If you follow the magazine or search through eurotuner.com, you’ll know we attend many tire tests, racking up hundreds of miles in various cars on a variety of courses to assess the attributes of the latest rubber.
We’re invited to these events in order to pass along to you our impressions of a company’s new tires in order to assist you with your purchasing decision.
Generally, most of the tests are very carefully choreographed to ensure we have the opportunity to sample all the attributes the tire manufacturer is hoping to highlight. This can range from cones in a parking lot to hot laps on a race circuit.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too many parking lots for our taste, but that’s the way it goes… What we always hope for is every car enthusiast’s dream: the keys to a fast car and access to an empty track.
Well, hell must have frozen over and a blue moon risen because that day arrived during a Continental tire event at the incredible Portimao circuit near Albufeira in southern Portugal earlier this year.
Arriving at an international racetrack is usually the prelude to killing cones in the parking lot, but for the brand new ContiSportContact 5 (CSC5), which replaces the current ContiSportContact 3, everything was different. We were ushered to the pits, shown a line of cars and encouraged to enjoy ourselves!
With offerings such as the Audi TT RS, VW Golf R, BMW 135i, Fiat 500 Abarth and Mini Cooper S available, it was as if we’d entered gearhead heaven.
We gladly wandered past the portly BMW 535i, Audi A7 and Jaguar XF in favor of the more nimble, entertaining machinery on hand. Admit it, you’d have done the same!
If you didn’t know, Portimao opened two years ago and is home to FIA GT races and World Superbikes, among others. It’s state-of-the-art with modern pit facilities, plenty of run-off and perhaps the best series of corners and altitude changes we’ve ever experienced. In short, we loved it.
Not only did we have extremely entertaining cars to enjoy this amazing track, but all were obviously equipped with Conti’s brand-new ultra-performance summer tires. The ContiSportContact 5 provided extremely high levels of grip on this undulating track that boasted its fair share of tight, up- and- downhill corners opening into fast straights.
With the first 20 laps lost to fits of giggles and pinching ourselves to confirm this was really happening, we finally got down to evaluating the tires and loved what we found.
The CSC5 will be positioned slightly below the ContiSportContact 5P tire that was introduced last year for the super-sportscar Porsche 911, Audi R8 market (et 11/10). However, the CSC5 is by no means second choice. It’s aimed at the type of high-performance cars we drive everyday and, according to Conti’s own testing, the CSC5 outperforms the outgoing CSC3 in every area except hydroplaning, where the old tire was already very good…
Not only have they improved wet and dry grip but braking stability was significantly better, according to the numbers – we certainly felt it on the track’s numerous tight turns. And because we instinctively turned off the ESP and DSC function on all the cars, the rear-ends were often dancing into corners as they tried to come around on trail-braking. However, the tires remained resolutely stuck to the asphalt, requiring minimal effort to keep them on line.
The Conti technicians explained that the new tires had adaptive BlackChilli Compound. This technology uses the frequency in the tire’s polymers to adapt to different conditions. So when you’re cruising, the lower frequencies require less from the compound. But as performance increases, especially under braking, the higher frequencies get the polymers excited and physically increases the grip from the rubber!
Corner-entry with the CSC5 was also claimed to be significantly improved, although without any cars on the CSC3 for comparison, we had to believe their numbers. We use the CSC3 on our Project M3 and love how they behave, so it’s hard to believe the sizable improvements Conti is claiming. Yet the new tires performed astonishingly well on such a demanding circuit, showing off the extra grip from the wide shoulder blocks.
Maintaining huge levels of grip despite escalating temperatures from constant abuse, the Contis allowed you to brake hard and late into a corner, then turn on a late apex and still hit the exit without sawing at the wheel looking for grip.
On the limit they performed predictably and precisely, never once surprising us with a drop-off in grip. In fact, they probably saved us on numerous occasions as we attacked an unfamiliar track too fast, requiring high-speed mid-corner corrections when we discovered we weren’t in the corner we thought it was!
The company’s development of low rolling resistance tires for hybrid and OEM vehicles means even it’s highest performing product now has 10% less friction than before, resulting in 13% enhanced economy, saving you money as you drive.
The CSC5 will initially be available in 17-18" diameters, while an SUV version is available for 18-20" wheels. However, you can expect a wider range of sizes to arrive soon.
The second tire we tried was the ContiEcoContact 5 (CEC5), which was developed in response to the demand for low rolling resistance tires from the car makers. Lower resistance means increased economy, so everybody is looking to gain percentage points, and Conti has provided them with lightweight construction, optimized aerodynamics and adaptive sipes to improve in both wet and dry conditions.
Currently, these are being produced in sizes to suit existing hybrid vehicles but again the range will increase in time.
The problem with reducing the rolling resistance is it’s usually at the expense of overall grip, especially in the wet and under braking. However, Conti wanted to show us how far they’d come. The figures showed a reduction in resistance of 20%, reduced wear of 12%, with a 3% reduction in economy over the previous generation Conti Eco product.
To demonstrate the product, the company setup a wet-weather track and fitted its newest CEC5 to a series of BMW 128i. The same cars were also fitted with the older CEC3 and a “prototype” tire that was typical of low resistance/low grip tires. We were later invited to sample the same three tires on a dry road course that looped the circuit and our fuel economy was accurately measured, with a special display showing us how much throttle input to use.
Despite all the fun we had in to morning on the racetrack, this component of the program was fascinating to see how a giant tire company measures its performance and relates it to the road.
The new CEC5 tires were far superior in the wet to anything else we sampled, allowing us to be not only faster, but significantly more accurate with the steering and harder on the brakes. The advantage of steering and braking is obvious, but it’s the difference between a crash and a miss, in simple terms.
After the MPG test, we also got to discover that a tire with good handling characteristics could be economical when driven properly; and that fuel economy and green credentials didn’t mean the end of performance or safety. It was an eye-opening, entertaining test that confirms once more that Continental Tires spends millions of dollars developing some of the very best tires on the road today. We use them on most of our project cars for this reason. We know we can have fun in the dry and stop safely in the wet, which are our main requirements when it comes to driving.
We won’t endorse any product unless we know it will perform as well or better than expected, which is why we have no problem standing behind these tires. For more info, visit conti-online.com