This is Continental’s latest ultra-high-performance tyre, the SportContact 6. Designed for pure sports cars like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the new tyre replaces the ContiSportContact 5P (which sat above the ContiSportContact 5 - winner of the 2015 evo Tyre Test), and arrives with promise that significant improvements have been made to steering precision, high-speed stability and dry handling performance. These improvements are welcome – the 5P was sometimes criticised for feeling a little slack in its responses compared with rivals – and the tyre’s potential has already been shown: it was the boot of choice for Honda when the new Civic Type R set that 7:50.63 Nürburgring front-wheel-drive lap record.
But that lap time only tells a tiny piece of the story, and it’s largely irrelevant when we consider that the exact specs of said Type R are still largely unknown. What is more relevant is promise that an innovative reinforcement material called Aralon 350 will help improve the SportContact 6’s high speed stability by 10 per cent compared with the 5P, as well as claims that steering precision is up by a weighty 14 per cent. Additionally, dry handling performance is said to be 11 per cent better, thanks to a new tread pattern made up of big shoulder blocks and new interlocking elements, and the compound’s use of BlackChilli technology – which allows the material to flex over tiny road imperfections thanks to increased micro-flexibility.
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Of course, all of these numbers are claims, so to put them to the test evo joined Continental at the SportContact 6’s launch on the topography-hugging asphalt of Germany’s Bilster Berg Drive Resort. Our test cars comprised a selection of all-wheel-drive hot hatches and a Porsche Cayman GTS, though unfortunately, we only had a morning of dry weather to enjoy them.
Little dry running-time was wasted as the car to provide us with our first taste of SportContact 6 performance was a familiar one: the excellent Volkswagen Golf R. We’d driven one a matter of days before this test, so jumping in and giving the tyres a real workout was easy enough. But even so, it was surprising to notice just how much of a difference the new Continentals made.
Admittedly, the Golf R’s standard-fit Bridgestone Potenzas fall into the class below, and are more concerned with Continental’s ContiSportContact 5 than the SportContact 6. But on track, the benefits of fitting Continental’s more aggressive tyre were obvious and came in the form of more grip and slightly sharpened steering responses.
Memories of a soft sidewalled 5P were quickly forgotten as the 6s flaunted better high-speed stability, most evident through a fast right-left turn that danced the car over a crest on the edge of grip. Hard braking with a small amount of lock on also revealed that the sidewalls were less inclined to fold, making it much easier to attack each braking point and trail the brakes towards the apex with consistency.
The following two hot hatches – an Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45 – confirmed our findings; the tyre’s ability to resist overheating was also particularly impressive. Unfortunately, that’s as far as we got with dry testing, as the rain that had threatened all morning then started to fall before lunch.
The test wasn’t completely lost, however, because Continental is also promising a two per cent improvement in wet performance and four per cent increase in on-the-limit handling – both of which can be tested in these adverse conditions.
Our afternoon drive was in a car that we love: Porsche’s poised Cayman GTS, pretty much an ideal candidate for Continental’s new UHP tyres. But with streams running across the circuit and rainfall showing no sign of easing off, my approach contrasted that of the morning - I tippy-toed my way around the lap, building speed slowly.
The SportContact 6s appeared to work well with the Cayman GTS’s ESP, and concerns of any high-speed aquaplaning were quelled after the first lap – the car was stable down the straight and on the brakes. Unsurprisingly, I did experience a few ‘moments’ when passing over streams of water mid corner, but it was never too much for a quick swing of opposite lock to gather it all up. Partly thanks to the communicative chassis of the GTS, but also partly thanks to the consistent grip of the 6s, what could have been a treacherous track session turned out to be a whole lot of fun.
Passing judgement on a new tyre in isolation is always a tricky task, but we’d summarise our first impressions of the SportContact 6 as follows: there are noticeable improvements in steering response and sidewall stiffness compared to the ContiSportContact 5P. It doesn’t feel quite as track-biased as the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyre, but wet performance is comparable. Overall, the tyre is a noticeable step forward.
Prices look set to remain unchanged from the 5P’s, which means a starting price of around £120 per tyre. At launch, the SportContact 6 will be available in 14 sizes, ranging from 19 to 23 inches in diameter. Speed ratings peak at 220mph – so the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador SV and McLaren P1 can be catered for.