Using N-Rated Tyres on Classic Porsche Cars

Stuttgart recently released its latest list of Porsche approved ‘N-rated’ tyres. The approved list won’t surprise too many people, but the pic below of a Porsche 356 Coupe close to vertical on the Continental ContiDrom banking in testing might raise a smile.

Porsche’s N rating is regularly updated to keep abreast of progress made in tyre development, including tread design and compound changes. Tyre fitter legend has it that, once a tyre is granted an N rating, it cannot be altered without losing approval. The budget brands don’t feature in the Porsche lists, but is that due to money and marketing? Who believes these N-rated lists?

Porsche 356 911 N rated tyre classic approved

Porsche’s N rated approval lists don’t mention tyre price premiums or brand discounting on tyres supplied with new cars. Instead, the lists are said to come from extensive tests carried out by “Porsche tyre experts” over several weeks. This year, the test team used the aforementioned 356, an impact-bumper 911 2.7 Carrera, a 911 Turbo (930) and a first-gen Porsche 986 Boxster. No mention of front-engined cars or the 964/993 series with 17″ and 18″ wheels, but they do feature on the N rated lists.

The forum jury is well and truly out as to whether Porsche-approved tyres are that much better than non N-rated tyres. I have used both N-rated and unrated tyres on my own classic Porsche cars and been happy with examples from each camp. That said, my 911 is currently on non N-rated tyres that do have a version on the Porsche approved list and they have proved excellent. I am not saying that the N rated list is fallacy, just that there are other tyres out there that seem to work well on older Porsches.

N rated Porsche Tyre Prices

A set of new N-rated tyres for my 911 costs around £400, so it’s not saving a huge amount of money over five years (or however long you expect tyres to last on a car doing 2k miles a year) to pick a set of tyres costing a hundred quid less. Not that I ever buy new tyres for my own cars, and the argument changes if you use your Porsche daily: Ferdinand’s 10 year-old Cayenne S will happily demolish two sets of part-worn Continental tyres in ten thousand miles.

Porsche Boxster N rated tyre classic approved

I started my classic Porsche career on Kumho tyres, and have also used Falken, Goodyear Eagle F1, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup and Continental ContiSportContact to name a few I recall. Friends use Bridgestone S-02 (approved), S-03 and Toyo R888 on track cars. I like driving on the Bridgestone S-02s but find the 888s to be very noisy and hard work in heavy rain. I’ve driven too many 911s on Michelin TB5 and TB15 to list: not my favourite tyres but they do look good on wide wheels.

My own preference thus far is for Pilot Sport Cups, but ignore what I am telling you. They are super expensive, will scare you a bit in torrential downpours and won’t last more than 2,000 miles if you’re lucky. That said they look drop-dead gorgeous and the grip is amazing. My last set of Pilot Sport Cup rubber expired about four years ago and I’ve been on ContiSportContact ever since: grip is great, long tyre life (as I don’t go anywhere) and superb in the wet.

Porsche 356 911 N rated tyre classic approved (2)

N-Rated Tyres on Classic Porsche Cars

ContiSportContact and SportContact 2 are N rated tyres. The SportContact is also an F-rated tyre: Ferdinand recommends them 100% based on the fact that we’ve used SportContacts for more than 5k miles and didn’t die in a blazing inferno due to skidding off-piste. ContiSport Contact 3 is not N rated but they are also great: been using them on my E36 BMW M3 for a couple of years and they are superb, but not N rated and not available in 245/45 16 to fit 9″ Fuchs. Both sets of SportContact rubber replaced GoodYear Eagle F1s, which must be the worst tyres I have ever driven on: Kumhos included.

The Porsche N rated tyre lists include approval for:

  • Porsche 356: Pirelli P6000 (would not look great IMO)
  • Porsche 924: P6000, Continental ContisportContact and Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 (I have P6000s on my 924 Turbo)
  • Porsche 928: Pirelli P Zero Asimmetrico, ContiSportContact, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
  • Porsche 959: Bridgestone RE71
  • Porsche 964: Pirelli P Zero Rosso, Bridgestone S-01, Bridgestone S-02A
  • Porsche 986 and 996 add ContiSportContact 2 and Pirelli P Zero Direzionale.

I’d be interested to know who is using non N rated and how they have been doing – add thoughts in the comments. Anyone who believes Porsche cars should only run on N-rated rubber can rest assured that we understand the arguments in favour but are happy to deviate from that advice.

6 Comments

  • Raleigh Fehr says:

    I had been running non N on my 84 911 for the last 18 years. The same set of Goodyears all that time. Still plenty of tread after 25k miles but showing their age in other ways. I spent the winter researching replacements and my options were limited to 3 different sets (one of which was snow tires) if I wanted to stay with my 15 inch rims and have matching brand and model front and rear. I went with the P6000s. Yes, close to 1k US for the set but I’m happy with them so far.

    • John Glynn says:

      Interesting, Raleigh. I remember the old P600s never seemed to work that well on impact-bumper Porsche 911s, but the P6000s are a different matter. I have had a few BMWs with Pirelli P6000 tyres and enjoyed them: different weight distribution, of course. That big 3.0 or 3.2-litre flat-six asks a lot of the rear rubber, so often worth playing with tyre pressures a bit.

  • Wouter says:

    Hi, thanks for the nice read. I am running Uniroyal Rainsport 3’s on the 911 SC (1980) and they work great (even though non N-rated), excellent in the rain, as that is what they were built for, but also very good grip in the dry. Don’t seem to wear too much, but still in first year on the tires, and feedback is also better than expected.

  • Chuck says:

    Same set of tires for 18 years, Raleigh?? How fast did you drive and where do you drive – I prefer to avoid you, even with new tires (nothing personal mind you). 😉

  • Stephen Fowler says:

    My old 944 Turbo ran Bridgestone RE-11’s, loved them. On my current 3.0 930 I mounted RE-11A’s, same design but apparently longer tire life.

    The Bridgestones have been great on the street and on the track. I have ContiSportContacts on the Audi, but find them underwhelming.

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