Most people have no idea how specialized tires have become. While there have always been tires at different price points and of variable quality, modern tires have splintered into several varieties designed to fulfill a specific purpose. Today, more and more people understand how important tires are, the easiest example of how tire performance impacts driving in the difference is between winter and summer tires.
It’s harder to understand the difference between expensive tires and cheap tires. If you don’t drive your car like a race car you probably think, as long as they’re new and the treads aren’t worn, it’s good enough. But for those who want to get the most performance out of their car, this isn’t enough. Continental invited us to their testing track to take a look at the Sport Contact 7, their latest generation of sports summer tires.
If you’re looking at getting performance tires getting winter and summer tires is essential. Good all-season tires are an acceptable compromise. The problem is that summer tires are designed for specific climatic conditions. Maximum dry grip means having as much contact surface as possible. But maximum wet grip means you have deep channels to drain the water, which reduces to the surface.
Continental engineers deal with the need to have more surface area and less at the same time through technical innovation. Here are 7 ways that R&D and engineering.
Unusual side openings
Continental has an entirely new tread pattern that includes these unusual diamond-shaped side slits. When you turn at high speed, the ordinary side grooves let the groves deform and close, which causes the car to lose traction so they can deliver. Here the special shape ensures that even in the strongest deformation part of the channel remains open to expel water to the side.
Deformation was a new term to me, it refers to the change in size or shape of an object. The deformation of parts of a tire is the direct result of tire-road interactions.
The middle of the tire is harder
Making the central part of the tire harder is a major innovation, the tire is firmer and more resilient central segments. They deform much less than before. This allows the longitudinal grooves to be less wide and increases the contact surface.
Asymmetric, adaptive profile
The profile of the tire itself is extremely unusual – asymmetrical and adaptive, which means it changes according to the conditions. If you drive in a straight line, the “footprint” of the tire ends at the highest water runoff in the profile to provide excellent traction when stopping, accelerating, and turning wet.
8% Better braking distance
The tire has improved braking distance, 6% better in dry conditions and 8% in wet. We got to test the tires on a wet track which I’d never seen before. The entire track has water trickling across the entire time of the test, like a water sprinkler for roads. I was new to this experience and even I was able to get a shorter braking distance with the new tires versus the previous generation.
17% more mileage
It is true that tires affect milage, every time I switched to my winter tires in Canada I noticed a difference. Continental claims that the Contact 7 tires have a 17% improvement in mileage of the previous generation. This is huge, but there was no way for me to test this, so we’ll just take their word for it!
Shifting footprint in dry conditions
If you turn at high speed on dry asphalt, the “footprint” shifts to the outer arm, which is designed in such a way as to transmit maximum forces for stable handling. This change is controlled by the new “locking” elements in the outer arm.
Black Chili mix in the tire
One of the big secrets of this tire and part of the R&D that drives up the price of the tire is a special rubber compound called Black Chili. Its mysterious ingredients provide the tire with sufficient elasticity and traction both in the wet and at high temperatures on a dry track. We’re not experts in driving performance cars, but I still felt safe when my lack of experience combined with trying to keep up with the experience tire testing journalists We also saw this on the Contidrom expressway.
Competition in high-end tires is relentless, and large manufacturers are investing heavily to make their products better and better. The tire industry has seen a shift in recent years with autonomous vehicles there is even more attention to the tire. Manufactures even have special tires for autonomous vehicles catering to their needs, which can include putting sensors into the tire.
Who knew that the boring black tire attached to your car could be so important to the future of mobility!