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July 22, 2005
Tires are under constant development. Advances in rubber compounds, computer-aided tread pattern designs, and optimized internal construction all serve to smooth the ride while improving traction and handling. Continental Tire has worked to apply these advancements to their latest Grand Touring All-Season tire, the ContiProContact.
The ContiProContact features Continental's latest Silica-enhanced tread compound molded into a unique tread pattern, where curved grooves and sipes replace the traditional notched and blocky all-season tread pattern of older designs. The goal, to provide better wet weather and all-season traction, while remaining quiet and comfortable. To find out how well the ContiProContact meets these goals, Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive, comparing the ContiProContact with two other popular tires from the Grand Touring All-Season category, the Bridgestone Turanza LS-H and the Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus.
Our evaluation used three 2006 BMW 325i sedans, with new, full tread depth 205/55R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels. We also included a fourth, 2006 BMW 325i fitted with Original Equipment (OE)-spec 205/55R16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A High Performance All-Season tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels. These non-Run-Flat OE tires were used on earlier generation BMW 3-series. We have included a vehicle/tire combination in other tire evaluations, and have found it helpful to have a vehicle fitted with an OE-spec tire in the test to evaluate the impact of installing the other products.
What We Learned on the Road
Our 5.6-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.
All three of the Grand Touring All-Season tires in this test displayed excellent road manners, where comfortable ride quality, low tread noise and refined handling are trademarks of the group. The ContiProContact produced the least amount of tread and impact noise when driving across the rougher portions of our ride route. The Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus was close behind, feeling supple over the smaller road imperfections, but becoming a little harsher over the larger bumps and broken pavement. The tread noise level from the Energy MXV4 Plus was also relatively low, producing a "white" noise at all speeds, without any constant pitches that might begin to annoy during a longer trip. The Bridgestone Turanza LS-H was a close third in the comfort areas, riding just a little firmer over the bumps, and producing just a bit more tread noise on the coarse concrete highway section of our Road Ride route. As expected, all three of these Grand Touring All-Season tires were more quiet and comfortable than the Goodyear Eagle RS-A OE Comparison tire from the High Performance All-Season category.
Road handling levels were appropriate for all tires in the test. Among the three Grand Touring All-Season tires in this test, the Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus was the most responsive of the trio, followed by the ContiProContact and then the Turanza LS-H.
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.
In dry conditions, the average lap time for each of the three Grand Touring All-Season tires was within 0.1 second of each other, showing just how closely matched the group is. The Bridgestone Turanza LS-H displayed somewhat heavy, deliberate steering, requiring some effort to turn the wheel but also feeling solid and predictable. Overall grip felt like it was best of the group, especially around the steady-state skid pad, which was confirmed by recording the highest average g's of the test. The Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus felt more lively, and required less effort to turn the steering wheel through the faster transitions on the course. The Michelin did display a little power-on oversteer when accelerating through the slalom portion of our test course. The Continental ContiProContact had a nice blend of steering response and overall grip, making it very easy to control when pressed hard. The Goodyear Eagle RS-A slotted in to fourth place, feeling a little less connected to the track than the other three tires in this test.
In the wet, the difference among the tires was more pronounced. Here, the Turanza LS-H displayed a clear advantage, lapping the course faster, transitioning through the slalom more quickly, and generating more grip around the skidpad than the other tires tested. The ContiProContact was a close second, again delivering a nice balance of grip and responsiveness. The Energy MXV4 Plus was third, feeling responsive, but lacking the ultimate wet traction of the Bridgestone or Continental tires. Again, the Goodyear Eagle RS-A fell into fourth place, feeling somewhat slippery and harder to control than the three Grand Touring All-Season tires.
Bridgestone Turanza LS-H (Grand Touring All-Season): The Turanza LS with UNI-T AQII tires featuring H-, V- or Z-speed ratings are Bridgestone's Grand Touring All-Season tires developed to meet the needs of the drivers of sporty coupes and luxury performance sedans by blending responsive handling and comfort with dry, wet and year-round traction, even in light snow. Turanza LS tires feature UNI-T AQII Technology that uses advanced tread compound and construction features to enhance and preserve wet traction through the tire's life. The Turanza LS with UNI-T AQII in H-, V- and Z-speed ratings keeps wet traction up...even as it wears.
Continental ContiProContact (Grand Touring All-Season): The ContiProContact is Continental's Grand Touring All-Season tire used as Original Equipment on European sport sedans. The ContiProContact was developed to blend looks and handling with low noise and good ride comfort, and is tuned to match the needs of sporty sedans by providing year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Goodyear Eagle RS-A (High Performance All-Season, Original Equipment Comparison): Goodyear designed the Eagle RS-A to excel at everything, and part of the secret is in the unique asymmetric tread design. Aggressive tread elements in the outside shoulder deliver responsive handling, cornering, and steering. Compliant elements on the inside shoulder combine with wide tread and lateral grooves to provide superior wet and snow traction. Meanwhile, premium sidewall styling ensures that the RS-A looks as good as it performs. Read more.
Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus (Grand Touring All-Season): Every tire engineer will confirm that it's relatively easy to develop a tire designed to excel in any single area, yet it is almost impossible to build a tire which improves all areas at once. With the new Energy MXV4 Plus, Michelin engineers have improved upon their previous MXV4 and Energy MXV4 tires' performance in a dozen traction, handling and comfort perimeters without the traditional tradeoffs. Read more.