.9
Michelin52.498.8
Pirelli52.698.3
Falken53.496.9

Dry handling – subjective

 Points%
Continental58.0100
Toyo57.599.1
Bridgestone57.098.3
Michelin56.597.4
Goodyear56.096.6
Pirelli56.096.6
Maxxis54.093.1
Falken48.082.8

Road route

All tyres are a compromise and balancing the various demands is an art. While our other tests measure ultimate performance, the road route assesses a tyre’s comfort, interior noise, and steering response and feel at low and medium speeds, using a variety of surfaces within the proving ground.

Topping this test is the Bridgestone, which delivers the best combination, blending connected, linear and well-weighted steering with a ride that is a little noisy but takes the sting out of sharp impacts to deliver impressive comfort. Just behind are the Michelin and Pirelli, the Michelin sounding a bit hollow but delivering great steering feel, while the Pirelli isn’t as sweet steering but is impressive for its noise suppression and comfort over sharp ridges. 

The Goodyear and Maxxis come joint fourth with very similar strengths: good steering with slightly softer responses than the best, low noise apart from some hiss on coarse surfaces, and good comfort. The Continental delivers the best steering with lovely connection, directness and linearity, but is let down by a sharpness and audible report over sharper impacts. Some way short of the best are the Falken and Toyo. The Falken is decently refined but its steering lacks directness and feel, while the Toyo gives softer and less connected steering that improves with speed but has a rather abrupt ride over ridges and manhole covers. 

 Points%
Bridgestone23.5100
Michelin23.097.9 
Pirelli23.097.9
Goodyear22.595.7 
Maxxis22.595.7
Continental22.093.6
Falken20.085.1
Toyo19.582.9

The results

8th: Falken (93.1)

It’s an illustration of the quality of this year’s field that having delivered a strong overall score, the Falken is eighth. It performed well in all the measured tests and its character on the wet handling circuit was well liked.

Blackcircles says… Positively rated by our customers, scoring 4.5/5 overall, drivers favour value for money with this tyre. Customer reviews mention good grip in the wet and dry and quieter road noise.

7th: Toyo (94.3)

Dry handling was the Toyo’s highlight, where it almost matched the best on lap time and ranked second subjectively. Less happy in the wet and lacks steering quality, but a great overall result.

Blackcircles says… Rated 4.8/5 overall by our customers, and highly for value for money, this tyre is viewed favourably. Noted for its good grip, drivers are pleased with the tyre’s performance.

6th: Michelin (94.9)

Impressive in the wet and the dry and well rated subjectively, particularly for its fine steering, poise and dynamic balance, if not outright grip. By far the most expensive tyre, which makes a difference in such a close field.

Blackcircles says… A popular choice among our customers, with over 4000 reviews leading to a 4.8/5 rating for ‘would buy again’. Reviewers comment on great grip in all driving conditions, responsive steering and low noise.

5th: Goodyear (95.1)

A solid overall performance. Top in the curved aquaplane test, but most impressive in dry handling, where it was adjustable and calm with great steering. A rewarding, capable tyre.

Blackcircles says… Our customers rate this tyre with a score of 4.5/5 overall. Most are impressed with the good grip in the wet and dry and are pleased with the tyre’s response. 

4th: Pirelli (95.7)

Delivered a great set of objective results and highly rated subjectively too. Felt as capable as the best in the wet, was poised and adjustable in the dry, and was refined in general driving. An impressive tyre all round.

Blackcircles says… Another popular tyre for our customers, scoring 4.7/5 for ‘would buy again’ from over 800 reviews. Customers rate the grip, performance in all weather conditions, and quiet road noise.

3rd: Maxxis (96.9)

A well-earned third place. Delivers in all the objective tests, top ranked in straight-line aquaplaning and almost set the best lap time in the wet. Well liked subjectively, and great value too.

Blackcircles says… Blackcircles.com is unable to provide any insight into this tyre’s popularity or performance with our customers at present.

2nd: Bridgestone (97.1)

Another deeply impressive performance from this tyre. Top ranked subjectively, including first place on the road route, but the foundations of its result are excellent objective performance, wet and dry. A great tyre.

Blackcircles says… Over 150 customer reviews have led to a 4.7/5 rating for ‘would buy again’ for this tyre. Feedback often focuses on the predictable grip in all weathers and in particular the good wet grip.

1st: Continental (98.2)

Untouchable in objective tests and judged best subjectively in wet and dry handling too. Even discounting any potential home advantage, it is pretty much the complete high-performance tyre.

Blackcircles says… A popular tyre for our customers, rated 4.7/5 overall. Noted for its very good performance, excellent grip and quiet noise – all giving confidence while driving.

evo Tyre Test 2023 was first published in issue 316.

Recommended

Best 19-inch tyres - R19 235/35 performance tyre test
evo 2022 tyre test – header
Features

Best 19-inch tyres - R19 235/35 performance tyre test

Which high performance tyres should you be shortlisting for your car? We put seven 235/35 R19 tyres through the evo tyre test: the toughest objective …
1 Dec 2023

Most Popular

Toyota GR Yaris Gen 2 2024 review – first drive of the production ready hot hatch
Toyota GR Yaris – front
Reviews

Toyota GR Yaris Gen 2 2024 review – first drive of the production ready hot hatch

We've driven a prototype GR Yaris Gen 2 on track, now we've driven a production car on ice. Is it still looking good for the ultimate supermini?
27 Feb 2024
New Alpine A290: latest details on the Renault 5's hot hatch cousin
Alpine A290 concept
Features

New Alpine A290: latest details on the Renault 5's hot hatch cousin

Good news for fans of accessible performance, as Alpine reveals more details about its forthcoming EV hot hatch, the A290
26 Feb 2024
Hyundai i30 N and i20 N axed
Hyundai i30 N and i20 N
News

Hyundai i30 N and i20 N axed

Production of petrol-powered Hyundai N hot hatches has come to an end in Europe, with electric N models picking up the baton
23 Feb 2024