It's not often you get the chance to test different tyres on identical vehicles, and even rarer that the tyres in question are two of the newest, most exciting max performance summer tyres on the market, but this is exactly what we found ourselves presented with recently at Ascari race circuit.
The tyres in question are the latest offerings from Continental and Dunlop, with each of the four cars being fitted with a set of Continental Sport Contact 5s, and a set of the brand new Dunlop SportMaxx RT, all in 245/40 R18. Two of the vehicles comprised of the high performance coupe from Audi, the TT S, and the other two were the the high powered Audi S4 saloon.
As with our previous subjective shoot out, the raw performance of the tyres is so close we didn't attempt to scientifically measure any statistics, instead we focused on the subjective feel of each tyre, how the tyre communicated through the steering wheel, and how controllable the tyre was at both the limit of grip, and once past the limit.
Both tyres proved to be excellent in the wet and the dry, and while one tyre has "won" this mini shoot out, it was so close things could easily be reversed in a different tyre size, or on a different vehicle. In short, you wouldn't be disappointed with either tyre.
1st: Dunlop SportMaxx RT
The new Dunlop SP SportMaxx RT replaces the somewhat average SportMaxx TT, and in replacing the TT Dunlop have addressed nearly all the shortcoming of the previous tyre. When compared to the previous version, the SportMaxx RT turns harder, brakes better and offers more feedback through the wheel.
When compared to the Continental Sport Contact 5 things get a little closer. In the dry, on the heavy Audi S4 the SportMaxx RT needs a little more slip to get the car turning, which gives is the impression of being a slower tyre. Things swing back towards the RT once the car is turning, with the big heavy S4 more stable mid corner, and the RT giving more confidence to make mid turn corrections. Once past the limit in the dry, the RT is snaps quickly out of a slide with the lightest lift of the throttle.
In the wet, on the lighter Audi TT S things are even closer. Again, when directly compared to the Conti the Dunlop feels slightly slower to turn, but the total grip offered is indistinguishable at the limit. Like the dry, once the total grip offered has been past and you find the car sliding, collecting small slides on the Dunlop is a much easier and quicker affair. Maybe not quite as fun, but definately a more desirable quality of tyre on the road.
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The Continental Sport Contact 5 is the replacement to the rather excellent Sport Contact 3, and is one of our all round favourite tyres. When we started this test, we didn't expect it to be bested, even by the tinest of margins but that's exactly what has happened.
In the dry, on the heavier S4 the Continental felt extremely direct, turning quickly and offering ample feedback through the initial stage of the turn. Once at the limit things weren't quite as positive, with the S4 understeering more and harder to correct mid turn. Once sliding, the tyre was extremely controllable, but it took longer to correct any slide.
Likewise, on the wet track in the TT S the Contis proved to be more "fun", with the direct steering feel and the ability to gracefully slide meaning unsettling the Audis immense AWD system offered a little more entertainment. Unfortunately, while sliding is great on the track, on the open road this has to be viewed as a negative quality, and while the Contis offered a very similar amount of outright grip, the speed in which they recovered from a slide meant the Dunlops had a slight edge.
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