That was Continental’s objective in creating the new Continental ContiSportContact 5 P, successor to the successful ContiSportContact 3. True to aim, the company’s engineers managed to improve the product in all areas: noise (or relative lack thereof), tread wear, braking in both dry and wet conditions, reduced rolling resistance, wet handling, and most notably, a great increase in dry handling.
To illustrate a tire’s properties, Conti uses what’s known as a spider graph that presents all the foregoing considerations (tread wear, wet and dry handling, and so on) in order to map the tire’s attributes in a readily visual manner. Depicted this way, the improvements in the Contact 5 are quite evident when presented with a standard summer tire. According to Continental engineers, the great gains found in their latest UHP iteration were made possible through computer simulation. This way they could experiment with various designs and compounds and see reliable real-world results without ever having to actually mold a tire. When the molding process finally went ahead, they already knew what they were after to a great extent.
Starting from the center outward, the Contact 5’s outer tread is arranged around solid central tread lugs with asymmetrical tread ribs. These are intended to reduce movement in the tread itself for overall optimized longitudinal stiffness. The outer shoulder is designed for stability and grip during cornering with supple macro-block arrays on both the shoulder and the solid central rib to allow the contact patch to adapt to the road’s surface.
The Contact 5 also uses what Continental calls Black Chili Technology, referring to the tire compound. It involves a type of race-grade carbon black that helps promote a speedy warm-up procedure. The polymers mixed into the compound are reinforced with nano particles to make them more supple, and this is aimed at making the compound itself offer more contact points with the road surface, enhancing grip and making the tire even more stable during operation. The compound also contributes to the Contact 5’s impressive braking performance, achieving shortened braking distances through, again, increased grip.
You might expect a tire with improved grip to compromise other attributes, like rolling resistance, noise, or tread wear. According to Continental, that’s not the case here. Rolling resistance in particular was overcome through the use of a cap and base tread design, where the outer cap, the tread blocks, are there to provide grip in the wet and dry and improve braking, while the underlying base layer assists in reducing rolling resistance. The two in tandem achieve more positive road grip and retain a maximum amount of kinetic energy.
We had a chance to experience the Contact 5 on a variety of vehicles at Continental’s legendary test facility outside Hannover, Germany: the Contidrome. Excercises such as hard driving on a dry handling circuit, driving as hard as you dared on a wet course, experimentation on a circular track using Conti 5s with varying tread depths, and a high-speed slalom, let us really experience this new rubber in almost every conceivable driving situation.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising given Conti’s tradition of excellent grip in slippery conditions, but most impressive was the tire’s performance in the wet. One exercise in particular, panic braking while changing lanes on wet pavement, showed the Contact 5’s astonishing superiority both in terms of braking force and overall car control compared to cheaper tires from an Asian competitor. You’d have to run the course yourself to truly believe it (both sets of tires were fitted to otherwise identical FWD Opels).
The Continental ContiSportContact 5 will be offered as an OEM tire replacement and as original equipment on the TT RS and on Mercedes-Benz 63 AMGs, including C 63, E 63, SL 63, and SLS. It will be initially offered in diameters up to 23 inches with overall widths ranging from 225 to 315mm. Karl Funke