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Why Were Tire Speed Ratings Developed? The speed rating system used today was developed in Europe in response to the need to control the safe performance of tires at standardized speeds. When the rating system was originally developed, the "Unlimited V" category of over 210 km/h (130 mph) was the top speed rating possible.
The speed rating tells you the speed the tire can safely maintain over time. A higher speed rating usually means you will have better control and handling at higher speeds — and that the tire can take the extra heat.
Tire speed rating is different than tire size. Tire speed rating tells you the maximum service speed for a tire. A speed rating isn't, however, a recommendation to exceed speed limits, and doesn't indicate how well a tire handles or corners.
Using a P195/60R15 87S tire size as our example, the 87S at the end of the size represents the tire's service description. A service description identifies the tire's load index and speed rating. Service descriptions are required on all speed rated (except for Z-speed rated) tires manufactured...
Tire speed ratings first originated in Europe in the 1960s, as a way to make sure increasingly faster vehicles were equipped with appropriate safe tires. These early speed ratings set the foundation for the current speed rating system used by the DOT and tire manufacturers.
Speed Rating V. Once the highest speed rating a tire could have, “V” used to represent a maximum of 149 mph (240 kph) or more. Nowadays, it means 149 mph but no higher. Speed Rating W. A relatively new addition to the speed rating chart, tires with speed rating “W” can achieve a maximum sustained speed of 168 mph (270 kph). Speed Rating Z