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This seems like lots of words to say nothing.
aka marketing.

I wish I knew the facts about the differences between an n-spec tire and its counterpart.
 

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There are some differences in tread design and compounds between an N-spec and non-N-spec tire of the same tire brand/model, but I doubt a layman could detect them in how the car handles.
 

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It is very difficult to believe there actually are differences. You sure can't tell by looks except the the magical "N". Or by handling. They also make a Mercedes version, "M", a Ford version, a BMW version, and I can't imagine how many others. To suggest they each have their own magical compound/formula, their magical, all but identical, tread patterns and as a result, their own molds to form the tires just doesn't make sense. In fact it sounds like a business model from he_ll. Here's what I believe. The auto manufactures use the standard tires during their vehicle testing. If those tires satisfy them, they "certify" that fact and allow Michelin to designate tires with the magical letter addition to the side wall. Oh and charge a small premium for the effort it takes to add the letter to the sidewall. Years of reading and trying to understand the differences have done nothing to change my opinion.
 

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I came across this article once upon a time that talks about variations in the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires among those targeted for different vehicles. They show a picture here of what they claim are different tread designs, but to me it looks like one is just worn worse than the other.


Personally, I've never bought N-spec tires for my Boxster. For that matter, the current tires I'm running aren't even OEM size - my personal preference.
 

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It also makes it easier for dealers to convince you to buy tires from them because they can tell customers they have to buy the special N ones and good luck finding them anywhere else. There may also be some incentive from OEM's to make sure people are putting decent tires on their cars as well, as most people are likely to just buy whatever's cheapest. There was some good discussion about this in the latest Road to Redline podcast:
The part about the N rating starts at about 33 mins in.

I think its mostly BS, especially as the car gets older. You go on TireRack now and view the N rated OE tires for a 987 and you get a few outdated models to choose from. No thanks.
 

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It is very difficult to believe there actually are differences. You sure can't tell by looks except the the magical "N". Or by handling. They also make a Mercedes version, "M", a Ford version, a BMW version, and I can't imagine how many others. To suggest they each have their own magical compound/formula, their magical, all but identical, tread patterns and as a result, their own molds to form the tires just doesn't make sense. In fact it sounds like a business model from he_ll. Here's what I believe. The auto manufactures use the standard tires during their vehicle testing. If those tires satisfy them, they "certify" that fact and allow Michelin to designate tires with the magical letter addition to the side wall. Oh and charge a small premium for the effort it takes to add the letter to the sidewall. Years of reading and trying to understand the differences have done nothing to change my opinion.
Within a given tire family, there doesn't seem to be much if any variation in tread pattern, but there are a lot of internal construction details that are also tunable variables. In my experience at one of the domestic OEMs, certainly any vehicle program that has any pretensions to any kind of performance will go through at least a couple of tire submissions, and you'd be surprised at some of the non-performance-focused, mainstream programs I've been involved with that have done so as well (sedans, basic hatchbacks, SUVs, etc.).

I came across this article once upon a time that talks about variations in the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires among those targeted for different vehicles. They show a picture here of what they claim are different tread designs, but to me it looks like one is just worn worse than the other.


Personally, I've never bought N-spec tires for my Boxster. For that matter, the current tires I'm running aren't even OEM size - my personal preference.
That Billy Johnson / motoiq.com article is pretty accurate regarding the tire development process. In particular, the paragraph on p. 7 under the heading "How Tread Design, Compounding, and Construction Come Together" describes the tire development process for most of the vehicle programs I've been involved with. I can't speak to Porsche's N-rating process, but one thing they do that I'm not aware of other manufacturers doing is evaluate and approve new tires and tire models even after development on a particular platform has ceased. In this case, it wouldn't surprise me if they're evaluating off-the-shelf submissions from the tire company, but the tire company is probably selecting tires based on what they know has been approved in the past for that platform. Having said that, I have noticed that there aren't many newer tire models on Tire Rack that are N-rated for the Boxster, as @sectachrome points out. Maybe Porsche focuses on the 911 when it comes to approving new tires.
 

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If you take the time, as I did years ago, to carefully compare “identical” N vs non-N tires you will find that in some cases there are no discernible externally identifiable differences, but in others there are differences in tread design, load rating, tire weight, tread width, # of plies, country of origin, etc. Since neither Porsche nor tire manufacturers will disclose differences, it may be hard to know, but I do know to say categorically there are no differences is absolutely incorrect. That said, I’ve frequently used non N spec tires, but will not mix them with N specs. Just IMHO.


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I was told by a close Porsche Mechanic friend, the only difference was the compound was slightly softer for the N spec. Other than that they are the same as the reg version. He also mentioned they ware faster the the non N version.
 
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