Dunlop QuattroMaxx, an XXL tyre
Your mission, if you accept it, will be to hard drive an SUV on the track, and to have fun. You will have a 500 bhp Q7 V12 Tdi fitted with the new Dunlop QuattroMaxx tyres and your playground will be the road circuit at the Mortefontaine test track, reputed as demanding and selective.
The SUV market is changing quickly. In just a few years it has changed from the soft Tough-Guy image, to that of special vehicles which are neither one thing nor the other, straddling several categories and consequently offering unusual specifications.
The most charismatic ambassadors of this new race of sharp-toothed 4x4’s are the Cayenne Turbo, the ML 63 AMG, the BMW X6 M, and the Q7 V12 Tdi. These giants of the road are outstanding by their astonishing power (an average much over 500 bhp), for an average weight of around 2.5 T.
A new market, a new demand:
Vulnerable body panels, cosseted interiors, fitted with road tyres…. the majority of SUV’s have obviously not been designed with off-roading in mind, but more the open road.
Most customers purchasing this type of vehicle previously evolved around saloon cars, and consequently have demands in terms of handling which are not always compatible with the high and heavy vehicle concept.
This change in the market has generated a veritable change in demand for V and W rated tyres (240 and 270 km/h) for SUV’s which were almost non-existent ten years ago, and now represent 22% of tyres sold for this type of vehicle.
QuattroMaxx, HGV tyre technology for HGV performance!
In order to meet the requirements of the latest market demand, Dunlop has developed the QuattroMaxx tyre, a sports tyre with impressive properties.
The first sticking point in this technical challenge was determining the optimum rigidity of the tyre walls, and in order to do so, it was HGV technology which was adopted, using a stiffener belt.
The belt wires have been increased by 30 % in order to obtain a tyre which distorts less, in order to obtain better road holding and consequently better trajectories and longitudinal and lateral grip.
The tread is composed of 2 types of rubber which are designed to improve the performance of this tyre on all surfaces. The outer tread improves grip on a dry surface, whereas the inner tread improves grip on a wet surface.
To add a little more complexity to this mix of technical terms, there is also the use of MRT technology (multiple radius tyres), and the use of a flatter more asymmetrical profile.
Quite rare, the sidewalls of the SP QuattroMaxx are the fruit of the Pininfarina styling office, adding their signature to a design representing the technology used in the tyre.
After all these explanations, we are quite impressed, but also confused, and in order to prepare for the drive in the Q7 V12 organised by Dunlop, we kick off with a few special opening exercises aimed at demonstrating the supposed superiority of the Quattrosportmaxx in the face of its rivals.
Workshop 1: Lane Change
This first workshop is designed to reproduce a situation which is quite revealing regarding the balance of a vehicle: the avoiding manoeuvre.
For this, you are invited to take the wheel of a Q7 3.0 Tdi and drive up a speed lane until you reach 100km/h on the exercise area with the lane marked out by cones. The exercise then simulates an avoiding manœuvre as if you had to suddenly change lanes, and then return to the initial lane.
Of course, in this particular context, the aim is to be in order to be able to repeat the exercise precisely and evaluate the tyres objectively and uniformly.
We start with a competitor, the Michelin Latitude Sport (20-inch).
The tyre comes out well; the car is predictable and stable.
Then we carry out the exercise with another vehicle fitted with QuattroMaxx (20-inch). To our great surprise, the Dunlop is much more precise, it makes the car more stable, more incisive, while requiring less correction from the steering wheel. The feeling of facility and safety is outstanding.
Workshop 2: Curves and corners
The second workshop consists in driving into a stretch at 100 km/h, and starting to brake evenly while following a “question mark” layout marked out by cones.
The aim is to demonstrate the behaviour of the tyre under high stresses.
Still in a Q7 3.0 Tdi, the first runs are with Continental Crosscontact tyres, which provide the basis for comparison with the Dunlop run.
Once again, the QuattroMaxx performance seems better, but less pronounced than in the first exercise, enabling the vehicle to hold a more precise line with astonishing facility. The Continental’s performance is less stable, with a more accentuated tendency to understeer (vehicle deviates from its line due to saturation of the front running gear).
After the starters, we get down to the serious stuff with the real, live test.
The Mortefontaine test track is no walk in the park, it’s more of a mini-Nürburgring. Switching between fast and highly technical curves, fast stretches, harsh braking, bumps, a hairpin and even a curve which throws you to the outside of the track. Minor bothersome detail, there are no escape lanes, so excesses of optimism are not part of the programme.
To familiarise us with the 5-kilometre track, Dunlop has provided us with an Audi TT-RS, a real fireball propelled by a 340 bhp 5-cylinder turbo, howling like the devil, and on song, strangely reminiscent of the Quattro Group B of yesterday.
A fun way of appreciating the performance of the Sport Maxx GT tyres, and their QuattroMaxx lineage.
A bull in a china shop
Pushing the Q7 along the tarmac looks upside-down, the vehicle in total contradiction with the « light is right » concept of Colin Chapman, but we still have the ceramic brakes and the monstrous performance of the engine to fall back on.
Leaving the TT for the Q7 gives the impression of changing the racing overalls to drive the school bus, in other words: Driver, you’re the best, take us home!
The engine hum is almost that of a utility vehicle, gearbox (auto) in D, and moves off. Immediately, the feeling of power is predominant, and 0 to 100 km/h slots in at 5.5 seconds, seemingly perfectly credible.
The first series of curves re impressive and immediately enable us to put the Q7 through its paces: harsh braking, lock to lock, and all this in a relatively short stretch.
The track then opens up to a long straight at the end of which the 2.7 T are at 200 km/h to attack a wide left-hander at full pelt and ready for anything. The car is stable, precise, reassuring, and the rest of the track alternating hefty constraints of all types confirms the excellent strength of the tyre.
In spite of the ensuing laps, the QuattroMaxx offers a total, undying precision, it even gives the SUV quite an impressive feeling of liveliness and sportiness. We were surprised to be able to attack a curve under harsh braking and put the front axle in the right position, and twitch the rear axle the way we could with a sports car.
Feel feedback is excellent; there is no perceptible vague handling feeling.
It gives an excellent feeling, with a particularly high grip and a perfectly reasonable noise level.
But the most impressive, is the consistency and endurance of this imperious tyre under sporty driving conditions, and its recent performances on the Nürburgring track confirm its high potential.
In effect, driver Patrick Simon clocked up an impressive time of 8.33.99 at the wheel of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S fitted with Dunlop SP QuattroMaxx tyres, taking the track record for an SUV.
Available in sizes from 17 to 21 inches (from 250 to 550 Euros each), the Dunlop SP QuattroMaxx is top-notch in its category in terms of the sport vehicle market, which it dismisses with a slight wave of the hand.
A non-compromise tyre, unfortunately we were not able to test it against its rivals on the more rational aspects, such as its lifespan for which its supremacy will not be so obvious.
It is undeniably aimed at the owners of high-performance SUV’s in search of the ultimate tyre enabling them to make to most of their vehicles by improving the on-road and sporty characteristics.
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