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- Mud Flaps
- Engine Tuning
June 19, 2009
In the past, tires have often been like other consumer products sold in a global market - one design must serve all markets and consumer preferences. But in this age of specialization tire manufacturers are beginning to design tires specifically for drivers in North America. Many manufacturers have realized that the typical driving cycle in the U.S. and Canada is similar, but indeed different, than in Europe or Asia. The condition of our roads, the mix of urban driving plus extended highway cruising and even consumer preference on what attributes are desirable vary from one continent to another. Cookie cutter tire designs can't truly optimize the fit of a tire's performance envelope the same way a regionally specialized design can.
Continental Tire has recognized this and in recent years began to develop tires tuned specifically for North American drivers. Their most recent example is the ExtremeContact DW Max Performance Summer tire that effectively replaces all non-Original Equipment sizes of the ContiSportContact 3. While the ExtremeContact DW is produced globally in nearly half a dozen different manufacturing plants around the world, it's intended to be sold only in North America.
To find out how well the ExtremeContact DW matches up with the driving conditions and driver preferences in the North American market, the Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive comparing it to three other popular Max Performance Summer tires, the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 and Pirelli's P Zero. Our evaluation used 2008 BMW E92 328i coupes with new, full tread depth 225/45R17 tires mounted on 17x8.0" wheels.
What We Learned on the Road
Our 6.6-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.
The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 continues as a benchmark for performance tire driving feel and feedback - taut and responsive without feeling nervous or edgy. It's a real treat for any driver wanting to be engaged in the driving experience. The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric and Pirelli P Zero were both similar, providing slightly slower steering response and less precision than the PS2. The Continental ExtremeContact DW followed and displayed responsive steering once the vehicle was into the corner. But when going straight down the expressway, this tire was easily nudged off course by moderate crosswinds or the whoosh of a passing semi, requiring frequent but small steering corrections to maintain a straight track down the road.
The Pilot Sport PS2 did a good job hiding its tread noise, which took some effort to pick out of the ambient vehicle and wind noise as speeds went above 40 mph. The ExtremeContact DW was also well liked by our team, generating just a bit more tread noise than the PS2. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric produced a moderate growl at several speeds, while the P Zero did the same with a slightly higher volume level than the Eagle F1 Asymmetric.
All of the tires in the group delivered appropriate levels of ride comfort over the variety of road surfaces along our route. The ExtremeContact DW did a very good job absorbing the harsher impacts, receiving the highest score of the test for ride comfort along our road loop of typical North American roads. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric was also praised by our team for its reasonably compliant ride. Right behind was the Pilot Sport PS2, feeling firm over the bumpy sections with the P Zero rounding out the group close behind.
What We Learned on the Test Track
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, lane changes and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.
Pirelli's P Zero used its superior dry grip to post the quickest lap time of the test, as well as the highest lateral g forces around the skidpad circle. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric showed responsive steering and the fastest slalom segment time, but could not quite match the overall grip of the P Zero. Subjectively, the Pilot Sport PS2 is still a favorite to drive on the track thanks to its responsive and predictable handling, but doesn't have the sheer dry grip of the Pirelli or Goodyear tires. The Continental ExtremeContact DW rounded out the group feeling capable and predictable while displaying slightly slower responsiveness than the other three tires tested.
In the wet, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric proved superior with excellent ultimate grip and handling predictability. The ExtremeContact DW was nearly as quick, virtually tying the overall lap time of the Eagle F1 Asymmetric and proved to be best overall in threshold braking. The P Zero was also close to the Eagle F1 Asymmetric for overall lap time, but didn't have the poise of the Eagle F1 Asymmetric or the braking traction of the ExtremeContact DW. Rounding out the group was the Pilot Sport PS2 with its trademark responsive steering, but without quite as much ultimate wet grip as the other tires in this test.
Continental ExtremeContact DW (Max Performance Summer): The ExtremeContact DW (DW for Dry & Wet) is Continental Tire's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sports coupes and performance sedans. The ExtremeContact DW is designed to deliver good ride quality and serious performance on both dry and wet roads. Like all summer tires, the ExtremeContact DW is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric (Max Performance Summer): The Eagle F1 Asymmetric is Goodyear's Max Performance Summer tire developed for modern high performance vehicles that are more advanced, intelligent and luxurious than ever before. However since these vehicles are also more powerful, faster and heavier, they require tires that can provide control without conceding comfort. The asymmetric in the Eagle F1 Asymmetric name describes both the tire's tread design and internal structure, both of which are designed to enhance performance in dry and wet conditions. Like all summer tires, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 (Max Performance Summer): The Pilot Sport PS2 is a Max Performance Summer tire member of the Michelin Pilot family of low profile, high-speed tires. Initially developed for Original Equipment (O.E.) on some of the world's most prestigious sports cars and performance sedans, the Pilot Sport PS2 combines world-class dry road traction, handling and cornering. Some of the first Pilot Sport PS2 O.E. fitments included the BMW Alpina Z8, McLaren SLR and Porsche GT2 and GT3 models. The Pilot Sport PS2 is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Pirelli P Zero (Max Performance Summer): P Zero tires are Max Performance Summer tires derived from 100 years of Pirelli motorsport experience and developed for the drivers of powerful sports cars, sports coupes and high performance luxury sedans. Initially introduced as Original Equipment on the Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Lamborghini Murcielago, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT and Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles, the P Zero lineup also includes select replacement tire sizes. The P Zero, like all summer tires, is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.