Experiencing Continental's latest flagship SC6 tyres

By JAY WONG | 1 July 2016

Grip. It’s what all drivers depend on to help make a vehicle an effective mode of transportation, or more excitingly - a go-fast ride, and when it comes to Continental’s new flagship SportContact 6 (SC6) tyres...grip will not be found lacking.

We travelled to what was once the ‘1st British Corps Ammunition Depot Pombsen’, located within a small town of Bad Driburg, Germany just over 100km away from Continental’s headquarters in Hanover.

Continental SportContact 6 - 01 Bilsterberg Drive Resort

Back in the day, the depot was used to mainly help supply ammunition to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Rhine Army during their efforts in the 1982 Falkland war and the first war against Iraq in 1990.

After 20 years, the British closed the depot in 1993 and subsequently returned the land to the Federal Republic of Germany, who then sold it back to the original owner who sold it to the British in the first place.

So what were we doing there? To test tyres of course, because that ammunition depot has been transformed into what’s known today as the Bilster Berg Drive Resort.

Continental SportContact 6 - 26 Mercedes A 45 AMG, Audi RS3 and VW Golf R
The resort officially opened its doors in 2012, after six years of planning and a year of construction to create a beautiful scenic 4.2km circuit that was designed by well-renowned F1 circuit architect Hermann Tilke who received inputs from legendary German rally driver Walter Röhrl.

While nestled within the confines of lush green surroundings, the resort has been adapted to its natural topography with 44 crests and ditches that adds to the challenge and excitement for drivers.

And it was also here that the new SC6 was launched with its treads rolling towards the high performance segment.

Continental SportContact 6 - 01
According to the German tyre maker, the new tyre provides 14% better steering precision, 4% better overall grip (11% better dry handling and 2% better wet grip) and is now 7% more durable and comfortable than its predecessor – the Continental ContiSportContact 5P.

Such improvements are attributable to its revised “Black Chili” compound that has higher levels of adhesion and capable enough to mould itself on to uneven road surfaces at a nanoscopic level.

The tyre is currently available in 41 dimensions from 19 to 23-inch wheels, widths from 225 to 335 and profiles from 25 to 40 series – all of which are capable of reaching speeds of up to 350kph.

The tyremaker makes use of its latest Aralon 350 synthetic material, which is a mix of Nylon and Aramid found just beneath the tyre’s treads as a jointless hybrid adaptive cap ply - helping to improve the tyre’s performance in situations such as braking, handling and directional stability.

There are three separate tread designs found on the tyre located on the inner, centre and outer sections that work together to help support each other by distributing lateral-forces when cornering hard.

We were chauffeured to an area dubbed ‘Maximum Performance’ to test out the tyres and we were presented with a trio of venerable all-wheel-drive options (all in left-hand drive guise) of a Mercedes A 45 AMG, an Audi RS3 and a Volkswagen Golf R – all fitted with the latest SC6.

Continental SportContact 6 - 26 Mercedes A 45 AMG, Audi RS3 and VW Golf R
The track was slightly damp for our quick spin and our first stint started in the Golf R, followed by the RS 3 and the A 45 AMG.

The one thing we found noticeably consistent during each drive was that the more we pushed the tyre’s grip levels, the more it did not want to relinquish it - but of course nothing defies the laws of physics, and just like everything there’s always a limit.

Continental SportContact 6 - 25 Audi RS3 and VW Golf R
The SC6 simply wants to keep gripping at any given instance and if a driver were to proverbially “turn up the heat”, the Black Chilli compound would simply soak it all up and keep on gripping.

The thing that amazed us the most was how the tyre relinquish its grip. It’s a gradual experience that’s telegraphed to the driver so that the senses can tell the driver to take corrective measures - they were nothing short of be being communicative and consistent throughout.

Continental SportContact 6 - 17 Porsche Cayman S
As the ambient temperature began to drop, so did the cloud’s load of precipitation, upon the track and just when this happened, we were presented with a fleet of Porsche Cayman S that were equipped with the latest SC6, and two other fleets shod with the company’s developmental prototypes – the EVO1 and EVO2.

With 319bhp on tap and taking 4.9 seconds to complete a 0-100kph sprint, we found ourselves at the next station dubbed Maximum Grip, which was essentially a braking test in the wet that required us to get up to about 95kph before jamming on the brakes to come to a complete stop within a designated patch of very wet tarmac.

Continental SportContact 6 - 19 Porsche Cayman S
But, with such a heavy rainfall, and the added creative plumbing that was designed to drench the track for the test, it now seemed a little overkill to say the least.

With poor visibility and higher chances of aquaplaning, it was hard to gauge the speed limits which saw some of us over shooting the speed limit and for some...the stopping area too.

It was particularly hard to bring the EVO1 prototype tyre to a complete stop within the area due to the lack of silica in its compound, which meant that its dry performance was great, but unfortunately, it was almost completely useless in the wet, but the EVO2 tyres were able to best the SC6’s stopping distance.

Continental SportContact 6 - 09 Porsche Cayman S
The next test section would be out on the open track, and lets just say the EVO1’s performance in such wet conditions would have been lethal if used out in the real world. The lap overly stress-filled since it was hard to read this tyre’s traction levels, which bobbed between traction and aquaplaning in a blink of an eye during slight directional changes. Coffee please.

Although the EVO2 prototype managed to out-performed the SC6 in the previous brake test, the track experience with it had all the drivers turning into a nervous wreck, which had nothing to do with the coffee we had. The EVO2 was simply too reactive to steering inputs when out in the wet, which was an obvious case of too much silica in the compound.

Continental SportContact 6 - 05 Porsche Cayman S
Thankfully, the Continental SC6 didn’t inherit anything negative from either prototypes after much fine-tuning and emerged sophisticated, refined and communicative as a product and is nothing short of being confidence-inspiring, which allows drivers to push their cars to the limit and still have a good amount of control.

Although we’ve had some on-tack experience locally with the the SC6’s predecessor, the 5P, but it just wouldn’t be fair to make a comparison between the two having experienced the new tyres in much cooler conditions.

But, we do think that the new tyres do hold much promise in performance to hold up against our days of blistering heat and torrential rain with its already communicative compound that deems it dependable and an ultimately fun product to be rolling on. It’s just a pity that these tyres aren’t available for smaller wheels - fingers crossed for the future on this one.

Continental SportContact 6 - 02 Bilsterberg Drive Resort