Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres review road test: Premium tyres offer optimum mix of economy, grip and longevity

Continental ContiSportContact tyres BMW 3 Series 320d (1)
Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres review road test: The friendly and knowledgable Kwik Fit fitters did a great job of fitting the new tyres.

Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres review road test: Selecting a new set of tyres is never an easy decision, but DAVID HOOPER has found the ContiSportContact 5 tyres with their wet and dry abilities to be just the job!

CHOOSING a new set of tyres always presents a bit of a dilemma – which brand to go for? Shall I stay with the same brand? Which offers the best economy? Which provides the best grip on a wet surface? Which will last the longest? And importantly for many, how much are they!

If you ever look at the owners’ forums for cars or bikes, every man and his dog has an opinion, most of them are ill-informed, and many, especially with mechanical issues, offer completely wrong and sometimes dangerous advice – but that’s another story! A little knowledge and all that!

Continental ContiSportContact tyres BMW 3 Series 320d (1)
Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres review road test: The new set of  tyres ready to be fitted – they always look much bigger off the car than they do on it!

Personally, I never skimp on tyres – those little black circles of rubber that sit between your wheel rims and the road surface are the only things keeping you pointing in the right direction, you rely on them for steering and braking, and when things go wrong, stopping very quickly. They may seem expensive, but when you understand the technology that goes into making them, you will be more accepting of the sometimes substantial dent in your finances!

Many years ago now, I spent a fascinating couple of days tyre testing with Continental in Portugal. The fun part was putting various high-powered performance cars through their paces on the Portimao race circuit, shod with different versions of Continental’s newest covers, but it was the classroom sessions which were the biggest eye-opener, revealing how the tyres are designed and constructed, how different sections of the tyres are designed to do different jobs, how different areas of the tyres feature different rubber compounds and even tread patterns, to provide water clearing abilities, straight line stability or grip when cornering hard.

However, it was the wet braking test which was the biggest revelation, driving identical VW Golfs down a wet stretch of test track at exactly 100kmh (62mph) before standing on the brakes and activating the ABS system as you pass a white line. The first run was in a car with brand new tyres and 8mm of tread – it pulled up impressively quickly. The second run was in a car with half worn tyres at 4mm of tread – it still stopped fairly quickly, but was a couple of car lengths further down the track. Then came the third run, in a car with tyres worn to the UK’s legal limit of 1.6mm. I hit the brakes at exactly the same speed and at exactly the same point, but the car, with its ABS pulsing through the brake pedal, felt as though it was never going to stop. When it did eventually jolt to a halt, I was genuinely shocked. I was several car lengths down the road from the second test run, the stopping point of which were marked by a cone. Imagine if that was a pedestrian crossing, or a child running out in front of your car. Maybe that’s why the police change the tyres on their vehicles when the tread depth reaches 3mm.

Continental ContiSportContact tyres BMW 3 Series 320d (1)
One of the new tyres being balanced on the rim before going back onto the car.

The truth is, exchanging a worn set of tyres for new ones will transform your car’s ride and handling and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of these ContiSportContact 5 tyres with SSR. My choice was a bit limited, as my ageing BMW 3 Series has larger tyres at the rear of the car than the front because BMW designed it that way, and to complicate matters further, they have the ability to be driven at a limited speed with a puncture, hence the SSR bit which stands for Self Supporting Runflat. It may be clever, but can result in an overly firm ride, thanks to the stiffer sidewalls which are designed to support the vehicle’s weight if the air leaks out due to a nail in the tyre.

The new ContiSportContact 5 tyres are engineered for precision and control and to deliver exceptional performance in both wet and dry conditions. The tread pattern incorporates wide circumferential grooves, aiding efficient water dispersal and reducing the risk of aquaplaning. Their advanced tread compound and unique asymmetric tread pattern provide exceptional grip and responsiveness, designed to ensure a confident drive. They instantly made the car feel quieter as there was less of the tyre’s surface area in contact with the road, compared to the old set. It also feels smoother with less tram-lining on white lines and the steering is noticeably lighter.

While you can get away with driving on older tyres in the summer months, once our increasingly wet winters arrive, you need good tyres which can dissipate standing water efficiently, and this particular tyre has a “B” rating for wet weather performance and noise rating of 71dB.

So it is on the damp, greasy surfaces we’re living with at the moment the difference between the old and new tyres becomes very obvious. My car feels far more sure-footed than before, restoring my confidence in its dynamic abilities when turning into a corner and accelerating, knowing that the driven rear wheels aren’t going to surprise me by breaking traction and stepping out of line prompting a bit of unexpected wheel twirling from the driver’s seat!

I chose Kwik Fit’s Spring Bank, Hull, branch to fit my new covers as it is close to my office, and assistant manager Cory and his team quickly set about the car, removing the old tyres, cleaning the rims, installing new valves and fitting the new ContiSportContact 5s, before balancing the wheels to ensure there were no vibrations and refitting the wheels to the car, and I was pleased to see that they used a torque wrench for the final tightening of the wheel nuts, rather than relying on the windy gun.

They were helpful and very knowledgeable, and even found a washer to secure a heat shield under the car which had worked loose and developed an annoying rattle.

So many thanks to the guys at Kwik Fit for their expertise, even if they were a little camera shy, and thanks to Continental for all the science and know-how which goes into designing and making such a confidence-inspiring and safe product!

Rating: ★★★★★★

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