Recently we attended the Continental Black Chili driving experience, a road trip that takes place for a few months every year in different parts of Europe. This time it was in the south of France.
Tyres are just one arm of the company; they make the washer jets on a Porsche Boxster headlights, the air suspension in the Tesla Model S, the screens and displays in Audi’s, the ESP system found in Mercs, and everything from the pedal all the way through to the tyres on other marques.
— carwitter (@car_witter) September 28, 2018
How about their relationship with Adidas? They have worked in collaboration since 2010 to make some of the top running shoes in the world, record-breaking running shoes for that matter.
You can find a number of their rubber compounds on the soles of various three stripe trainers, everything from walking shoes to ones that climb up mountains.
Anyway, we were there to learn about Black Chili, their stickiest, most advanced tyre compound. But why is it called Black Chili? Why not Black Pepper, or ultra-sticky stuff?
Turns out, it came from their cycling arm (yup they also make bicycle and motorbike tyres), then it was developed for car use. The name came out due to the way chili sticks to your tongue; if you drink water after eating one, the hot, burning taste stays there. It embeds itself into the pores.
Black Chili effectively does the same thing, and it’s called black because, well…tyres are black.
Random name, but now you know why.
The official line:
Patented by Continental, Black Chili technology with special grip resins is a high-grip compound that delivers optimum microflexibility. At the same time, fleeting atomic bonds in the contact patch act like nanoscopic suction pads to ensure maximum adhesion. Together, these two factors provide maximum grip in all directions when braking, cornering and accelerating on wet or dry roads.
— carwitter (@car_witter) September 28, 2018
As we’ve always advocated, Tyres are a vastly important part of the overall machine that is your car. At any one time, you only have a piece of rubber the size of your smartphone in contact with the tarmac at each corner.
That’s a damn small amount to put all that load through; it has to remove water, hold on for dear life during a corner when lateral forces come into play and stop you quickly when needed.
To me, that means I want only the best rubber underneath me, especially when I’m trusting it with my life.
Putting that into perspective a single Contiental ContiSport Contact 5 will cost around £170 for my Peugeot RCZ R, at the other end of the scale I can purchase a 19-inch tyre that will look the same as the Continental for just £45. That’s 3.7 times less than the Conti; I could nearly buy 4 tyres for a single Continental.
But I wouldn’t, because I like being alive.
During Black Chili I sampled a plethora of performance machines over 300 KM’s of Côte d’Azur’s finest asphalt. Naturally, all were running Continental tyres, from the ultra-silent Tesla Model S with its foam filled, road noise killing ContiSilents to a pair of Boxsters shod with the newest ContiSport Contact 6’s.
The range of options to help and aid OE partners is nothing less than impressive. Did you know Continental are number one in the UK? I didn’t. And they certainly weren’t a brand I’d ‘go to’ for replacements, but it turns out they win tyre tests year after year, left, right and centre.
It’s not just manufacturers that Continental work with; they support tuners too. Rather than pulling a random tyre off the shelf, they partner with some of the biggest names in the industry to help keep their cars and customers safe. ABT, AC Schnitzer, Arden, Brabus, Lorinser, TechArt and edo competition all fit Conti tyres.
Tyre development cycles can last up to three years and their most recent Contact 6’s as sampled on the Porsche Boxster couple the Black Chili compound with Force Vectoring technology and Aralon 350. The latter sits beneath the tread and acts like another steel belt helping stabilisation during high speed where huge centrifugal forces come into play.
The Force Vectoring links tread blocks together to give mutual support during quick cornering helping transfer lateral force, this boosts steering feel to the road. And boy did the Boxster feel good cutting from apex to apex in the near 30-degree heat.
Going back to the OE tyres Continental supply, did you know they’re all stamped to show they are original equipment? I didn’t, and here’s some tyre geekery to go with it:
Over the course of two days, we rotated through the five different cars, from drop top C63’s and the M240i, a rather thirsty Audi RS3, an ultra-silent Model S and my favourite, the surgeon’s scalpel that was the Porsche Boxster.
However it wasn’t a race, it was a rally, and points could be won by answering questions correctly on the things we learned along the way, however as soon as ‘points for economical driving’ was uttered I became ultra-competitive.
That meant the majority of our Black Chilli event was a sedate meander through some of the most stunning scenery the south of France has to offer, occasionally giving each car a hefty right foot to blast past locals who hindered our progress.
I still managed 36.6 MPG in the Porsche over mountainous climbs and descents, 24.3 in the rather shouty Beemer, 28.2 in the AMG and 25.6 in the Audi. Long downhill sections were negotiated in neutral to eke out every last mile; it was like piloting a huge soapbox down canyon after canyon.
Alas, we didn’t do score highly enough in our questions to take first position. We did, however, bag a joint third with Caroline from Changing Lanes in Ireland. So it wasn’t all bad.
The Black Chili Driving Experience was a superb introduction to the brand, we learnt lots and sampled some incredible cars along the way. It ultimately left us with this:
There’s more to Continental than just tyres, and there’s more to tyres than just rubber.
Think about that the next time you’re tread is running low.