Auto Express: A mini-test of UUHP summer tires in size 235/35ZR19 (2022)

The British magazine compared three sports summer tires from Continental, Michelin, and Pirelli.

List of models tested:

Germany’s Continental made a number of bold statements, presenting its new flagship model Continental SportContact 7 in the end of last year, specifically noting that the new model significantly outperforms its predecessor — SportContact 6 — on wet and dry pavement. The Auto Express experts already tested the new Continental model, and the test drive showed that the new tire is indeed much more effective, first of all on wet pavement, but then again, many tire makers claim that their new models improve upon their predecessors’ performance, and most of the time these statements are indeed true. The key question, however, was how the SportContact 7 would fare against it direct competitors, and in order to answer that question, AE conducted a test at the Continental proving grounds in Uvalde (Texas, USA), comparing the new model with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S and Pirelli P Zero (PZ4), which had earlier both came out the winners in evo tests. The testers settled for size 235/35ZR19 91Y; all the tires were purchased retail.

The test included a standard set of disciplines, such as braking and handling performance, hydroplaning resistance, and, in addition, the experts measured cabin noise on several types of surfaces, and rolling resistance as well. The price was also taken into account, but this factor did not affect the final score significantly. The weight of the scores was distributed in the following way: wet — 50%, dry — 40%, other — 10%.

The tires were tested using VW Golf GTI.
The tires were tested using VW Golf GTI. Source: autoexpress.co.uk

First place in the final standings was indeed scored by the Continental SportContact 7, and the AE experts noted that new tires rarely fall short of their predecessors, but usually do not outperform them significantly either, while Continental was indeed able to create a tire whose performance is fundamentally better than that of its predecessor — so much so that the differences are really prominent. In addition, the Continental SC7 outperformed the tires from competing brands, and on both wet and dry circuits it won almost in all of the disciplines, only coming second in the test for lateral hydroplaning resistance. At the same time, the Continental model clearly dominated in all the other tests, particularly on wet pavement, where it had a more than 3% lead over the competition.

According to the testers, the Continental model was obviously better than its rivals in terms of handling performance and steering response; it also has particularly good traction on the front wheels, which makes it possible to neatly pass the apex of the corner, as well as ensures impressive grip when exiting the bend. The grip and stability on the rear wheels were also quite stable, and ultimately the lap time on the wet circuit was 68.4 seconds — almost one second better than Pirelli’s. On dry pavement, the Continental tire also demonstrated excellent handling response, but the lead was slightly smaller — a little under 0.5 seconds.

Test discipline: dry handling.
Test discipline: dry handling. Source: autoexpress.co.uk

While the Continental model is a newcomer in the UUHP segment, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S was released a relatively long time ago — in 2017 — and, if anyone has a question why the test did not involve the Michelin Pilot Sport 5, presented this year, the reason is that this new model is a replacement for Pilot Sport 4, and not 4 S. The PS5 tires are manufactured in sizes with smaller fitting diameters, and are less intended for sports driving.

Although the successor of the PS4S is also to be released any day now, this «veteran» tire is by no means outdated, and it even won in one of the disciplines, namely, fuel efficiency. Even though this particular test is often won by the newest tires, made in accordance with the state-of-the-art technologies, the Michelin tire still outperformed the competition, even if with a slight lead. According to the experts’ estimates, the Michelin tire is capable of cutting down the fuel consumption compared to Continental and Pirelli by 1% and more than 2% respectively.

Test discipline: wet handling.
Test discipline: wet handling. Source: autoexpress.co.uk

In the other tests, Michelin, just like Pirelli, fell behind the new Continental model. On dry pavement, Michelin had a slight lead over the tires of the Italian brand, first of all due to the fact that the braking distance, demonstrated by the PS4 when braking from 100 km/h, was almost two meters shorter than that of the P Zero (but 30 cm longer than the SC7’s). Michelin also missed the crispness of Continental’s steering response; this tire demonstrated good wet traction, but the grip on the rear wheels was not as stable as on the front ones.

The Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) tire was launched even a little bit earlier than the Michelin model, but, judging from its performance, one cannot say that it is time for the manufacturer to prepare a replacement. According to the AE experts, this tire is quite safe on both wet and dry pavement, but, just as the PS4, it does not ensure such a dynamic handling performance as the new Continental model.

Test discipline: hydroplaning.
Test discipline: hydroplaning. Source: autoexpress.co.uk

On the wet circuit, Pirelli was able to slightly outperform Michelin, coming second in the handling performance and lateral grip tests, as well as winning the test for lateral hydroplaning resistance. The tire’s braking distance was almost half a meter longer than that of the Michelin model, but then again, in this discipline neither of the tires came even close to Continental. The experts added that in the handling test the Pirelli tire did come close to the SportContact 7, but its steering response was not as prompt, and the pilot had to wait for the possibility to speed up when exiting the bend.

Unlike the other group tests, this mini-test, conducted by AE, did not involve tires with downright poor performance, but the experts emphasized that the prominent lead the Continental model had over its rivals means that the new tire «sets new standards» in its class. First of all, the SportContact 7 was commended for the crispness of steering response, but it also quickly stopped the car in any conditions, and its overall performance was described as «exceptional».

Auto Express 2022: Results in the disciplines of summer tires in size 235/35R19.
Auto Express 2022: Results in the disciplines of summer tires in size 235/35R19. Click to enlarge.

While the Continental model was an obvious leader, the two other tires were also very good on both wet and dry pavement. As for the differences in their performance, the Michelin tire will be a good choice for the drivers who use their cars often because this tire is a good fuel saver, while the Pirelli model also ensures excellent grip in rainy weather.

1st place: Continental / SportContact 7

Quick Take
N/A 34

Continental SportContact 7

  • This tire replaced Continental / SportContact 6
  • Available Sizes in Line: 3
  • Original Equipment (OE) tires for:
    • • Maserati Levante M161 [2016 .. 2023]
    • • Maserati Quattroporte VI (M156) Facelift [2016 .. 2023]
  • Year Released: 2022
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+, Southeast Asia
Continental SportContact 7

  • Short braking distance and excellent handling response on dry and wet pavement
  • The new Continental model obviously outperforms its rivals, particularly in terms of wet grip
  • Increased rolling resistance
  • Reduced lateral hydroplaning resistance

2nd place: Michelin / Pilot Sport 4S

Quick Take
88 76

Michelin Pilot Sport 4S

Price/Quality Wet Performance Dry Performance Handling Comfort Treadwear Snow/Ice Performance
  • This tire replaced Michelin / Pilot Super Sport
  • Available Sizes in Line: 218
  • Original Equipment (OE) tires for:
    • • Ferrari GTC4Lusso [2016 .. 2020]
    • • Porsche 911
    • • Porsche Boxster
    • • BMW X3 M F97 [2019 .. 2021]
    • • BMW X4 M F98 [2019 .. 2021]
    • • Cadillac CT4-V GM Alpha [2020 .. 2023]
    • • Cadillac CT5-V GM Alpha [2020 .. 2023]
  • Recommended Tire by Tests
  • Year Released: 2017
  • Regions for sale: North America, Central & South America, Europe, Russia+, Japan, South Korea, Middle East, Oceania
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S

  • Very good handling response and a short stopping distance on dry pavement
  • Low rolling resistance
  • On wet pavement, falls a little short of the competitors, particularly in terms of grip stability on the rear wheels
  • Poor resistance to lateral hydroplaning

3rd place: Pirelli / P Zero PZ4

Quick Take
81 63
Dry Performance Handling Wet Performance Comfort Treadwear
  • This tire replaced Pirelli / P Zero
  • Available Sizes in Line: 299
  • Original Equipment (OE) tires for:
    • • BMW 8 Series G14/G15/G16 [2018 .. 2023]
    • • Hyundai Kona OS Facelift [2020 .. 2023]
    • • Acura NSX NC1 [2016 .. 2023]
    • • Volvo V90 II [2016 .. 2023]
    • • Jaguar XF
    • • BMW X1
    • • BMW X2
    • • MINI Countryman
    • • MINI Clubman
    • • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
    • • Jaguar XE
    • • Audi A4
    • • Audi A5
    • • BMW 3 Series
    • • Mercedes-Benz A-Class
    • • Mercedes-Benz B-Class
    • • Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
    • • BMW 7 Series
    • • BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
    • • BMW X3
    • • BMW X4
    • • BMW X5
    • • BMW X6
    • • Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
    • • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    • • Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe
    • • Audi A8
    • • Bentley Continental GT
    • • Bentley Continental GTC
    • • Porsche Boxster
    • • Porsche Cayman
    • • Audi A3
    • • McLaren 540C
    • • McLaren 570GT
    • • McLaren 570S
    • • Volvo V40
    • • Hyundai Veloster
    • • Lamborghini Huracan
    • • McLaren Senna
    • • Audi R8
    • • McLaren 720S
    • • Porsche 911
    • • BMW 5 Series
    • • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 4
    • • Porsche Panamera
    • • Audi A6
    • • Audi A7
    • • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
    • • Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class
    • • Volkswagen Touareg
    • • Lamborghini Aventador
    • • BMW Alpina B5
    • • Jaguar F-Type
    • • Ferrari 488 Pista
    • • Ferrari GTC4Lusso
    • • Ferrari Portofino
    • • Maserati GranTurismo
    • • Maserati GranCabrio
    • • Ferrari 812 Superfast
    • • Dodge Challenger
    • • Aston Martin Vantage
    • • Alfa Romeo Stelvio
    • • BMW Alpina XD3
    • • BMW Alpina XD4
    • • Jaguar E-Pace
    • • BMW X4 M
    • • BMW X3 M
    • • Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
    • • Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
    • • McLaren GT
    • • Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
    • • Lamborghini Urus
    • • Volkswagen Atlas
    • • Ford Mustang Mach-E [2020 .. 2023]
    • • Aston Martin DBX [2020 .. 2023]
  • Recommended Tire by Tests
  • Year Released: 2016
  • Regions for sale: North America, Europe, Russia+, East Asia, Middle East, Africa, Oceania
Pirelli P Zero PZ4

  • Very good handling response in the wet
  • High lateral hydroplaning resistance
  • Low noise emission
  • Long braking distance and prone to quick overheating on dry pavement
  • High rolling resistance