“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.