SportContact 7 impresses in first test, with bespoke versions available for everything from hot hatches to SUVs.
We don’t attend many tyre launches, chiefly because driving a new tyre is rather pointless unless you have something to compare it with, some way of verifying or refuting claims made for it. Generally, we prefer to conduct our tyre test with direct comparisons in controlled conditions. However, the launch of the SportContact 7, Continental’s new UHP (Ultra High Performance) tyre, was a bit different.
Its predecessor, the SportContact 6, has been a solid performer but it’s been around for six years, so you’d expect the new tyre to be better. Wet and dry braking distances are claimed to be improved by 8 and 6 percent respectively but on top of this the new tyre comes with a service life extended by 17 percent, and gives 10 percent more track mileage. All with a rolling resistance rating of C (mid) when many of the best UHP tyres are D or E (the worst). Continental says it’s a more bespoke tyre, too, with carcass construction optimised for different applications – hot hatches, sedans, SUVs and EVs.
It quickly became clear that Continental wanted us to drive the new tyre hard. The first exercise at its proving ground near Hannover, Germany, was fast laps of the dry handling circuit in the front-drive Hyundai i30 N and rear-drive Toyota Supra. I know the place well and was in the first group out, so got the best of the tyres. The ‘warm-up’ lap behind the pace car was brisk, the second lap flat-out, the Hyundai proving poised, accurate and grippy. The gutsy Supra with a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo upfront is an edgier, more demanding car yet the new tyre tamed it and made it more balanced and predictable than I’ve known it.
So far so good. The greater test, though, is in the wet. For this exercise Continental had boldly laid on a squadron of 309kW, four-wheel-drive Mercedes-AMG A45 Ss. Half were shod with the SportContact 6, half with the new SportContact 7 and we were able to do batches of laps on each.
My first run was on the new tyre and I could feel the strong bite turning into the corners… which led to some snappy oversteer moments. Swapping onto the SportContact 6, the softer front-end bite meant you didn’t load the A45’s rear as much or as quickly, which made it feel more flowing.
Thanks to many hours spent slithering round here on tyre tests, I had by now been reminded of all the nuances of nailing a good lap. Switching back to the SportContact 7 was a revelation, the improvement now abundantly clear. With stronger turn-in bite and mid-corner grip, the A45 felt much more positive, with clearer feedback that allowed traction to be more fully exploited. In a couple of turns, picking up the throttle sooner would blend turn-in oversteer into easy power oversteer at the exit, keeping things fast and flowing. It felt a chunk quicker than the SportContact 6. Continental says it’s 5sec a lap faster around the wet handling circuit – 78 versus 83sec – which is massive. We’re very impressed and look forward to seeing how it performs in our next tyre test.
The SportContact 7 is no on sale in Australia.