New Tire – Continental ExtremeContact Sport

At the moment, the most popular street tire for performance driving we believe is the Michelin Pilot Super Sport. It’s the tire of choice for all enthusiasts who want the best possible performance from their cars. And for good reason, as the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is a superb summer tire and probably the best in the business for performance driving.
The Michelin SuperSport is amazing…with the number of days that we spend on the track, and in the passenger seat instructing customers, we have first hand experience of customers beating the crap out of the tire. At the end of a session, you expect to get out and see the tire just shredded…but, no, it looks like you just took a local drive. However, it isn’t perfect, and one of the most common complaints is that it’s expensive. So, if Continental is going to try to put up a better solution, that is a tall mountain to climb.

Continental is now offering a tire that provides the same sort of performance-oriented driving capabilities, with great wet handling abilities, increased longevity and at a lower price point — the Continental ExtremeContact Sport. This is the successor to the very popular Continental DW…probably the tire we sell more of than any other, as it was a close copy of the Michelin SuperSport, but at a much better price point.

An interesting marketing ploy as well….Michelin has just introduced a new tire to succeed the SuperSport, the Pilot Sport 4S, at the exact same time, there is the new Continental ExtremeContact Sport.  Therefore, we also have insight into the pricing of the two new tires:
Size 245/40/18
Michelin 4S =  $199
Conti Sport = $166

At the introduction of the new tire, Continental brought out a group of media to The Thermal Club in Palm Springs California for a few days of fun in the sun to test out its new tire against some of its mainstream competitors. To do so, they set up a series of tests and track sessions in a variety of different cars and on a variety of different surfaces to really get a good feel for this new tire.

Continental spent a lot of time and effort to ensure that this wasn’t just a marketing ploy in the design of the new tire, they wanted to ensure that they deliver a tire that owners could buy for their performance cars and still be able to drive in heavy rain and slippery roads, as well as last for tens of thousands of miles, while also not spending a ton of money. That has always seem like a tall order to us, to deliver a tire that can perform in the dry and the wet, and the track, and the standard commute. While the previous iteration of this tire, the Continental ExtremeContact DW (Dry and Wet), was a great all-around tire, it lacked some of the dry handling of its competitors like Michelin and Pirelli. So to push this new ExtremeContact Sport to higher levels, Continental brought in some big guns to validate their new design.

Pro racing driver Andy Lally, Joao Barbosa, Ozz Negri, Ryan Dalziel and Lawson Aschenbach were all pivotal in the development of this tire. With thousands of hours worth of testing, these drivers beat on these tires hard, pushing them to their limits. During a lot of the testing, the drivers would actually put the tire engineers in the passenger seat and describe to them in real time what the tires were doing, not doing and what they should be doing, so the engineers could get a better idea of what to change/improve on. This was all coming from five guys who know a thing or two about performance driving.

So this tire was not only designed to take the sort of performance beating that pro racing drivers can give it, but it was also designed to last and to be good in bad weather. So much of the testing for this tire was done in pouring rain, slick tracks and overall poor conditions. Continental wants this to be the best overall summer / performance tire on the market, not just for when you take your car to the track, but for running everyday errands as well.

Another big goal for Continental with the ExtremeContact Sport was comfort. It’s a lot easier to make a tire grippy and work well in bad weather if it’s loud and harsh. But to make it an excellent performing tire while also being comfortable and quiet, that’s a completely different ball game.

So enough about the marketing stuff that brand’s claim. What did they think of the new Conti ExtremeContact Sport, and what was it actually like to drive? Well, in a word, very good.

They tested the new Conti tire in a variety of different ways. First they did some timed laps around a street-style circuit created by BMW’s M Performance Driving School. They all drove BMW M235is wearing the new Conti ExtremeContact Sport. From that isolated experience, without doing any laps on that circuit with other tires, they were impressed. There was ample grip, more than they had anticipated going into corners, knowing how tail-happy the M235i can be. But they found that when it did break traction and slide, it was neutral and progressive, making the slide easy to control. Front-end grip was also impressive, with sharp turn-in and good feedback. However, without having testing any other tire on this track, it was hard for them to gauge just how much of what they were feeling was the M235i and what was the tire.

After that first test, they jumped into some BMW M3s out on a different, larger track at the Thermal Club. Their M3s were fitted with the old Continental ExtremeContact DW tire. They tested the tires in a variety of different ways on the track, from swerving in and out to riding the rumble strips, to test the comfort and noise level of the “DW”. After that, they jumped into M3s fitted with the new ExtremeContact Sport and did the same tests. They noticed marked improvements in both comfort, ride quality and noise. Especially so over the rumble strips, where the comfort and noise-level were significantly improved on the “Sport” set.

Next, though, was by far the most important test of all. They took to a different circuit laid out with cones in BMW M235is and Subaru WRXs. There were multiple BMWs and Subarus, all fitted with different tires. There were obviously cars wearing the new Conti tires, but also cars fitted with competitors tires, ranging from Michelins to Hankooks to Bridgestones. Parts of the track were wet and one part featured an emergency braking section, to properly gauge the tires’ all-around capabilities.

This was obviously the most important test, the actual litmus test, because it tested the tire directly against its competitors. The track was glass-smooth, making it slick, even the dry sections, so there was a lot of tail-happy, tail out sliding, which tells a lot about the grip and grip at the break away point. They indeed were sliding around all over the place in all of the tires. However, there was a noticeable difference between the various tires and brands of tires. In fact, some of the test drivers were wishing others good luck if they were about to drive a car with the competitors tires. The Contis were far more controllable and less snappy than any other tire there. Towards the end, they wanted to be in the cars with the ExtremeContact Sport tires.

Now, they didn’t set up a test to compare the Continental ExtremeContact Sport with the fan-favorite Michelin Pilot Super Sport directly, and like a good marketing test, you want to ensure your tire wins. However, they were impressed by the overall combination level of grip, predictability and comfort that the new Continental ExtremeContact Sport provides. It’s certainly up there with the best all-around summer / performance tire on the market and it comes in significantly cheaper than the Michelin Pilot Super Sport (just like the predecessor, the Conti DW), it will continue to hold its own. The new Conti ExtremeContect Sport is an excellent overall summer tire for any performance car, and is available now.

Given the prior experience and results we have had with our customers with the Continental DW, the new ContiSport indeed sounds like a good step forward, with the same attractive pricing.

BRracing – excellence / experience available all the time