After being thoroughly impressed with Dunlop’s Sportmax Q2 sport tire in our last sport tire comparison, we figured that Dunlop wasn’t in a hurry to try and improve on it. The Q2’s performance was head and shoulders above the rest, and even more impressive was the fact that the tire was actually some three years old, having been in introduced way back in September 2009. Thus, when we received the news that Dunlop was ready to release the new Sportmax Q3 successor, we were a bit surprised…and couldn’t help but have a bit of skepticism regarding the new tire and its performance. How could Dunlop actually improve on the Q2?
The biggest change with the new Q3 tire is the use of carbon fiber in its construction. We know what you’re thinking: “Oh geez, another marketing gimmick.” Nothing could be further from the truth in this case. Everyone knows the benefits of the carbon fiber—high rigidity and tensile strength, ultra-light weight, high tolerance of chemical and temperature extremes, including low thermal expansion—just the characteristics you want for use in a tire casing.
Where Dunlop made use of carbon fiber is in the tire’s sidewall as a reinforcement element. Dunlop North America’s association with Goodyear (the company is majority-owned by the well-known automobile tire manufacturer in association with Sumitomo Rubber Industries in Japan) led to the idea of using it in the sidewall, as Goodyear is famous for the same design element with its Eagle F1 performance automobile tires. By incorporating a carbon fiber reinforcement band into the Q3 sidewalls, Dunlop was looking to improve cornering stability, handling, and steering response.
The Q3 keeps its predecessor’s IRP (Intuitive Response Profile) that is designed to steer and handle quicker while providing a larger contact patch when cornering, as well as the MT (Multi-Tread) technology that utilizes a longer-wearing compound in the center of the tread along with softer, grippier compounds on the sides for cornering traction. The front Q3 maintains the cross-ply “cut-breaker” radial construction with two nylon plies and two aramid belts, while the rear continues with a true zero-degree radial construction with one nylon ply and a continuously wound circumferential aramid JLB (Jointless Belt) layer to prevent tire growth.
In a twist from previous tire press launches we’ve attended, Dunlop decided to forego doing the usual rental of a known racetrack, and hold its Q3 launch at the company’s own Huntsville Proving Grounds in Alabama. An 80-acre compound that is the world’s only motorcycle-only tire test facility, the HPG includes a road course, a wet test track, multiple supercross and motocross tracks, and a recently expanded off-road course. The 1.5-mile road course features a unique layout that runs over itself, so each journalist took to the course by himself to allay any danger; a side benefit was that it allowed us to concentrate on the tires without any distractions.
Dunlop reps let us ride on both the Q2 and Q3 back-to-back (a Suzuki GSX-R600 and Kawasaki ZX-6R 636, as well as a ZX-10R outfitted with datalogging equipment were on hand), which allowed us to see how much difference there was between the two tires. We mostly stayed on the GSX-R600, as its familiar handling capabilities would allow us to really feel the differences between the two tires.
The verdict? If you thought the Q2 was good, the Q3 will leave you shaking your head and spouting superlatives. The biggest advantage with the new Q3 is stability over the Q2 (and the Q2 wasn’t exactly an unstable tire if you read our tire comparison results). For instance, the Q3 is noticeably more stable under hard braking, with much less tread squirm; that also translated to easier steering under trail braking into the corner. The Q3 was also more stable in transitions, with less of tendency to “settle” into the corner before turning as with many other sport tires—the Q3 would simply slam to full lean and immediately carve toward your intended apex with impressive precision and neutrality. Even edge grip with the Q3 was slightly improved, and the Q3’s slides seemed smoother and more controlled.
And the best part in all this? The new Dunlop Q3 will retail for the exact same price as the Q2 (which definitely wasn’t the most expensive tire on the market) in all sizes. And that includes a 200/50ZR-17 size for the latest literbikes such as the Ducati 1199 Panigale and Aprilia RSV4, and a monster 240/40ZR-18 to fit the slammed/stretched ‘Busas and ZX-14Rs out there.
We’ll be getting a few sets to test on our own roads and racetracks for a more extensive evaluation, but we can say from our day spent on the new Q3 that Dunlop has raised the bar once again. The competition has some serious work to do.