Well I'd say that a decent set of Michelin's would take the hit without bubbling out like that but I am sort of biased since I work for Michelin..
In all honesty though, I ran my Firestone's for almost 3 years and replaced them with a good set of Michelin's which have been on there for around 2 years, the difference is amazing. I actually replaced the Firestone's because they handled horribly, not because they were worn out. Previous to my Impreza I owned two Fiero's and used Goodyear GT+4's exclusively on them.. the crappy handling of the stock Firestone's on the Impreza was obvious almost immediately.
I won't sit here and toot my company's horn but I can definately say that we make good tires, they are a bit pricey though which might keep some people away from them. One thing I can say for sure is that I'll never buy a Firestone tire, they have been less than impressive for me.
i suspect that's going to have more to do with speed rating then make of the tire. the higher the speed rating, the stronger and stiffer the sidewalls. you do that with a long life commuter tire and you're fucked. you do it with a Z rated performance tire (like the SP5000) and you'll survive hopefully.
anyway, i want you to do a full test and report back to us on your findings
That is a good point, I forgot about the speed rating. That happens though because I work on computers rather than tires.
I just checked and the tires I'm running on my Impreza, Energy MXV4 Plus's, are V-rated. That gives them a max speed of 149mph with an inflation increase of 5psi and a reduced load capacity of 91% of max at that speed. We do make an H-rated version of the tire which is less expensive and has a max speed of 130mph, the same inflation increase but no reduced load capacity.
Living in Michigan I'm forced to use all season tires which makes it more pricey when I want to move up in performance. If I end up going to a 17" wheel then I want to check into some Pilot Sport A/S tires in 225/45/17 which are Y-rated and can go up to 186mph even though my car will never actually go that fast. I haven't even looked into the price on these yet because I have a feeling it will make my wallet cry.