Quarter Mile Magazine

Track Test: Continental CEC5 and CSC5 Part I

“When braking counts, you can count on us”. That’s the European ad campaign for Continental tyres. More than just a marketing slogan it is something their engineers have been working day and night to live up to. With car manufacturers already driving towards reducing fuel consumption and C02 emissions with technologies such as Blue Efficiency, Blue Motion and Efficient Dynamics, there is an increasing demand on tyre manufacturers to develop tyres that are more fuel efficient. Handling comes from grip and fuel efficiency comes from low rolling resistance. Continental found a solution for these mutually conflicting requirements- a special compound they call the Adaptive Black Chilli – the basis for their two new offerings, the ContiSportContact5 and the ContiEcoContact5. And to demonstrate what they had achieved, Continental invited a bunch of journalists to a tyre testing session at the challenging Autodromo do Algarve race circuit, near Portimao, in Southern Portugal.

A tyre can be divided into different zones – the grip zone (tread cap and pattern), load zone (the base, ply), the flexing zone (sidewall) and the rigid zone (close to the bead). Each section of the tyre is made from a different compound and then joined together to form one tyre. Chemical engineers then decide on the rubber compound, silica and polymers based on their grip, wear resistance and stiffness requirements.

The ContiSportContact5 is a high performance tyre with low rolling resistance but excellent wet and dry grip. Continental claims it offers 5%improvement in handling, 9% in wet braking and 13% improvement in wear resistance compared to its predecessor, the ContiSportContact3. It also provides a larger 1.5% contact area than CSC3. Already a standard fitment for cars like the new SLK, the CSC5 is also available for SUVs with tyre sizes ranging from 18 to 20 inches.

Available from size 165/70 R14, the Continental Eco Contact 5 is a proper eco tyre that is designed to be ultra light weight and designed specifically to provide low rolling resistance, thus reducing fuel consumption and C02 emissions. It uses a pattern technology with adaptive sipes to reduce the energy dissipation. It uses a harder rubber compound to achieve these characteristics, which in turn creates challenges in the areas of grip and stopping distances, yet Continental has achieved 20% improvement in rolling resistance over its predecessor, the ContiEcoContact3, a 10% improvement in wet braking, 12% improvement in wear and a 7% improvement in handling. In fact so much thought has gone into the making of this tyre that they even made the lettering on the sidewall has been modified to be more aerodynamic.

To ascertain the improvements in fuel consumption, Continental had organized a long lineup of identical Volkswagen Golfs wearing a set of either the new ContiEcoContact5, its predecessor ContiEcoContact3 or a future development called the PrototypE. The three cars were then driven on a specified route and fuel consumption was precisely calculated by the adding the fuel injection cycles directly from the ECU. Data from all the test drivers were then collected and a group average was formed with yours truly being the most fuel efficient driver of the lot. Needless to say all three tyres fared rather well with the CEC5 showing a marked improvement over the CEC3 and the PrototypE being the best.

Your’s truly got the best fuel efficiency on all three tyres beating drivers from all over the world. An Indian trait, if you insist.

Your’s truly got the best fuel efficiency on all three tyres beating drivers from all over the world. An Indian trait, if you insist.

And it was time for the wet testing session. The same eco-spec tyres were tested on rear wheel drive BMW 1 series coupes on a wet track, adjacent to the main circuit at the Autodromo. V-box measurements were made for the slip angles and as expected the PrototypE was the weakest followed by the CEC3 and the CEC5. How much of an improvement was the CEC5? ESP switched off, I managed to shave one and half seconds off my lap time with the newcomer. It felt infinitely more confident than the PrototypE. The wet grip is satisfactory and the steering feels much sharper and the braking is much safer than with the CEC3 too. Even in the dynamic traction control mode, where the BMW ESP allows a certain amount of slide, before it corrects you, the CEC5 felt better than the other tyres.

Time to switch to the dry tarmac. With lots of tight, low speed corners and fast sweeping bends, the Portimao cicuit is an exciting race track. Nearly 4.1km long, it is also a very demanding track, one that tests the car and driver in equal measure. There are 13 corners 9 of which are right handers and the track is 10 metre wide at its thinnest section. It pays to learn the track first, as the circuit holds many blind corners and nearly all the bends have off camber rise and falls. Quite Nurburgring-esq if you ask me. It pays to learn the track before you start pushing it but for others, there are comfy gravel beds at curves 1 and 6.

A perfect place to test the ContiSportContact5, then. The evaluation process was made easier by the wide selection of cars varying from light front wheel drive hot hatches, to medium weight rear wheel drive sports cars and heavy all wheel drive sedans. Despite the searing temperature and the journalists getting aggressive with their inputs, the tyres took the abuse in their stride, some lasting even more than they were initially estimated to be. On most cars they reduced the tendency to understeer. The steering feel was better, as expected on a car with lower profile rubber. The tyres gripped like glue, providing phenomenal driver feedback and filling him with great confidence. Yet, they were also very forgiving when pushed to slide and regaining grip when allowed to do so. What impressed me the most was the progressive way in which these tyres settled into a slide every time their grip limits were breached. There was no sudden let up in grip and letting you into a slide when you’re least expecting it. The tyres also held up surprisingly well after so many hot laps, with other journalists reporting the same thing despite 90° temperatures.

After a day of extensive testing, it’s clear that Continental has once again raised the bar for tyre manufacturers worldwide and created two tyres that are so different in application but so good in their own. The ContiEcoContact5 is undoubtedly the future of eco-friendly cars and the ContiSportContact5 is the best upgrade for enthusiasts waiting for the next tyre change. As for the competition, there is a lot of catching up to do.

Read Part II of the Continental Track Test here

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