This thread has been incrementally updated throughout 2016 and early 2017 and remains valid; see the comments below for the latest updates.
So you need new tires, huh? This year, the choices are pretty simple. If you need 200TW, get Bridgestone RE-71R. If you're in Street Prepared or Street Mod, get Hoosier A7. But, as always, it's not quite so simple as that. Here's a quick run-down on the past year's worth of public testing and anecdotes:
Tech in General: There has been extremely very rapid development in tire technology the past few years, with each year's new releases instantly obsolescing the rest. The crop that came out in 2015 blows away everything else that came before, and whatever next year brings may well do the same again. There are still some good compromise tires some people may choose, but if you want to be competitive for autocross, Bridgestone RE-71R, BF Goodrich RivalS and Kumho V720 are the only tires worth even considering. Another consideration is spring rate: the stiffness of the tire sidewall impacts how well a particular tire will work on a particular car, and street cars with soft suspension generally like a stiffer sidewall tire while stiffer sprung cars like softer tires. Driving style may impact your choice, too; RE-71R and Rival S handle very differently.
Tirerack's testing: http://www.tirerack....ay.jsp?ttid=202
Bridgestone RE-71R is the heavy favorite. It's TireRack's top pick, Grassroots Motorsports' top 200TW track pick and tied with RivalS for GRM's top 200TW autocross pick. It dominated SCCA nationals for every class running it. In track performance, it's been faster than R-888, faster than the old Sport Cups and is considered similar to Pilot Sport Cup 2. RE-71R has a stiff sidewall, and absolutely incredible grip, wet and dry. Great lateral and longitunidal grip, and some of the best transition performance ever in a street tire. There have been a lot of comparisons to R-comps, and they're mostly true, although these are NOT r-comps and are way slower than the A7; they just drive a lot more like r-comps than tires that have come before. You can drive the absolute crap out of these tires; they have crisp turn in, good feedback, and good recovery if you push too hard. The biggest con is tire wear: they wear fast. Conventional wisdom is 2/3 the life of the previous top tires (ZII* & R-S3) but if abused, can wear even faster. Plan to flip them on the rims at 1/2 life. Running locally, Melissa and I got 135 runs out of our first set before seeing speeds drop off, which is typical of the type of life most people report. Several of us have noticed performance dropping off towards the end of tire life (near the treadwear bars), but it's hard to say if it's heat cycling or tread compound changing as corners wear. Lateral and longitudinal grip remains high, even when approaching bald, but transitional grip gives way and will result in slower times.
If you're worried about wet weather performance, don't be: this tire was faster around Tirerack's test track in the wet than every prior rain-tire-to-have. Similar stories with respect to launching vs BFG Rival. (For street use: do remember the tread pattern on all these tires feature giant blocks and does increase risk of hydroplaning, though I've had no issues daily driving RE-71R at highway speeds in heavy rain, even worn down to the TW indicator.)
These tires like heat. They do OK cool, great warm and greater still hot. They don't like it TOO hot, though; some people spray, but others (especially lighter cars) found limited benefit. GRM reported track times dropping slightly after the 2nd lap, but they never really get greasy. Grip numbers stay high, even hot, but transitional performance drops when they get too hot, which can lead to surprise oversteer/understeer.
Street performance is likewise fantastic; I say without reservation that these are the best street tires I've ever owned. They're well behaved on public roads, deal well with misc road debris and simply just stick like glue: every day is an autocross Some people have complained about road noise (resonance at speed) it's never bothered me. The biggest problem is you'll be extra especially frustrated at how slow everyone else are taking the on-ramps. They work well on the street down to freezing temperatures. Anyone have experience in very cold weather?
Only limited sizes are available from 15-19"; the widest presently available is 285mm. Nothing available in 20"+. If they're not available in your preferred size, strongly consider different sizes. If you can't find an RE-71R, Rival S or V720 that fits, change wheels. Rival (non-S) and R-S3 come in 20" but if your new SS car only has 22" wheels... well... you might want to skim on down to MPSS.
Update: Additional sizes are anticipated to be available later in 2016:
BF Goodrich Rival-S:
These tires were specially designed to kick ass at SCCA Autocross Nationals at Lincoln, NE, and the formula was chosen because it grips fantastic on the unique surface there. They're pretty damned quick everywhere else, too! These tires were just shy of RE-71R in Tirerack and GRM tests, but available in the much wider sizes necessary for some cars. (335/35R18 Rival S > 285/35R19 RE-71R). These tires have great launch grip and work well at very high slip angles, which a lot of people like- if you're a driver that likes a lot of rotation, you'll love these tires. This high tolerance has also been a criticism, though: as they grip so well over such a large slip-angle range, it's difficult to tell when you're at peak grip. They have softer sidewalls than RE-71R, and thus work well on cars with stiffer suspension. They're also a heat loving tire but not TOO much heat. They're a very soft tire and wear very quickly, though; conventional wisdom is they're only last 2/3 as long as the previous crop of top tires.
Only VERY limited sizes are available from 15-18", but come in widths up to 335mm. Nothing available in 19"+. For large tire cars, these are your best choice: change wheels if you have to.
Will add more; check back soon
These are another new top-gen tire and did well in testing, although always behind RE-71R and RivalS. Some drivers in heavy camber-challenged FWD cars reported very rapid tire wear and chunking/rapid wear, but most people report more normal wear. Due to coming late to market and without super-glowing test performance, very few people are running these competitively so there's not as much data available as for the other tires, but they're cheap in many sizes and generally considered to be top-tier with RE-71R and RivalS.
Availability: 11 sizes spanning 15-18", with 255 largest size.
Will add more when KeithK inevitably responds with much more detail check back soon
The RE-71R has been described as a "better ZII*" which is a good comparison; the ZII* is a great tire with a stiff sidewall, crisp turn-in, good traction, and good heat tolerance. It doesn't have the same peak grip, though, nor does it have the transitioning ability. But it's still a very quick tire, a fantastic daily driver (great wet & dry) and offers extremely good tread life; more like a 300TW than 200TW. This would be a good compromise tire. At least some sizes have a tread compound change right around the treadwear bars and grip will decrease progressively as the corners wear and the slower rubber is exposed. Purchase cost is similar to the others for most sizes, but you can expect them to last about 50% longer than RE-71R or RivalS, so they're a good value option,
Great wet & dry, though like all these tires, beware the big tread blocks if you hit standing water.
These tires get faster the hotter they get, to a point. They do good cool, great warm and greater still hot. They don't like it TOO hot, though; you'll need to spray (especially heavy cars) though not the torrent the previous ZII (non-star) needed. Grip drops off hot and some teams have reported them getting greasy, though I never experienced that. The earliest indication of overheating is transitional performance drops when they get too hot, which can lead to surprise oversteer/understeer.
Street performance is fantastic; these have been my favorite street tires and IMHO were the best sweet spot for autocross with respect to performance and tire life. They're well behaved on public roads, deal well with misc road debris and simply just stick like glue: every day is an autocross. Some people have complained about road noise (resonance at speed) it's never bothered me. They work well on the street down to freezing temperatures.
Availability: A number of sizes available between 14-19", the widest of which is 285.
BF Goodrich Rival: (non S)
Yep, still being made! (update: as of early 2017, availability looks limited.) These were a previous top-tier tire and very popular for several classes. These are not near as grippy as the Rival S and had some performance issues on rubbered-in Lincoln concrete that hampered wider adoption, as they proved very quick just about everywhere else. (One anecdotal report from a driver was that he was launching quicker with RE-71R in the wet than BFG Rival in the dry.) With their higher heat tolerance than the other top-tier tires, good performance at high slip angles and breakaway conditions, good consistency, and long life, these remain a good choice for HPDE. This has a softer sidewall than the RE-71R and ZII*, though not as soft as the R-S3v2, but the best performance comes when paired with a stiff suspension.
Were the top tire in 2014 years ago, but aren't the top tire anymore. Initially marketed at 140TW, the tread compound was changed (v2) and later revised to 200TW. They have a soft sidewall and work well for stiffly sprung cars. The soft sidewall make for sponginess on turn in, but they have fantastic peak grip and are great in sweeper-heavy courses. The v2 compound works better at lower temperatures than the v1 compound, but are less tolerant of heat because of it. This is still a good compromise tire for light stiff-sprung cars; your times won't be competitive, but they'll last a lot longer.
An older tire design but still in production, these were "the tire to have" in several street touring classes for the many years, primarily the 195/50-15 tires that had a different compound mix than most of the other sizes and, when shaved, gave near r-comp performance. Long marketed as 140TW and decried as r-comps, the newly manufactured tires are stamped 200TW with seemingly no change. These have been largely eclipsed by the RE-71R and Rival S, but remain surprisingly quick and competitive for such an old design. These tires don't like heat and can easily become "greasy" on heavy cars, especially if overdriven. They wear quickly under those conditions, too. Controversy about this being a "cheater" tire have finally been rendered moot by competitors' technological advances. These need to be shaved for best performance/life; due to the tall soft tread blocks, these tires can be damaged by autocross in some conditions when at full tread.
Michelin Pilot Super Sport:
These are not even in the same performance category as any other tire on this page. (Literally- TireRack classifies them in a lower performance category.) They're a compromised "luxury" performance tire that trade off actual performance for a quiet soft ride with good mileage and long tread life. The biggest advantage is that they're available in a huge number of sizes and if you have 20", 21" or 22" wheels, you may not have much choice. They're not a bad tire, but are simply not competitive for autocross or time trial. If you've never experienced the newer/faster tires, you'll probably love them on your car, but don't expect record breaking timeslips.
Anyone else have experiences, anecdotes and/or testing to add?
Edited by sjfehr, 20 February 2017 - 12:33 PM.
Added Maxxis VR-1 early review information.