Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ Tire Review

John Burns
by John Burns

“Tire testing” is rapidly becoming my favorite thing to do here at MO. It always involves going on a great ride, sometimes even a race track, and no one can really accuse me of getting it wrong, can they? Especially when the main claim is greater tire longevity. I’d like to hang around Austin and eat more barbecue and put 6,000 miles on these new Dunlops, but oh dear, look at the time…

Dunlop says its current Sportmax Q3 is and has been the best-selling sport tire in America since its introduction four years ago (as well as of course the best! sport tire period), and now the boys from Buffalo have completely overhauled it, producing what they claim is not only a better sport tire – but also one that’ll give 20 to 30% more longevity than the current Q3. That would be the Sportmax Q3+.

On the outside, it looks a lot like the Q3. On the inside, it’s more than 80% new, says Dunlop tire designer and track day junkie Shawn Bell. The rear is still of multi-tread construction, but now uses a new silica-enriched center tread section. Much of the credit for the Q3+’s increased longevity goes to this new compound, which will add many miles to the tire without sacrificing grip, says Dunlop.

Dunlop says Carbon Fiber Technology (CFT) carbon fiber reinforcement in the sidewalls means exceptional cornering stability at high lean angles, responsive and precise steering, and predictable, smooth transitions.

Changes in construction and compound contribute to increased tire stability while maintaining the current tire profile, giving the Q3+ a 3.5% to 6% bigger footprint and therefore more grip at max lean angles. According to Rich Conicelli, senior development test rider at the Dunlop Proving Grounds, “the Q3+ lets you brake later for a turn, carry more lean angle through the apex, and get on the throttle sooner at the exit” – all the things that produce a quicker lap time.

Where am I? In an hour-and-a-half session trying to remember which way COTA goes after the MotoAmerica pro’s were done with it for the day, I am able to state unequivocally that Dunlop tire tester/ ex-AMA racer Rich Conicelli was hauling the asses of a hundred Bible tales on the Q3+ when he passed me a couple of times. Even though the CBR1000RR was yanking itself up to 156 indicated on COTA’s long back straight. Wait, I can say something: Very stable on the brakes from that speed!

Powerpoint presenters pointed out proof in the form of a graph showing Rich’s progress around Roebling Road Raceway being over a second faster than on the Q3; and just about one second quicker also around Dunlop’s own shorter test track at their Huntsville, Alabama, proving grounds. All I can say is that Rich seemed to be going about 30 seconds faster per lap when he occasionally blew past me as I wobbled round trying to learn my way around Circuit of the Americas. Meanwhile, the longevity claim is backed up by extensive internal testing, including a 2015 BMW R1200RT running 120/70ZR17 and 180/55ZR17 Q3+ over varied roads that make up Dunlop’s street loop.

Carcass construction focuses on maintaining a very consistent contact patch at all cornering angles, plus the ability to resist the heavy power and braking forces generated by current high-performance motorcycles. The cut-breaker radial construction of the front Q3+ follows proven Dunlop design, with two nylon carcass plies and two aramid reinforcing belts for increased cornering stability and enhanced braking at high loads. The rear features continuously wound Jointless Band (JLB) construction for consistent tire diameter come hell or high speeds.

We got the invite to ride the new tire in Austin, conveniently/concurrently with the second MotoAmerica official tire test of the season. Dunlop, of course, has been providing the control tire for MotoAmerica for a couple of years now (and with the prior regime before that), and are justifiably proud of supporting American racing with tires that are manufactured in America. They’re also proud of the fact that the Q3+ is actually built on the same machines as their racing tires, and they like to point out that each iteration of its sport tires brings it closer to the race rubber. Or is it the other way around? There is convergence.

Let’s just say I experienced zero tire-related surprises. Kudos to Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda for letting us borrow a few of his babies.

One big difference is that you should be able to get up to about eight full track days out of a set of Q3+, says lead tire engineer Shawn Bell, who does lots of them, and you really don’t need to fool with tire warmers: They’re designed to get up to operating temperature quickly (a good thing on the street in cool weather), and about half a lap on most tracks will have the Q3+ already up to a good operating temperature. Rich Conicelli agrees: If the race was three or four laps, he says, you could beat guys on race tires on the Q3+. Their compound is also a blend that’s good for many more hot/cold cycles than a true race tire – and in between track days, they’re also perfectly good for riding back and forth to work – and now 20 to 30% more times than before, he says. Twenty percent more, Dunlop likes to point out, could be the equivalent of adding a month to your riding year. Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway twice. Doing your favorite loop a few more times…

Bump compliance on our street ride actually felt a bit better compared to the Q3s on my personal R1, but that could be of course suspension differences. Bell says compliance and bump absorption are about the same between Q3 and Q3+, as well as weight and tread depth.

Dunlop also says the Q3+ is a big tent everybody can get under: Instead of offering a continuum of more specialized tires (whose names include such words as “Pilot” and “Corsa”), they claim the Q3+ will both outlast and out-stick any of their competitors’ offerings at the same time, all in one tire. Well, I don’t have either the time or the talent to investigate any of that this week, sorry.

It really was the last straw when Josh Hayes passed me in a Grand Caravan. After that I threw in the towel. Actually COTA does have four corners so tight you really could go around them quicker in a minivan.

At the end of the day, if it’s better than the Q3, the Q3+ will be a helluva tire, and especially if the 20-30% more mileage claim holds up. And I’m with Dunlop’s Mike Buckley, who points out nobody does more to support American racing and therefore the American motorcycle industry than Dunlop – not only MotoAmerica roadracing, but also flat track, Supercross and God knows where else people ride motorcycles. We’ll not drag Trump into this, but made in the U.S. by genuine Buffaloans is a claim only Dunlop can make: 340 days a year, three shifts, 24 hours a day, 6000 tires a day, 1200 hourly union employees and 200 salaried ones, under one big happy million-square-foot roof.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ Sizes and Availability

Sportmax Q3+ Front120/60ZR17(55W)TBDAugust 2017
120/70ZR17(58W)$180.96May 2017
Sportmax Q3+ Rear160/60ZR17(69W)TBDAugust 2017
180/55ZR17(73W)$232.68May 2017
190/50ZR17(73W)$264.71May 2017
190/55ZR17(75W)$271.69May 2017


John Burns
John Burns

More by John Burns

Join the conversation
3 of 17 comments
  • DR N DR N on Jun 10, 2017

    Dunlop found a way to justify charging consumer more money for tire

    • Curtis Brandt Curtis Brandt on Apr 17, 2019

      Q3+ are one of the more affordable supersport tires, and have a rebate through the end of the month.

  • Cindy Lynn Cindy Lynn on May 11, 2018

    I live in Quebec where streets, weather and most drivers are all bipolar ... I'll be honest according to many people here the Q3 sucks because it doesnt get alot of mileage but if you're the type of person who spends their time riding on the highway, going to do burns at bike meets or just driving point A to Point B then Ya a Q3 aint your best choice... but for someone like me who loves to go and hit the curves in the states ex : Vermont, New-Hampshire or New-York (adirondacks & lake placid ) then the new Q3+ will be a hoot !!! I just bought a set and cannot wait to try them at the track and go lean my gixxer in those tight swirvey curves ... thx 4 the info very usefull !!! Cindy