We shouldn't need to tell you, but tires are the most important aftermarket purchase you'll ever make. Having good traction not only shaves seconds off lap times, but the improved responses and shorter braking distances can save your life.
As enthusiasts, we spend so much time thinking about ways to make our Euros accelerate faster, we often neglect the simplest way to improve performance and safety. And this is where Continental Tire comes into play...
As an OE and aftermarket tire supplier, they understand what drivers need. Constantly evolving it products, the new ContiSportContact 5P (CSC5P) has been raved about in Europe as the best street tire available, so we jumped on a plane across the Atlantic to put them to the test.
Continental doesn't need much introduction. We've marveled at its ContiSportContact3 street tires for the last couple of years in our Tuner GP. Conti also won Best Overall Tire in our '09 tire test with its Extreme DW. And the CSC5P is the culmination of these previous-gen products.
Three years ago, Continental was developing its next ContiSportContact. For the first year, engineers used simulators to design the tire. The following two years focused on physically testing it to ensure the tire was better than its predecessors in every aspect - whether it was wet or dry, handling, braking, tread wear or noise. However, the focus was increasing overall grip, so the engineers infused many new features like these:
Tire Compound. There's a new carbon resin compound called Black Chili Technology. Initially introduced in its sportbike and bicycle tires, the compound uses polymers that are reinforced with tiny nano-particles to make the tire extremely flexible. Like eating a chili, the compound heats up quickly, allowing it to become supple, producing an enlarged contact patch that allows more grip and stability.
Tread Design. The CSC5P has an asymmetric tread pattern that features sturdier center ribs to minimize tread movement during extreme maneuvers. On either side of the rib are tread blocks with more grooves to give it a bigger footprint. These small blocks are interlocked and feature special chambers to disperse water faster. The result is more traction and sharper steering response in wet and dry conditions.
Hybrid Structure. When developing a tire's internal structure, there's an equilibrium that dictates grip and rolling resistance. The CSC5P has twin steel belts reinforced with a mixture of synthetic aramid fiber and nylon to enhance ride quality while not jeopardizing performance.
A Conti engineer told us that the CSC5P is 15-20% better than the CSC3 in areas such as steering response. The tire will carry a high 240-tread wear rating (meaning it should last well) and cater towards later-model performance cars.
In the summer, we visited Continental's Contidrom test facility outside Hanover, Germany. The testing grounds include a high-speed oval, sprinkler-infested wet track, fun-sized dry circuit and off-road course. Upon arrival, we quickly got behind the wheel to assess the CSC5P. First up was a '10 Porsche 911 Carrera S on the dry circuit. With countless journalists awaiting the same opportunity, we only had 15 minutes to push the limits in a set of tight slaloms, long-sweepers and fast straightaways.
Because we were having so much fun, Conti took us off the track where we started to realize the information Conti gave us was true: the CSC5Ps gripped like glue, providing phenomenal driver feedback and great confidence. The tires also held up surprisingly well after eight hours of abuse, with other journalists reporting the same experience despite 90° temperatures.
Next was the wet handling course, where we had the forbidden pleasure of driving a '10 Ford Focus RS - 305hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, its "the hot hatch America should have" and was pure bliss.
Matched with 235/35 R19 CSC5Ps, we swore the FWD five-cylinder Ford felt like an AWD car, with the traction and stability it gave on the soaked test track. The tires were very forgiving when we pushed them to slide, regaining grip with little steering input.
Conti rounded off the day with an emergency braking test on wet pavement. We did a full ABS stop from 60mph in Opel Insignias - one equipped with Contis and the other with less expensive Korean-made tires. It was a no brainer; the Conti's stopped on a dime, while the competitor slid more than a car length further.
There's no question the new CSC 5P is a top-notch tire. Even OEs recognize this, with Mercedes fitting all its AMG cars with the Contis, as well as Audi on its TT RS.
Perhaps the only setbacks are limited sizes and price. When the tire goes on sale in North America this autumn, sizes will range from 18-23'' and prices are forecasted to be higher than its competitors. But you get what you pay for...
Continental has proven the CSC5P raises the bar, providing more grip, stability and confidence than ever before in a street tire.