The police tire shortages in 2006 were a harsh reminder of the perils of single sourcing anything. Many police fleets were caught short with no tires for the Ford CVPI. And nothing else was either approved or tested for the sedan that makes up 78% of the police fleet. Even Ford did some scrambling for an alternative police-spec tire. Like a good SWAT cop, the prudent fleet manager should always have a Plan B. Continental Tire
entered the police tire market as original equipment on the 2005 special service package Dodge Magnum. The new police tire is the ContiProContact, which comes standard on the Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum. It is also available for the Ford CVPI and some versions of the Impala.
You may be asking, “Why Continental?” When the Charger and Magnum were under development, the only 18-inch tire to meet the needed speed rating was available from Continental. Continental is also the OE tire on other high-performance retail vehicles from Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi, BMW, Ford, Chrysler, Cadillac, Lincoln, Land Rover, Mazda, Pontiac, Porsche, Saab and Volvo.
Obviously, Continental has selected one of its high-speed, W-rated tires already developed for the Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes for use on the Ford CVPI, which explains why this tire has a 168-mph speed rating! Continental also owns the American brand General Tire and the European brands Semperit, Viking and Gislaved. Both Goodyear and Firestone now have 18-inch tires to fit the Charger. However, the Continental tire will remain the Charger’s only OE tire.
Continental makes a number of ContiProContact tires for police sedans. The P235 / 55R17 (W-rated) fits the 2006 and newer Ford CVPI. The P225 / 60R18 (V-rated) fits the Charger and Magnum. The company makes a P225 / 60R16 that fits the 2005 and older Ford CVPI and all the Impalas. However, this is only an H-rated (130 mph) tire. The 2006 and newer Impala and all the Ford CVPIs since 1998 call for a V-rated tire.
All of the police package Chargers have come with the ContiProContact tire, so our entire experience based with these tires has been on the Charger. So, our purpose was two-fold. First, how has the 18-inch ContiProContact been working on the Dodge Charger? Second, how will the 17-inch ContiProContact suitable for the CVPI do during long-term testing? After all, this tire fits the Ford CVPI, is on the national tire program for the CVPI, and is certainly a suitable speed-rated option for fleet managers to use on the CVPI. Replaces ContiTouringContact
First impressions are everything, especially in the conservative police fleet community. When the new 2005 Magnum was being scrutinized, attention was also drawn to its unique 18-inch wheels and the Continental ContiTouringContact tires. Oddly, DaimlerChrysler’s newest entry to the police market was fitted with tires that were being phased out, and for a good reason. If all you know about Continental is based on this early experience with the ContiTouringContact, give the German tire maker another look.
The comparisons between the ContiTouringContact and the ContiProContact are almost embarrassing. Compared to the ContiTouringContact, the ContiProContact has fewer tread sipes (small slices in the tread blocks) for better dry traction. The trade-off, is better spring, summer and fall performance but not as good winter and snow performance. So the tire compound was upgraded.
The ContiProContact has a tread compound developed more for wet traction. The trade-off is not quite as much tread life as the ContiTouringContact. Just as much a factor in tread life, the ContiProContact has slightly less initial tread depth compared to the ContiTouringContact. This allows the new tire to achieve the V-speed rating. It is less likely to chunk and feather during a pursuit and high-speed driving than a slightly deeper tread.
In every area of tire performance, the ContiProContact is a significant improvement over the ContiTouringContact. It has better dry traction, better wet traction, better light snow and ice traction, better noise and ride comfort and better treadwear. Forget the ContiTouringContact ever existed. It was a “Grand Touring” all-season tire. The ContiProContact is a “high-performance” all-season tire. There is a big difference.
The Real Comparison
The comparison that matters is between the ContiProContact and the Goodyear Eagle RS-A. And all the ContiProContact has to do is equal the Eagle RS-A to qualify as an optional tire for police use. Most police departments give their EVOC instructors some time behind the wheel of a car with the test tires to qualify the tire for police use. EVOC instructors know how to feel for differences in tires and how to articulate those differences.
And that is exactly what we did with the ContiProContact. Except we put 8,000 miles on the set of tires. We caught the tail end of a Midwest winter to get some light to medium depth snow and some cold, dry roads. Then all of spring to get both light and heavy rain and some warm, dry roads. Then the summer heat, which was a summer of record highs.
We realize that Goodyear tires have served law enforcement well for decades. And that the Eagle RS-A has proved to be a good police tire. However, it is not the only good police tire.
We found the 17-inch ContiProContact to be equal to, and in most areas, superior to the Eagle RS-A in virtually each of the 11 subjective tire performance categories.
The ContiProContact was “significantly better” in four areas: wet traction, ice traction, hydroplane resistance and road noise. The ContiProContact was “noticeably better” in four other areas: light snow traction, deep snow traction, treadwear and ride comfort. The ContiProContact was “slightly better” or about the same in three other areas: cornering stability, steering response and dry traction.
Better in Most Areas
On a scale from 1 to 10, equally weighed in each of these 11 categories, the ContiProContact rated a 7.6 out of 10, i.e., “very good” and “above average.” In the same equally weighed categories, the Eagle RS-A rated a 5.7 out of 10, which pretty much defines the terms “good” and “average.”
Don’t take this as Goodyear-bashing. All of this superiority could simply be due to a comparison of the next generation tire technology to the last generation technology. The ContiProContact was introduced in 2005. The Eagle RS-A dates back to 1995. In fairness, this is like comparing a brand new Ford CVPI to one from the mid-1990s. Tires are under constant development. Advances happen almost yearly in rubber compounds, tread patterns and carcass construction.
In an area where technology rapidly changes, and the product itself is a complex compromise, a 10-year-old tire is pretty easy to be outperformed by a new tire. We look forward to Goodyear’s next generation police tire. Until then, don’t be surprised that newer generation tires like the Pirelli P Zero Nero and the Continental ContiProContact give both better performance under all road conditions and longer treadwear.
Had the comparison been between the Eagle RS-A and the ContiTouringContact, the results would certainly have been different. Both are older generation tires. But that was not the comparison, of course. Instead it was the current OE Goodyear tire versus the current police program Continental tire. Does Goodyear make a tire as good as this Continental tire? Certainly, but it is not marketed as a police sedan tire, while the ContiProContact is.
Adverse Weather Conditions
The biggest advantages the ContiProContact has over the Eagle RS-A are during poor road conditions, especially wet weather. Yet the ContiProContact did not give up tire life (treadwear) to be more sure-footed during water sports. We found the ContiProContact has about the same straight-line hydroplane resistance as other police-oriented all-season tires. However, it had clearly better hydroplane resistance during steady cornering, sudden lane changes and evasive, accident-avoidance maneuvers.
The strongest advantage of the ContiProContact was under panic stop conditions on wet roads. ABS-activated stops on dry pavement were the same as other police all-season tires. However, ABS-activated stops on wet pavement were significantly shorter, all else equal.
Traction in winter driving conditions was comparable to other police all-season tires, i.e., deep snow, light snow, hard packed snow and glare ice. The ContiProContact did well on wet and slushy roads, slightly better than the average police all-season. Overall, however, the ContiProContact is not a winter tire, and neither are any other police all-season radials.
The ContiProContact uses a symmetric tread pattern, instead of the asymmetric pattern of the Eagle RS-A, and Pirelli P6 Four Seasons. Since an asymmetric tire must always be mounted with the outside out, these tires usually have different tread compounds, i.e., harder outer shoulder, softer inner tread. This is usually an advantage. Frankly, the ContiProContact does surprisingly well for a fully symmetric tire. In an overall comparison to the Eagle RS-A, on both dry and wet pavement, the ContiProContact is a bit more responsive, has more grip and is easier to control under aggressive driving. At the very, very least, it is every bit as good as the Eagle RS-A.
National Police Tire Program
For retail customers, Continental tires are expensive. The national tire program for law enforcement lowers the retail price for the ContiProContact to $96 (Ford CVPI) and $100 (Charger).
As important as the sheer availability of this police-spec tire for all of the police sedans (especially the Ford CVPI), Continental had a police-oriented, national pricing program. It was like a state-bid, except it was national pricing. The company’s “Police Pursuit Replacement Tire Program” specifically included the W-rated P235 / 55R17 ContiProContact used on the Ford CVPI and the V-rated, P225 / 60R18 ContiProContact used on the Charger and Magnum. The program also included an 18-inch winter tire for the Charger, the ContiWinterContact TS790V.
This program ended in mid-2007. Since that time, Chrysler has picked up the same program. This, in fact, has made it easier to get national bid price police tires: you simply go to the nearest Dodge (or Chrysler-Jeep) dealership. While Continental handled the initial program, the local Chrysler dealer will administer the new program. Fleet pricing, the same as the Continental program, is available as a rebate. The Continental dealer, however, can still determine where inventory is in the area. If it doesn’t have the inventory at a Dodge dealership, it can typically be filled in one day.
Continental Rain and Snow Tires
The ContiProContact is also available in sizes to fit a variety of other police admin, detective and undercover vehicles, in both H-rating and V-rating. For the 2006 and newer Impala and the 2005 and older Ford CVPI, Continental makes a V-rated tire in the ContiExtremeContact line. The ContiExtremeContact looks like a snow tire, but it is primarily a wet-conditions tire. It may have the open tread pattern of a winter tire, but it has the harder rubber compound of an all-season tire, and it lacks the tiny tread sipes of a true winter tire. With a series of directional, V-grooves to evacuate water, first seen on Formula 1 rain tires, the ContiExtremeContact may have the best hydroplane resistance of any all-season tire.
Continental also makes a true winter performance tire, the ContiWinterContact. The tire currently listed on its Police Pursuit Replacement Tire Program is the TS790-V. This tire did very well in the deep snow, frigid weather testing conducted by the NLECTC. However, the TS790-series of winter tire is being replaced by the TS810-series in most applications. Expect this winter tire to be replaced by the TS810-S (sport) as a winter tire for the Charger, Ford CVPI and Impala.
Experiences with Charger
The overall assessment of the ContiProContact on the Charger after one year comes from officers issued both the 3.5L Charger and the HEMI® Charger. According to these officers, the tire has excellent dry traction and excellent wet traction, especially hydroplane resistance. This assessment is not blurred by the fact the Charger has stability control, which includes all-speed traction control. Stability control is only as good as the traction available from the tires.
To date, no one with a Charger has mentioned tire wear as any different from any other police tire. This, in spite of the fact, that Hemi Chargers (and 75% have the Hemi) are driven very hard. That’s why Chargers are purchased in the first place. So far, tire wear on the ContiProContact is a non-issue.
Tires are a compromise and are constantly improving. To take advantage of the latest technologies, fleet managers must be open to alternatives, rather than simply buy more of the same. And in the face of tire shortages due to strikes or other production realities, the prudent fleet manager must have an option.