Even the supercar manufacturers are getting in on the act. You can now get an SUV from Rolls Royce. Some may think that a bad idea, marking a departure from the tradition of the luxury marques base. If you do think it’s a bad idea you’ll hate what Ferrari has planned. The worlds ultimate supercar manufacturer is getting involved too, with their Purosangue. They refuse to call is an SUV though as that would be insulting to Ferrari’s legacy. Instead they call it a FUV (Ferrari Utility Vehicle). Nice to know they can give their potential buyers an out then. “Oh, it’s not an SUV Barry. This is a FUV. '' Yup, everyone will fall for that. Lamborghini has no such qualms. The Urus is simply touted as the world's first Super Sports Utility Vehicle. And to think some people thought the Porsche Panamera was too much a dilution from the soul of a supercar.
No Sir, we are entering a period of automotive time when everyone wants to ride high up and command a view over the unfolding terrain. What’s more, now SUVs are starting to appear in electric options, the environmental argument against them is being diminished too. So they are here to stay, like it or not (and the stats suggest you do like it). Which is good… because so do we.
But no matter if you love them or hate them… based on the stats you probably either drive one or have a close connection with someone who does. And if you’re going to be thinking about SUV tyres any time soon, we have some great stuff to tell you.
Different Needs for Different Vehicles
All SUVs face a common problem. They have to be different things to different audiences. All at the same time. It’s a tough ask and we feel sorry for the engineers who probably get a brief that goes a little like this…
“Can you please design us something with the carrying capacity and boot space of a large people mover… the decisive handling of a sports car… the ride comfort of a luxury saloon… the emissions levels of a matchbox car… and of course, make sure it can bring all the weight safely to a stop when needed as well”. It’s a bit like asking a rugby prop to have the grace of a ballerina, the effortless running of the gazelle, thumping strength of a boxer… and the delicate touch of a butterfly.
Ah well. We’ll leave the complications of design to the experts. You get the picture. However, there is one particular problem we do need to talk to. Which is what such a vehicle wears on its feet.
Enter the Experts
It’s long been known the performance characteristics of a vehicle are heavily influenced by the rubber they have on their wheels. Car manufacturers know this. That’s why they work with tyre manufacturers when they release a new model. Tyre design plays a part in ensuring that vehicle models meet the promises they make as regards handling, road noise, fuel efficiency, stopping distance and emissions. And believe us, SUV performance parameters are more challenging than most. This is where Continental comes to the forefront. They have a long and distinguished track record of working in tandem with the world’s leading manufacturers, sometimes spending up to 4 years, developing tyres specifically for a new model.
That amount of effort in tyres to suit specific vehicles is why if you drive an Audi Q8 or a Jaguar F-Pace or even a Ford Kuga or Holden Acadia, we’re going to recommend you when you replace the tyres that you opt to replace it with original equipment (OE) tyres. That’s because they’ll usually ensure that a vehicle performs to its best.
But for the massive number of SUVs that don’t have specially specced tyres, or those for whom their original spec tyres are no longer on the market, Continental has something very special. It’s an all-new tyre and it promises to extract the very best performance from these family favourites, turning your average SUV into something altogether better. We’ve done some digging and found out some more about it. Here’s what we discovered…
On Closer Inspection
First up, it’s worth noting that the UltraContact SUV is part of Continental’s ‘Generation 6’ family. Generation 6 products differ from much of the Continental product range in that they weren’t developed for any one specific vehicle model. Rather, it was designed with the ambitious mission to make Continental’s safety technology available to any motorist, regardless of the age and model of their vehicle.
Just because they didn’t have a specific vehicle in mind however, doesn’t mean that Continental cut any corners in the Research and Development process. The Generation 6 range was still locked down in product development for 3 years and clocked up 11 million kms of road testing before the first models were released. That’s some commitment for you. All we're imagining that all the braking, handling and comfort learnings from helping hundreds of vehicles meet the specific performance parameters were never far from their minds either.
Of course, commitment doesn’t guarantee success or being any good. What it does mean is amazing attention to detail and a laser focus on trying to get things right. So when it comes to safety, it’s good to know Continental remains true to their commitment to keeping our roads safe.
The Vision Zero initiative is Continental’s bold and ambitious goal of zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero accidents. And what they’ve done with this tyre is a big step forward to helping achieve that goal.
The UC6 boasts the impressive sounding Aqua Drainage and Aqua Channel technology. But is really impressive is what this technology does when you drive in the wet. As you go hurtling through standing water on the road, the Aqua Drainage utilises a drainpipe system to actively drain water away from high risk areas to deeper parts of the tread grooves, from where it can be more quickly expelled. This increases aquaplaning resistance, along with notably improving wet braking capability.
Partnering this innovative safety feature is Aqua Channel technology, with the special surface sipes working to further speed up water dispersion from the tyre. Again, when it comes to performance in the wet, including cornering, it delivers significant improvement over other tyres. Given the, shall we say somewhat inclement conditions we often face in NZ, it’s a significant advantage.
It’s not the only safety plus to come from the UC6 either. The unique Diamond Edge Chamfers act somewhat like a wiper blade in the wet, removing the thin (dangerous) film of water from underneath the tyres. That’s pretty impressive.
It doesn’t always rain and the roads aren’t always wet. Those long summer afternoons exploring our big, beautiful backyard make memories for families that last a lifetime. So when it comes to getting some real satisfaction from your SUV and using it to its potential, the UC6 delivers.
Back to those chamfers. They don’t only offer advantages in the wet. In the dry, they evenly distribute the pressure from braking across the tread block. This acts to help prevent tread distortion, improving braking capability.
Braking and cornering can be a real issue in any SUV. That high centre of gravity, along with the weight, is not ideal for throwing them around as you would a nimble little hot hatch. Those given to late braking might give themselves a bit of a fright. So, a big round of applause for the Double Tie Bar. It provides a connection between the tread blocks, increasing stability and stiffness during cornering to combat that problematic high centre of gravity. The Double Tie Bar also acts to reduce braking distances.
To the next improvement. Continental has developed what they call Noisebreaker 2.0 Technology. This handy little piece of innovation intercepts and splits sound waves. As you’d expect, it makes for a quieter ride, delivering the type of acoustic comfort you’d normally only expect from a saloon.
Wear & Tear
So far you’re probably thinking this all sounds really very nice (it is) but at the back of your mind you’ll also be thinking there might be some trade-off to be had here. You’d be right to think this too. Most performance tyres suffer the same Achilles heel - they tend to wear quicker. It’s the perennial trade off. At least… it was.
What Continental has done here is nothing short of staggering (it’s worth noting the advantages we describe here are consistent across Continental’s entire Generation 6 range).
Let’s get technical for a second and dive in. The UC6 tyres have a proprietary mix of short chain and long chain polymers. A polymer being a substance which is built up by a large number of similar units bonded together. Full disclosure - we had to google it so don’t worry if you don’t know what a polymer is. All we need to know is what they do. In the case of the UC6, the short chain polymers provide the grip for cornering and braking. The long chain polymers provide the strength, reducing wear.
The unique blend of the two has allowed Continental to produce a tyre that not only performs but does so for a prolonged length of service. It’s brilliant. Especially when you know they went and added an advanced silica compound to reduce rolling resistance by decreasing the energy lost through tyre deformation. Which means reduced fuel costs. Which is always nice.
So that’s the tyre. It’s good. It’s very good. Now back to the SUV.
Designing an SUV is a tricky business. The list of needs and wants is long and, at times, rather contradictory. They have to be many things, to many people for many reasons. Almost regardless of the design, the fact they are higher and weigh more causes issues. But without changing your vehicle, you do have some choices around how it performs.
And that's where the Continental UltraContact UC6 SUV tyre comes in. They are performance enhancers for SUVs. They are simply that good and will allow you to make the most of your SUV and get more from it. After all, an SUV is a tidy investment so you may as well maximise it to its true potential.