Nitto NT05 review: A drag tire for the street

by Nitto

  • Dry 95% 95%
  • Wet 80% 80%
  • Snow 60% 60%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Noise 80% 80%
  • Treadwear 85% 85%
  • Overall 80% 80%

The Nitto NT05 is properly classified as a max performance tire. You only need to look at the tread design to discern the NT05 is for serious competitive driving. In fact, it’s basically a street version of the more hardcore NT01 and NT05 competition tires. With that in mind, you can expect a bit more comfort and refinement from the NT05. But if that’s what you want in a sporty tire, you’re barking at the wrong tree.

You see, the Nitto NT05 is engineered for performance – other things like road noise and ride comfort are only secondary. This is the reason why these tires are aimed specifically towards enthusiasts or people who own high-powered sports cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, or Dodge Charger. But when fitted onto a small and sprightly sports car like the Porsche Cayman on a proper racetrack, the Nitto NT05 can spell the difference between losing or taking the checkered flag.

Surprisingly enough, the NT05 is also good for the street. Nitto worked long and hard to deliver a tire that offers uncompromising traction and grip while still making it more street-friendly than a proper set of drag tires. And in this review, we got our hands on a 2013 Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0-liter V8. Our muscle car also came with a couple of aftermarket go-fast parts like a racing cat-back exhaust kit, larger Brembo brakes, and a cold air intake. If there’s a car worthy of having max performance tires, the Mustang is arguably one of the best.

But there’s a catch: we only had an entire day to test the Nitto NT05 tires. Our test vehicle came fitted with aftermarket 18-inch wheels and lowered suspension. The NT05 tires have seen better days, but the owner was visibly impressed on the amount of grip even if the treads are wearing thin. We here this type of praise when talking about the Nitto NT05. Racers love it for its longevity, while others find it to offer better value than a more expensive set of racing rubber.

Nitto NT05 Review: Features

When developing the NT05, Nitto had two things in mind: sporty style and uncompromising grip. The most obvious feature is the ultra-wide continuous center rib. Combined with those larger tread blocks on the inside and outside shoulder, it’s easy to mistake the NT05 for drag tires like the NT05R drag-radial rubber.

And as it turns out, Nitto highly recommends the NT05R to be paired with the NT05 max performance tire. Nitto actually developed both lines with matching tread designs and sizing. For instance, if you have a tuned muscle car, the NT05R should be placed in the rear while the NT05 max should be installed in the front. You can do this safely without mismatching the traction and stability of your ride.

In order to provide stable cornering, Nitto utilized a specially formulated tread compound for the NT05. The highly-reinforced internal construction was engineered to improve high-speed handling and cornering while enhancing steering feel and response. The chunky tread blocks deliver the required stability and rigidity to handle high-horsepower applications. Short of a Bugatti Veyron or Chiron, it seems the Nitto NT05 is tough enough to handle the extreme demands of circuit racing and mild street use.

Nitto NT05 Review: Performance

We started our test drive in the wee hours of the morning. But as luck would have it, it was raining cats and dogs as we drove all the way to the nearest dragstrip, which happens to be Sonoma Raceway in California. The tires felt nervous as we sped gingerly on a wet highway, but things began to feel better as the pavement began to dry.

There’s one thing we found out about the Nitto NT05: the tires need to be properly warm in order to deliver the required level of handling performance. It wasn’t too bad on a wet highway, but the tires were a bit twitchy on a wet racetrack, most especially in a tuned V8 muscle car with rear-wheel drive.

Dry Traction

Luckily for us, the weather improved as the day went on. When properly heated up, the Nitto NT05 tires were simply divine. We’re not the biggest and most enthusiastic drag racers in the world, but our reaction times were nothing compared to experienced racers. This was exacerbated by the stiff and heavy clutch. But once you hook up the rear tires, the Nitto NT05 performed flawlessly after a couple of burnouts. In fact, it made drag racing feel easier than it should, and it really felt the tires can handle more than 500-plus horsepower.

In the street, the tires were as good in the dry if not for the bumpy ride and road noise. However, things are different when you begin speeding on a wet highway or racetrack.

Wet Traction

Let’s put it this way: the Nitto NT05 tires were average on wet roads. We were traveling at no more than 70 mph on a wet highway and the tires were fine, but we were traveling mostly in a straight line. The NT05 still comes with twin circumferential grooves for effective water displacement, but it’s nothing compared to the four circumferential grooves in an all-season performance tire.

Simply put, the Nitto NT05 were fine on a wet highway and on a straight line. But on a wet track with high-speed curves, you better know what you’re doing, most especially if the tires are cold. It really felt like we were driving over icy roads.

But on a rainy street, you won’t be slipping and sliding all over the place provided you’re careful with throttle inputs. If you do most of your driving on the street, there are better tires for your car.

Snow Traction

The Nitto NT05 tires lack the necessary siping and biting edges to make it ideal for snowy pavement. We’re talking about racing tires here, so don’t expect the NT05 to motivate your sports car when the weather turns cold. Remember, the NT05 are like summer tires and require higher temperatures to deliver the most traction and grip.

Comfort

In terms of comfort, the Nitto NT05 tires were surprisingly good despite the stiff and lowered suspension in our test vehicle. In addition, the NT05 tires were a tad more refined in the street than the NT01 and NT05R, but not by much. We figure it’ll be comfier on sporty vehicles equipped with stock suspension, even though the tires were not specifically intended for OEM or stock applications. If comfort is your priority in a sporty set of tires, look elsewhere.

Noise

Well, there was a fair amount of road noise as we drove the Nitto NT05 tires on the street, but it wasn’t too bad to be considered annoying. Compared to the NT01, the NT05 is unsurprisingly quieter and more refined. But again, only by small amounts. But at higher speeds, it’s tricky to discern the tire roar since the intake and exhaust notes in our test vehicle were predominant inside the cabin.

Treadwear

In terms of treadwear, it’s a mixed bag. Other testers said the tires were poor in terms of overall wear, but the owner of our test vehicle was able to play on the dragstrip for an entire day and drive safely on the way home with the tires still intact. We guess it also has something to do with the total power output of your vehicle.

Overall, the Nitto NT05 tires get a higher than average score when it comes to treadwear. But driving aggressively around a racetrack and performing numerous burnouts will inadvertently lead to faster wear, so you’ll need to consider that as well.

But if there’s one thing we really like, it’s how the tires maintain superior traction even after thousands of miles of abuse. That alone is worthy of consideration.

Conclusion

The Nitto NT05 is a specialized tire for drag racing and track applications. It’s also good for the street, but only in fine weather and average speeds. Once you step onto the wet pavement, the tire tends to hunt for grip most especially when the rubber is cold. It’s the same banana on a dry track. But once heated up, you can attack fast and winding corners with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker.

And then we get to the price. The Nitto NT05 starts at around $180 each, with larger sizes reaching as much as $300 each. Granted the NT01 and NT05 are costlier still, but the NT05 also works on the street, and that’s got to be worth something, right?

All in all, we love the dry performance of the Nitto NT05. It’s the type of tire you enjoy on the track, but it’s also at home when on you’re way home from an entire day of racing.