Dunlop Q3 Tire Review
The best street/trackday tire yet?
Marketing campaigns for tires are filled with catchy buzzwords touting their performance. So much so that we as journalists have started to ignore them. And no two buzzwords are more fashionable these days than “carbon fiber,” the light yet strong material so popular when it comes to performance materials.
Now Dunlop is extolling the virtues of carbon fiber in its latest sport tire, the Q3, the successor to the Q2, itself a winner of numerous magazine tire tests and the tire of choice for many riding schools in the U.S. CFT, or Carbon Fiber Technology, is the buzzword acronym now and it stems from the use of carbon fiber filaments extruded into the rubber used to form the Q3’s sidewall.
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The benefit, Dunlop says, is lighter feeling on turn-in, better stability at full lean, and more composure driving out of a corner. Beyond the performance benefits, with advancements in manufacturing efficiencies and processes, the Q3 will cost exactly the same as the Q2 before it, in all sizes.
Continuing the acronym soup, the Q3s continue Dunlop’s Intuitive Response Profile (IRP). For the Q3, this means a taller profile and a more aggressive taper on the sides compared to the Q2, resulting in slightly quicker turn-in and a greater contact patch to the ground at maximum lean angles.
Multi Tread (MT) technology is Dunlop speak for dual compounds and the Q3 has them. A tough, cool-running, long-wearing compound in the center is flanked by softer compound rubber on the sides for traction at any lean angle. Two nylon carcass plies and two aramid reinforcing belts help the tire maintain composure during cornering and braking. In addition to these elements, the rear features a continuously wound Jointless Band (JLB) to keep the tire diameter from expanding at high speeds.
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Unlike other tires with quick warm-up abilities, however, the Q3 doesn’t utilize any silica in its design, says Mick Jackson, Manager of Product Development, who comes from Dunlop’s UK race team, having worked extensively in Grand Prix and World Superbike before joining Dunlop USA in Buffalo, New York. “Instead, the Q3 is all carbon black, infused with different polymers, which allow it to warm quickly and provide great grip.”
Looking at the Q3’s tread pattern, it looks very similar to that of the D211 GP-A DOT race tire, however, with fewer, yet longer, center grooves. This allows for better water dispersal but with the same rubber to void ratio as the Q2.
Using sophisticated data acquisition instruments, Dunlop engineers determined the Q3 has 8% more drive grip, plus 5% more corner stability than its predecessor, allowing for a 0.5-second improvement in dry lap time around the 1.3-mile test track with Dunlop test rider Rich Conicelli at the controls. More impressive is the 1.4-second lap time improvement on the 0.5-mile wet course.
Think about that: race teams are thrilled when they slash tenths of a second off lap times. To cut 1.4 seconds around a half-mile course, in the wet, is a huge amount. Again, using data acquisition, the Q3 recorded 8% better drive grip, 10% more braking stability and 15% more cornering stability compared to the Q2 in wet conditions around Dunlop’s test track.
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If the numbers are to be believed, then Dunlop has created one incredible tire. Of course claims like this deserve to be verified, and that’s why journalists were invited to the Dunlop Proving Grounds in Huntsville, Alabama. DPG is the only facility of its kind in the country, and possibly the world, dedicated solely to testing motorcycle tires, and where the above performance claims were recorded.
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Here the assembled journalists would be able to partake in a similar exercise Dunlop test riders like Conicelli use to evaluate tires. The test facility (it’s not a racetrack) features a narrow, 1.3-mile course with close walls and no runoff. It includes a series of tight switchbacks (which double back on itself), high-speed flicks, long-radius turns, long straights and heavy braking zones, perfect for dissecting a tire’s strengths and weaknesses quickly.
For this test, the Q2 and Q3 were available for back-to-back testing on either a 2013 Suzuki GSX-R600 or Kawasaki ZX-6R 636. Unfortunately, wet testing wasn’t made available to us, so we’ll have to trust Dunlop’s word. I had spent a few sessions entirely on the new tire to acclimate myself to its characteristics. It seemed well enough; offering quick warm-up as advertised with good grip all the way to the edge. But it was difficult to put into context without comparing it to something else.
The eye-opening moment for me was testing the Q3 back-to-back with its now discontinued predecessor, the Q2, all on board the ZX-6R. In virtually all aspects of performance, the Q3 is simply better, which is saying a lot considering how good the Q2 is.
Using carbon fiber in promotional materials is sure to grab attention, but I’m happy to report CFT is more than just marketing fluff – these tires deliver. Under braking, the new tire feels more sure-footed with less squirm. Initial turn-in feels slightly quicker, with a minor, albeit noticeable difference in confidence and grip at full lean.
I found myself applying the power on corner exits sooner and more aggressively lap after lap, and the rear never once protested. The Q2 deserves praise still, because even when it would disagree with my throttle hand, it simply whispered its unhappiness with a gentle wiggle, never shouting with a big slide.
It’s difficult not to be anything less than highly impressed with the Dunlop Q3. It delivers confidence-inspiring grip just shy of a race tire. For the rider looking for a high performance street tire that will also handle hard lapping in the fast group at your next trackday, look no further.
The Q3 will be available starting June 13 in popular sizes for most current sporty motorcycles. The smallest, and least expensive size, 120/60 ZR17, will set you back $165.73, while a 240/40 ZR18, the largest rear available, costs $290.51. As stated earlier, all prices are identical to the Q2 before it. Visit http://www.dunlopmotorcycle.com/ for more information.