At the moment, the most popular summer tire for performance driving 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. However, it isn’t perfect, and one of the most common complaints is that it’s expensive.
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So, 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. The company wouldn’t comment on the price point of the new tire which is set to be released in February 2017, around the same time as the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S.
Continental was so kind as to bring us out to 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, we went to the Thermal Club, a fantastic facility where BMW holds a new M Performance Driving School, where we could thrash some of their brand new tires and see how they held up. We did so in a variety of different cars and on a variety of different surfaces to really get a good feel for this new tire. But before we discuss what it can actually do, let’s talk a bit about how Continental developed this new tire.
The whole idea was to 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. But first thing’s first, this tire needs to perform in the dry, as it is a summer tire after all. 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.
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, slicked race tracks and overall poor conditions. Continental wants this to be the best overall summer 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 is the new Conti ExtremeContact Sport actually like to drive? Well, in a word, good.
We tested the new Conti tire in a variety of different ways. First we did some timed laps around a street-style circuit created by BMW’s M Performance Driving School. We all drove BMW M235is wearing the new Conti ExtremeContact Sport. From that isolated experience, without doing any laps on that circuit with other tires, we were impressed. There was ample grip, more than I had anticipated going into corners, knowing how tail-happy the M235i can be. But 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 to gauge just how much of what we were feeling was the M235i and what was the tire.
After that, we jumped into some BMW M3s out on a different, larger track at the Thermal Club. Our M3s were fitted with the old Continental ExtremeContact DW tire. We 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, we jumped into M3s fitted with the new ExtremeContact Sport and did the same tests. We 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. We 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.
Not only was this the most important test, because it tested the tire directly against its competitors, but it was also the most fun. The track was glass-smooth, making it slick, even the dry sections, so there was a lot of tail-happy fun (except for in the Subaru, of course, because the WRX understeers like a pig). We were sliding around all over the place in all of the tires. However, there was a noticeable difference between the tires. In fact, some of us drivers were wishing others good luck if they were about to drive a car with competitor tires. The Contis were far more controllable and less snappy than any other tire there. Towards the end, we were all trying to get into cars with the ExtremeContact Sport tires.
Now, we can’t compare the Continental ExtremeContact Sport with the fan-favorite Michelin Pilot Super Sport directly, as we don’t have a set of both for the same car and we were only given limited time in hand-selected tests by Continental. However, we 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 tire on the market and if it comes in significantly cheaper than the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, it’s certainly worth taking a look at it. However, it is worth mentioning that Michelin is working on its own new summer tire, so it will be interesting to see how it compares with this new Continental. Until then, though, the Conti ExtremeContect Sport is an excellent overall summer tire for any performance car.