The competition in the ultra-high-performance tire arena is getting more and more fierce by the day. The concept that there would or even could be UHP tires in up to 20 and 21-inch wheels was a pipe dream 20 years ago. Even 10 years ago it seemed implausible.
Now it seems like there's a new UHP tire introduced every month and the factory is fitting 18s on its most pedestrian models and 19s and 20s are standard on the '10 Camaro LT and SS (respectively). Go to any local car show and the trend is towards lower profile, wider rubber, even on vehicles built 40 and 50 years ago.
Part of the reason for this is purely looks, but the reality is hot rodders are fitting 13- and 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers to their machines and these are generally not going to work with 14-inch Rally wheels.
The competition for sales in this price category is absolutely bonkers and there are new players entering the market, with names both well-known and some you've never heard of. One company familiar in the OE market that's got two new entries on the aftermarket side is Continental. Conti has original-equipment fitments on everything from passenger cars (Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, etc.) to motorcycles and is the leading tire brand in Europe.
Recently we flew to Southern California to sample its new DW (dry and wet) and DWS (dry, wet and snow) Extreme Contact tires. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try them on any interesting Chevrolet products, either new or old, but we did put them to the test on a main competitor, the Ford Mustang GT, as well as on a 3-series BMW, and a couple of others.
The TiresThe Extreme Contact DW was designed to take on the likes of the Goodyear Eagle F1 as a replacement tire, as well as garner a chunk of the 20 million annual unit UHP market.
The DW carries a 340 treadwear rating, meaning it should provide good long-term durability. It'll come in sizes from 205/55ZR16 to 295/30ZR20, with plenty of fitments in between. The DWS sacrifices some grip (it has a 540 treadwear rating), but is meant to be used in all conditions, including when temperatures drop below 45 degrees, which is when Continental says you should park your summer tires.
So, how do they work? Quite well. In braking tests, we were able to come to a stop from 55 mph in 79 feet in a car wearing the DW tires, as opposed to 84 feet in one wearing summer Goodyear F1s. On a 200-foot skidpad, we were a half-second faster on the DWS all-season Contis as opposed to the all-season version of the F1.
We were also impressed in the DW's behavior on the road course at California Speedway. They had excellent grip for a street tire. They transitioned nicely coming out of corners and communicated nicely through the steering wheel. Predictability was also a strong suit. On the autocross, the new DW tires outperformed the Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sports when fitted to a 3-series BMW.