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The tread of the new tires is copied from … frog legs.

Anton Utkin

The German concern Continental presented a real sensation to motorists - when developing the new TS780 winter tire, engineers took advantage of the achievements of bionics. Recall: this science explores the methods of introducing into technology the solutions found by nature itself. One of the striking examples is the Velcro fastener, the idea of ​​which was suggested by the inflorescences of burdock. In the automotive industry (unlike, say, aviation), bionics were practically not used before, except that the ball joints of the suspension and steering rods clearly resemble the shoulder and hip joints …

And here is a discovery that has opened up new horizons for car tire developers. Studying the ability of some amphibians to hold tenaciously on slippery surfaces, scientists have found that this is not only due to the suction cups on the fingers. For example, tree frogs cleverly climb along foliage, where the vacuum is no longer an assistant - try to suck when something unsteady, supple, and streaked under your feet … As it turned out, the skin on the fingers of the frogs is covered with a dense mesh of cuts with hexagonal cells. Having reproduced something similar from rubber, the researchers were struck by the excellent frictional properties of the material obtained - the cuts clung with sharp edges to the smallest roughness, without breaking into slippage even when transferring considerable moments of friction. The secret turned out to be that the hexagonal (end - not counting) rubber columns of this peculiar tread cannot move relative to each other: from all sides the column is tightly clamped by neighbors. Hence the unique opportunity to make the posts soft and elastic (and therefore very tenacious), but at the same time to avoid their harmful suppleness to bending and tearing edges from the microprotrusions of the mating surface.

Laboratory tests of prototypes of tires with a hexagonal network of tread sections confirmed their main advantage: the adhesion properties on a slippery surface are almost the same for any direction of force in the contact plane. Comparative tests became even more evident. Tires of previous generations with straight or even zigzag sections were born in the throes of compromises - an improvement in the dynamics of acceleration and braking inevitably caused a deterioration in traction in the transverse direction, i.e. in corners, and vice versa. In technology, it is generally accepted that the special is always better than the universal. Tires - the winners of comparative tests, which beat the rivals in five to seven exercises, necessarily had their own “fad”, which they failed to competitors. For example, this: a toothy wheel rowing fine on snow and clay, but inevitably noisy on the pavement. Another tire accelerates better on ice, but is weaker in cornering.

“Conti” makes an application for universality already at a different stage of technical development. Has the green hopper really helped the Hanover engineers create a winter tire that is safe not only for rally pilots, but also for simple "dummies"? We were able to verify this in Iceland - there the Continental company staged a demonstration of the new product.

Langyokul glacier - a snowy plain about a hundred kilometers across - where else in Europe will you find such a training ground in early autumn? A couple of hours from Reykjavik - and we are there. Several brand-new Volkswagen Golfs and one Alfa Romeo 145 were waiting for journalists on a cleared area. With curiosity I get behind the wheel of a bright yellow Alpha and through the veil of a suddenly rising snowstorm I rush to the track marked with flags. The winding road is rubbed in places with ice - its shiny, polished humps up to two meters wide peep out from under the compacted snow. Having traveled for six months on clean asphalt, to feel a real skating rink under the wheels is a very refined pleasure, especially if I’m sure that there is nobody around, and on the left and right there is a soft feather bed of freshly drifted snowdrifts …

This time we will not focus on assessing the behavior of tires in "sports" modes. After all, winter tires are bought, as a rule, not in order to chase down glaciers headlong. But daily without any adventures to work and go home on the icy highway with heavy traffic - it is a legitimate desire of someone who spent three or four hundred dollars on a winter set of “shoes”. Therefore, we will test the TS780 model from the position of a not very experienced, but cautious driver.

So, the first exercise is acceleration. Imitating a driver who does not feel slippage, I press on the gas according to the principle “the stronger - the faster”, especially since the accelerated 1.4-liter Alpha engine does not pull at low speeds. The front drive wheels work in white porridge, like cream mixer rotors, drowning with a squeal of howling from under the hood. But the car confidently creeps forward, gradually gaining speed and leaving behind a curtain of snow dust.

The second exam is an imitation of fright. Accelerating to 80 km / h (cruising for a deserted winter track), I present an unexpected obstacle ahead - a tractor, an elk, a pedestrian or something else. “Numb with fear”, I hit the brakes - the car makes the sound of the shovels of the predawn janitor and, collecting snow shafts in front of the locked wheels, quickly stops. Moreover, it is almost straightforward, despite the fact that the right wheels part of the braking distance passed through bare ice. I repeat the reception, having previously deployed the car at an angle to the curb. The result is the same - with locked wheels, Alpha slides on the ice like a wooden shield, studded with sandpaper from below.

And finally, the crown number is an imitation of an obstacle detour, that is, a check of the notorious lateral tenacity of rubber. Having flown straight to the ice section, I turn the steering wheel all the way to the right, expecting the car to slide left side forward to catch it later … But Alpha, slipping slightly, suddenly, like a torpedo, crashes into a snowdrift on the right side of the road and even after a moment it freezes in a clean field, waist-deep in snow … Yes, the tires are really winter, I’ll try to steer not so fast. As it turned out, “sports” drift technique is not required at all - the TS780 is designed for ordinary drivers and at reasonable speeds it goes around an obstacle on ice as easily as on asphalt, especially if the car is front-wheel drive and you put a little pressure on the gas during the maneuver. ..

In conclusion - a list of sizes of "frog" tires ContiWinterContact TS780, mastered by the company in 1999:

145 / 80R13; 155 / 80R13; 175 / 80R14; 145 / 70R13; 155 / 70R13; 165 / 70R13; 175 / 70R13; 175 / 70R14; 185 / 70R14; 175 / 65R14; 185 / 65R14; 185 / 60R14.