I Drove 1,780 Horsepower Worth Of Cars In France On Possibly The Best Tires On Earth
I Am Amazed By The New Black Chili Filled Continentalsby Safet Satara, on
Continental AG invited me to spend three days in Nice, France, drive really nice cars, experience its #blackchili driving experience and gorge on vine and fish of all kinds prepared by some of the best chefs around.
I said yes.
This is what I saw, drove and experienced there.
1,780 horsepower worth of cars were parked down the alley of a hotel with a golf course. All of them were white, all of them had OEM Continental tires on them. UUHP tires, mind you. That is short for Ultra Ultra High Performance and all of them had striking, yet subtle Continental decals. Right from the get-go, it was clear this wasn’t going to be a classic journalist driving event. It was more of a celebration and a party. I liked it.
The weather was at nice 78 degrees Fahrenheit, without a single cloud on the perfectly blue sky over the Cote d’Azur. Down at that parking - 10 cars - two Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabrios, two BMW M240i xDrive Convertibles, two Porsche 718 Boxsters, two Tesla Model Ss, and two Audi RS3 Sportbacks.
FYI, the Porsche was the least powerful one there. And when the Porsche is the least powerful at a car event, things are off to a good start.
The Black Chili Experience
The experience called the #blackchili (yup, with a hashtag, look it up on Instagram, it's quite something) gathered a number of influencers, bloggers, vloggers, and whatnot in order to promote the new Continental tires and create a sort of a cool, enthusiastic story about the whole company.
I learned so much cool stuff about Continental and about its influence on the world of cars that I will try to share my knowledge with you the same way as I gathered it in the first place – driving with the Continental PR and an altogether cool person Kai Ruhling in some of the best cars at the Cote d’Azure.
Obviously, I will not let you drive the cars, because, well, the Internet,... but keep up with me and you’ll know what I felt when the Audi RS3 Sportback wanted to kick me out of the bend at one of the Rally Monte Carlo stages. Let me tell you that Black Chili compound in the new Continentals probably saved me.
First things first though.
What the heck is the Black Chili?
If you are into cycling you may have already heard about this as Continental developed the compound for the creation of its tires for bikes (Continental does tires for bikes, because, of course, it does). So, it is a compound. One that could potentially change the direction and future of tire technology. After asking Kai, Continental PR, who rode with me for two days, what are his thoughts on the most important advancement made in the tire technology business, the guy told me that he thinks it is the compound technology. Like Black Chili! Of course, I had to find out what Black Chili actually does that other compounds do not? The answer is a rather simple one – it will stick better to the road.
On the microscopic level, the tire will actually deform better around uneven surfaces and basically claw and stick to every micrometer it can touch.
Continental gurus estimated that tires with Black Chili provide 30 percent higher friction coefficient between the tire and the road. This improves the grip by a considerable margin.
Truly, Continental went out of its way to help us realize just how staggeringly impressive tires with this technology really are. The first car Kai and I hopped in was the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet. So, 367 horsepower, Napoleon Route under the ContiSportContact 5 P MO 255/35 ZR19 96Y XL tires, with Sport + mode activated. Kinda awesome? Not kinda awesome, it is awesome, believe me.
Especially without a cloud above our sunbathed heads.
Honestly, the Mercedes-AMG is loud, it's quite obnoxious and rather ostentatious in its appearance, however, I did not find it as playful as I thought I would.
Don’t get me wrong, it ate the bends and threw a hell of a show in the tunnels, but it was comfortable. Too comfortable and soft despite the hardest damping setting. Obviously, this is a cruiser that will cut the bends like a knife but will never give you a true sense of the work it does. Now, I have to admit that I had been quite observant of Kai and kept my foot in check. I drove sensibly and responsibly. Kai and I just started to get to know each other and me screeching the tires at the very start wouldn’t be very wise, would it now?
So, I kept a low profile, at least before we got to a short mountain pass with two lanes dedicated only to me. I could not hold it anymore. Boy, is the AMG C43 Cabriolet loud? And fast! A few times I put all 367 horsepower to work. The tires, it seems, did not feel a thing. They simply worked, keeping all the power in check and giving me so much room to play that I felt like a noob behind the steering wheel. A noob who never could reach the limit of what he was given. Sure, at that time it was early to draw any conclusions, except that I was in for a hell of two days.
Kai was impressed by the car as well. So much so that he wanted a spin with it. Before that, I learned that he actually has a 1990s Saab 900 Cabriolet in the garage back in Hannover. He likes that sort of thing – to get his hands dirty in trying to make an old car work as new. Before the Saab, he actually drove around in a freaking 1970s Chrysler Imperial with a 440 Ci engine. In Hannover, Germany. A city with tiny streets. He is a proper car guy obviously. When a guy like this asks for a spin, you just let go of the steering wheel and enjoy the ride. I did.
Well, before reaching the destination and switching to a BMW M240i xDrive Convertible on the Black Chili Continental, Kai actually told me a lot about what the Continental AG actually does.
Continental Is So Much More Than The Tires
I was quite stumped to learn that the Continental AG tire business makes only 25 percent of all car related stuff the company does. For crying out loud, it has 20,000 programmers under its wing and the company, with hordes of enthusiastic engineers, develops all sorts of things – ESP systems, washers, instrument clusters, chassis systems, autonomous drive tech, dashboards and so much more.
|Patricia Esparza Alonso, Continental Belgium PR with a Continental AG-developed electronic stability unit.|
Before actually heading out on our driving adventure with five different cars, Continental Belgium PR, Patricia Esparza Alonso, offered an insight into the efforts of Continental. The cars we drove had so much tech from Continental in them, I suddenly felt that I am not a proper gearhead because I did not have a clue about this. Aside from the tires, which were OEMs for all the cars at the event, Continental also provides stuff like this for the following cars:
- Dynamic Stability Control, wheel speed sensors, tire pressure monitoring system, engine management sensors, heating and ventilation system, electronics for powered seats
- Dynamic Stability Control, Chassis systems, Safety systems, hardware in the interior, engine sensors
- Electronic Air Suspension system, Climate Control unit, Tyre pressure monitoring, interior hardware
- Washer Nozzles, Getaway, Instrument Cluster, Direct Injection system, Engine Sensors, Fuel Supply system
With a complement of technologies like this, Continental is in a good position to become an OEM supplier for a number of manufacturers. Actually, its efforts in the automotive industry are quite remarkable considering the number of different divisions operating under the company name. If asked, I’d say that a concept car made exclusively from Continental parts would be doable. Do it Continental! Let it be electric, let it drive itself and let it be as fun as your #blackchili driving experience event.
BMW M240i xDrive Convertible
I really don’t want to sound too shabby, but hopping directly into the M240i xDrive Convertible after driving around in the AMG C43 Cabriolet is like trying to handle British rugby after trying a lot of the NFL. The BMW M240i is harder, stiffer, smaller, nimbler, and, I felt, more composed in the bends with an engine that gives out incredibly linear power delivery. I liked it more, but let me tell you right away that I am a sucker for BMWs (basically a BMW douche) and it is hard for me to be objective in this. Despite my feelings, the truth is that I could sense the tires working in the BMW more so than in the Mercedes-AMG.
While approaching the majestic Lac De Saint-Cassie (its a lake) just after leaving the canyon roads of the Gorges du Verdon, I finally let myself go. Actually, feeling the ContiSportContact 5 * 245/35 R18 88Y working under me was rather liberating. I just let the 3.0-liter rev between the 2 and 4 on the rev counter. Now much more confident in my abilities, I started shifting manually with the paddles behind the wheel.
The 8-speed ZF worked its magic with the exhaust giving me pops at every downshift. Then the dance began.
A nice set of fast, but quite sharp bends offered me the perfect opportunity to experience Black Chili at work. I was pushing it. Hard. All in an effort to hear a thing or two from the tires rolling down not so good asphalt. This is something I occasionally do with nice, new tires on the car. It is never my intention to put the car out of balance but to see how much of a G-force they can handle. In this case, the 18-inch tires worked flawlessly, without even screeching.
Yes, I could push them more, but that would not be reasonable. Even so, at one point in one of the sharpest and fastest curves of the day, Kai said: „see, black chili works“. It does, Black Chili works. I am rather confident that the Continental tires I was driving all these cars on (ContiSportContact 5 and ContiSportContact 6) are among the best summer tires for high-performance cars currently in production.
Don’t think for a second that I am overreacting on this one. I test drove so many cars that I can sense when tires might let go, or produce that eerie screeching sound. Black Chili-filled Continentals never did. They just kept clawing to the road like,... well, like I am on freaking rails.
Continental and Adidas
After the drive and finally with a beer in my hand, I sat down in front of the AC Schnitzer boss, Continental PRs, and an Adidas representative to hear about the Continental cooperation with Adidas. Why an AC Schnitzer representative then? Well, he was there to tell us that the Continental Ultra Ultra High-Performance tires work best with tuned cars. Believe me, that is the biggest test they can endure. Brabus uses them on those mad 900+ horsepower Mercedes cars, Edo Competition is known for putting them on its cars, and so is AC Schnitzer. This was a sort of an introduction into the Adidas and Continental cooperation. See, Adidas shoes (sneakers and track shoes) use Continental soles. That since 2007 when the cooperation started.
This is not only a marketing ploy.
Continental really looks to develop the best possible soles for the Adidas shoes.
The result comes in the form of 80 different pairs of running shoes and trail shoes you can find on the shelves today.
Continental actually sponsors many running events all over the world and a number of athletes have won marathons and half marathons using Adidas shoes with Continental soles. When you head to the Adidas shop next time, look at the soles, you will see the Continental name there. If you are still unsure just how good the cooperation has been, remember that Haile Gebrselassie actually said that with the Adidas shoes and Continental soles he had the most „comfortable run in his life“. That says a lot, doesn’t it?
Tesla Model S, Porsche 718 Boxster, and Audi RS3 Sportback
This subtitle is the reality of my third day at the Continental #blackchili driving event. I drove all of these cars on the new Continental tires and on the road segments actually used for the Monte Carlo Rally.
The day started silently, with me getting behind the wheel of a 373 horsepower Tesla Model S. That car had ContiSportContact 5P TO tires on massive 21-inch wheels. The strange thing was the „ContiSilent“ technology. With it, the 245/35 tires were 9 dB quieter compared to the tires without the tech.
In essence, ContiSilent stands for a thin layer of sponge-like material glued on the inner side of the tire.
This is smart thinking really, as Continental managed to dramatically lower the sound transferred into the cabin from the tires for the least money imaginable.
Now, I won’t tell you much about the Tesla (you will read that in a separate test drive piece soon), but the thing is that the power delivery of the electric motors is so much different compared to anything from the ICE. It felt downright bizarre. But the Tesla Model S, despite being the slowest of them all (Teslas and the cars at the #blackchili), is really fast. So much so that I felt a bit overwhelmed by the unexpected surge of speed every time I’d hit the throttle. Of course, the lack of any engine noise and strange linear delivery (actually a bit similar to what the BMW M240i straight-six does) made me feel a bit strange and almost uncomfortable at first. Later on, I gathered my wits and actually figured out that with a nice Spotify playlist Kai played, the Model S can become a comfortable cruiser.
You can only imagine my surprise when we changed something as large and heavy as the Model S for something as tiny and as precise as the Porsche 718 Boxster.
I will be blunt with you, the 718 Boxster is perfect. Despite being the cheapest Porsche, I am sure it is all the sports car you will ever need.
This was the only car on display to rock the SportContact 6 tires (the newest of them all) and it was stuck to the road like glue. Believe me, I doubt that there is a better way to turn someone into a gearhead than a drive in the 718 Boxster.
The steering wheel is just right, the driving position really low, but you can still see the sides of the bonnet. Then there is the nice sound and overwhelming sense of security when cornering. Driving any other car is like downgrading your life. The 718 Boxster, on the Continental SportContact 6 tires is what driving fun is all about. I had a unique opportunity to try it out on some nice roads worthy of a hill climb race. I felt like a freaking race car driver. Despite having only four cylinders, it is noisy. You would be proud of it. Then there’s the grip and the unmatched composure through the bends. Cornering and going straight never felt so similar.
The car doesn't jolt at all when leaving a hard bend at high speeds.
Its rear end stays planted even when you bury the gas pedal a bit too deep in a high-speed corner and the SportContact 6 simply glues it to the road. While I loved that M240i xDrive Convertible with all my heart, I have to say that the Porsche 718 Boxster with the 300 horsepower 2.0-liter, I-4, made me appreciate my job, cars, and engineers even more. This is what every car should be like – fun, precise, nimble, composed and eager to please. I don’t know if it would be the same without the new Black Chili Continentals. I doubt it would stick this much!
Kai saw that I liked the car a lot and actually said: „I can see you like it, drive all the way and have fun.“ Kai learned to trust me, in spite of my enthusiastic driving, and he was obviously not scared of some proper speed. At that point, I figured that it was only the love of cars that made him buy that Imperial and now that Saab. Hopefully, he also enjoyed the speed of the Porsche and the sticky and remarkable Black Chili Continentals.
My final driving stint was reserved for the most powerful car on the lot – a really hot hatch – the Audi RS3 Sportback with a 400 horsepower powerful engine.
Let me tell you right away – this is an animal. An animal I learned to fear. Its acceleration is so brutal, I felt like I couldn’t keep up. My senses were all over the place trying to figure out the Virtual Cockpit, driving modes, insane sound of the five-cylinder, and really fast transmission. Coming out of a Porsche and hopping into an Audi would usually be a relief of sorts. Not here.
I was one with the Porsche as soon as I got in. I never was one with the Audi RS3 Sportback.
Heck, even after driving for 30-40 kilometers, I felt threatened and kinda overwhelmed. It is like I wasn’t good enough for the car. The only thing that kept me going and finally gave me the courage to push the Audi RS3 Sportback on the fascinating roads that once made the Rally Monte Carlo were the tires. The grip was phenomenal. Now sitting much higher than in the Porsche, I could sense the tires working more than ever. Quattro launched the thing to 62 mph in 4 and something seconds. This alerted me of the extreme speed the RS3 Sportback is capable of at any point. I was holding it back. And then - the Rally Monte Carlo road. Heck, I had learned earlier that Continental Black Chili does not let go that easily on such a dry tarmac and I just went for it.
The Audi was zooming through the curves and eating meters (we were in Europe, so let’s stick with meters) like a racecar. I was far from taming a beast like this, so I felt it is simply too fast for a road with so many short straights and then extremely sharp turns.
See, the car accelerates so much in such a little space frame, that I had to brake in full a few times.
Honestly, I was thinking, this thing would be better off on a racetrack than on this road. Nevertheless, it was fun. And scary. Especially when one particularly nasty curve formed ahead. I was speeding towards speeds that would put me right in jail and the only thing I could do is hope that Black Chili Continental and Bruce Almighty may save me. They did. Black Chili worked again. So well in fact that I developed a whole new appreciation for the job everyone in Continental does. They are wonder markers.
While I do believe that newest high-performance tires from all manufacturers can actually reproduce performance similar to that of the newest Continentals with Black Chili compound, I am now, more than ever, sure that the Continental ContiSport 5 and ContiSport 6 are among the best in the world. Driving high-performance machines in Nice and exploring the limits of the newest tire technology taught me that tires can make or brake a car. And let me confirm that secret everybody has been telling you about – if you want to make your car instantly better – buy better tires. UUHP Continentals (and probably equivalent tires from other manufacturers) will do it. They will make your car better. Ask for Black Chili as well. It is not a spice, it is not a dressing. It’s magic.
Read our full review on the 2018 Audi RS3 Sportback.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-AMG C 43 Cabriolet.
Read our full review on the 2018 BMW M240i xDrive Convertible.
Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model S.
Read our full review on the 2018 Porsche 718 Boxster.