January 25, 2017 @ 04:51 PM

Rubberise before you’re pulverised

Tyres designed exclusively for the imperfections of Asian Pacific roads? Haven’t we heard that marketing malarkey before though? Continental though might have just delivered on it

Four strips of rubber, each with a contact patch about the size of your palm at any given moment. That’s a reference to your tyres in case it went over your head. Some argue that all tyres are the same, much like fuel and lubricants. As long as it gets the job done, why fret over making the right choice?

It would be pretty monochromatic though if the other camp didn’t dispute that.

The quandary though is that more than a handful of the tyres offered here aren’t exactly optimised for local road conditions. That includes but isn’t restricted to the less than stellar surfacing as well as driver mannerisms.

Continental Tyres Malaysia prides itself in designing and manufacturing products from its research and development hub located in Malaysia that cater to the roads and motoring traits of local and markets within the Asia Pacific region.

It recently released two models produced by the local R&D centre that will form a core portion of their new Generation 6 range of tyres. The ComfortContact 6 (CC6) serves as the successor to the bread-and-butter CC5 while the all-new UltraContact 6 (UC6) slots in between the CC6 and the more performance oriented MaxContact 6 that will be hitting tyres stores soon.

Continental Tyre Malaysia saw it fit to design a tyre that bridged the gap between the CC6 that’s more partial towards comfort and the premium performance rubber that is the MC6 as dictated by the increasing demand for tyres that catered towards a quieter ride.

Generally, substantiating a tyre’s advantages would require instrumented testing in a controlled environment as the variance with a competitor can be almost negligible. Said testing conditions aren’t something we’re privy to here so on most accounts, a tyre review merely highlights the purported edge they possess without actual validation.

Therefore, any perceptible difference without the use of precision instruments points is a fair indication of job well done. Before the plaudits are handed out though, the actual testing with the much-coveted butt-dyno has to be carried out.

The CC6, as its name clarifies, is an option for those that prioritise comfort in their daily commute. It incorporates a number of proprietary features that culminate in the reduction of road noise in the pursuit of improved ride comfort.

Based on the “Helmholtz resonator” principle, Continental designed its Harmonic Comfort Chamber to neutralise the road noise generated between the surface and tyre as the air waves migrate in and out of the chambers. The chambers are positioned on the inner shoulder of the tyre pattern as the heavier load inside tends to generate more noise emissions.

Eliminating noise continues with what has been dubbed the “0” dB-Eaters. The uniquely shaped elements are positioned within the groove and function to split and diffuse noise waves travelling within the tread groove for lower road noise.

Lastly, the “Whisper Compound” refers to the polymers within the compound of the tyre that adapts with increased efficiency to the imperfections of the road. It dampens micro bumps on the road so the tyre rolls over smoothly with less vibrations and air trapped between that amplifies noise. Furthermore, the softer compound also adds directly to ride comfort.

Prior to the controlled demonstrations, a brief drive in some passenger vehicles fitted with the CC6 revealed a noticeable drop in road noise intruding into the cabin. As mentioned earlier, any perceptible difference is a staunch substantiation of its lead.

Nonetheless, the demo centred around a pair of Volkswagen Vento’s, one fitted with the CC6 and other with its predecessor, the CC5. Both were driven up to 50kph and then allowed to coast over a rough patch of cement with a smartphone decibel reader app recording the results.

In the name of science, the phones were of the same model and the runs repeated for consistency.

The Vento with the CC5 steadily recorded noise levels in the 75-76dB range while the CC6 equipped Vento was constantly in the 74dB range. As minute as the variances were, the discernible difference was distinctive from within the cabin but surprisingly even more prominent from the outside.

In addition to the slash in noise, the introduction of a complex sulphur lattice into the “Whisper Compound” is deemed to deliver a longer lifespan for the tyre in terms of mileage. Available in sizes from 13-16 inches, the CC6 caters to the majority of compact vehicles in the market who themselves are the largest slice of the passenger vehicle pie here.

Next up is the all-new UltraContact 6. Promising a performance-oriented ride, the UC6 features Aqua Channel surface sipes that act as drainage channels to direct the water film over the road surface away from the contact patch to prevent aquaplaning.

The Diamond Edge design element in the tread blocks act to maximise the contact area in hard braking situations by means of its chamfered edge that distributes the braking forces more evenly. A tread block lacking this edge (pun intended) would distort heavily under the forces acting on it which in turn reduces the contact patch.

Furthermore, the Diamond Edge also serves as a wiper of sorts to swipe the layer of water away from the road surface for shorter braking distances.

Working to make improvements from a fundamental level, the compound of the UC6 consists of a Diamond Blend Compound comprising two polymer blends for a best-of-both-worlds outcome. Short grip-polymers function during cornering or braking by virtue of the energy being transformed into heat for more grip.

On the other hand, the long mileage-polymers possess a more powerful bond between them to reduce wear and tear for a longer lifespan as well.

Lastly, the UC6 features an enhanced version of the Noise Breakers 2.0 that interrupts the noise waves in the grooves to break them down.

How did all the design features translate into the real world? Serenely, or as close to it as possible from a tyre having to cope with the demands of advanced tractability whilst keeping things hushed.

Immediately, the most apparent aspect was the noise; or lack thereof. The Diamond Blend Compound and Noise Breakers 2.0 soaked up the imperfections of the road to keep the din down and with impressive grip at high speeds.

The hard braking exercises that pushed the car into the ABS zone demonstrated consistent stopping distances with the wet conditions requiring only an additional metre to reach a complete halt.

A slalom test was the perfect platform for the heightened grip to display its progressiveness as the limits approached. The gravel surface didn’t upset the braking capabilities too much and the gradual lost of grip at the limit is a safer scenario than a sudden encroachment of understeer.

Catering to vehicles with wheels in the 15-18 inch range, the UC6 will find itself in the company of C-segment and D-segment vehicles whose drivers demand the traction and refinement it accords.

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