Six years after the introduction of the ExtremeContact Sport tire, and after three years in development, Continental is now introducing its successor: the ExtremeContact Sport 02. The summer ultra-high performance (UHP) tire aims to bring a balanced rubber formula catering to drivers both on and off the track. Of course, the new summer tire joins a competitive segment with the likes of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, Pirelli P Zero and Bridgestone Potenza Sport. Most of these tires can be currently found on high-performance BMW cars as well. The new Continental ExtremeContact Sport02 is also now the preferred tire of the BMW Performance Driving School and the AMG Driving Academy.
Better Grip and Tread Life
Featuring the SportPlus™ Technology and Tuned Performance Indicators, the new Sport02 tire aims to deliver better grip on wet roads, more direct handling and better tread life. Like with all performance tires, achieving a great balance between dry and wet capabilities is easier said than done. Tire engineers are constantly aiming to optimize the tire’s wet braking for normal daily driving while also improving the dry handling performance. In order to test the new tire’s properties, we headed west to the BMW Performance Driving School in Palm Springs where Continental setup a day filled with track and wet skid pad activities.
Of course, BMW M and M-lite cars were on-site, all fitted with different fitments of the new ExtremeContact Sport02. Among them, the usual suspects: BMW M3 and M4, M240i and even MINI Cooper models. The end goal? Testing the new tire’s traction and handling in different driving scenarios: from fast laps on a full track, to a timed autocross and drifting on the skidpad.
Ahead of the event, Bjoern Glaeser, Continental product manager, gave an overview of the new ExtremeContact Sport02 UHP tire. According to Glaeser, the new tire sits between the ExtremeContact Fore and the DWS06 Plus tires, a competition tire and an all-season one. Furthermore, Glaeser sees the new Sport02 as the perfect tire for enthusiast drivers who often track their own cars.
Speaking of track days, Glaeser also says that their own tests show that the new UHP tire improves dry handling lap times by up to 1 seconds, compared to its predecessor. Also compared to its competitors, the ExtremeContact Sport02 provides one of the best value propositions in terms for pricing. There are also eight new sizes compared to the ExtremeContact Sport which brings the total number of tires offered to 77. They range from 15 to 21 inches.
First exercise of the day brings me to the South Palm Circuit, a 1.8 mile track, with two long straightaways and a few technical corners where you can test the braking capabilities of a tire, along with turn-in grip. Aside from the BMW M3 and M4, I also had a chance to experience the new UHP tire aboard an Acura NSX, Toyota Supra, Corvette Z06 and a Dodge Challenger. All of these high performance cars are quite different from each other, so that gave me the chance to test the Sport 02 with different driving dynamics.
There were no timed laps, nor a back-to-back comparison with the competition or with the previous Continental tire. So my first track review is purely based on the first impressions of the Sport 02. At the end of each long straightaway, the braking traction was impressive at high speeds, regardless of the sports car. Exiting the corner, the grip levels allowed me to quickly build up speed without much tailspin. The tire also delivered quick steering responses along with impressive straight-line acceleration.
At the end of the track stints, one conclusion emerged – if you own a fast and powerful sportscar, then the Sport 02 will deliver on the high-speed handling performance.
Next on the list were a few autocross runs, a far more technical exercise where turn-ins and braking stress the tire a bit more. We used a combination of M2 and M240i models which are a lot more fun in an autocross than an M3 or M4, for example. In one of those exercises, we compared the Sport 02 against one of its tire competitors. One thing that stood out was how the entire chassis came alive with more response and grip than the competitor’s tire. The combined braking and cornering grip stood out as well, allowing to quicker get on the throttle when exiting a corner.
The ExtremeContact Sport 02 is also fairly quiet and with decent feedback through the steering. The braking performance into the box at the end of timed autocross runs build up my confidence in pushing the tire harder with each lap.
The wet driving part of the day was split in two – a stint on the wet skidpad with BMW M3s and a wet autocross section with MINI Coopers. The idea here is to mostly test the tire’s lateral gip, stability and braking under heavy loads. Steering performance is also an important metric.
Again, without testing the outgoing Sport UHP rubber, the new Sport 02 offers great hydroplaning resistance and wet weather grip. The cornering performance was also more than adequate, especially in a front-wheel drive like the MINI Cooper which has a go-kart driving feel. The lateral grip was also great giving me great confidence in the car when cornering in the wet. The hydroplaning resistance was also impressive, but granted, the top speeds in a MINI Cooper were lower than in an M3 or M4.
Last on the list of exercises was the wet skid pad where I mostly practiced my drifting capabilities. But it’s fair to say that only a pro drifter would be able to properly compare the new tire with the outgoing one during a wet drifting exercise. Yet, just like in the previous wet autocross, the wet traction seemed more than adequate.
Of course, no track day could end without some hot laps. Therefore, BMW Performance Drivers took us aboard some BMW M3 models to burn some rubber and test the ultimate grip of these new Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02 tires.
Majority of the Sport02 fitments – around 90 percent – are available as of November 2022 – the rest will come in early 2023. When asked about the size coverage across different brands, Continental representatives said that the Sport02 covers 98% of BMW high-performance cars, 97% of Audi’s and 91% of Porsche’s.