Dunlop Sportmax Q4 High-Performance Motorcycle Tire Review
Dunlop’s philosophy for its Sportmax range of street tires has produced a series of products with phenomenal grip and feel, that also have an acceptably long life.
This has earned Dunlop tires a deservedly outstanding reputation. However, there was room for a streetable tire that didn’t compromise performance, and so the new Dunlop Sportmax Q4 is aimed at the racer or frequent track day rider who needs maximum performance and doesn’t care about the life of the tire.
I spent a day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway to test Dunlop’s claims. I rode exactly the same 2018 Suzuki GSX-R1000R that I had ridden at the same track three weeks earlier shod with Dunlop’s Sportmax Q3+ tire, giving me a direct back-to-back comparison.
1. The Dunlop Sportmax Q4 is an aggressive, soft compound, street/track tire. Forget tire life—the Q4 is all about performance and lowering lap times. Until now, if you wanted more grip than Q3+ you had to go straight to the full-race GPA; and although those tires are “DOT-legal”, they are too stiff, and require too much heat in them to work on the street. I have several friends who tried it, and they all ended up crashing on cold tires.
2. The Q4 does not replace the Q3+; it expands the Sportmax range of Dunlop street tires. If tire life is a concern, then the Q3+ is still the perfect compromise and it is still part of the Sportmax range. The Q3+ has phenomenal grip from soft shoulders, and a harder centerline to help you get decent mileage. The Q4 goes one step further.
3. The Q4 goes a significant step further than the Q3+ in terms of grip and overall performance, and the step up is very obvious on track. The Q4 bridges the gap nicely and we tried them on the same Suzuki GSX-R1000R, at the same track in the same conditions–and took 4.27 seconds off my best lap time [*see below for notes]. Check out the comparison video:
4. In terms of grip, the Q4 rubber compound is still much softer than even the soft shoulder compound of the Q3+. The Q4 is a single compound tire that is soft enough that it’s sticky to the touch. The rear tire compound has no silica—it is all carbon black, just like the Dunlop racing slicks used in MotoAmerica and Moto 2.
5. The Q4 is technically a street tire, so the compound recipe has also been designed for fast warm up and no tire warmers are needed. Newly hired Dunlop tire tester Taylor Knapp did not use warmers during the recent MotoAmerica Superbike test. He told me the look on his rivals’ faces when he simply parked up the bike with no warmers after each session was very interesting. I’m always cautious on cold tires, so I took it easy for the first three corners. After that, I had the confidence to let rip with absolutely no discernible change in the tire’s behavior.
6. The Dunlop Sportmax Q4 is as close to a racing slick as you can get and stay street-legal. This much increased land/sea ratio obviously puts a lot more rubber on the road. The long grooves evacuate water competently, but it’s clearly not a true wet-weather tire. Again, the Q4 is the perfect bridge between the grippy but long-life Q3+, and the full race-only GPA that needs tire warmers and simply cannot work properly on the street.
7. The more aggressive profile of the Dunlop Q4 makes transitioning the bike to full lean angle much quicker than with the Q3+. Although the Suzuki GSX-R1000R went to full lean noticeably faster, the bike didn’t flop into corners. The Q4 still has that legendary Dunlop smooth, linear feel.
8. The Dunlop Q4 will go to 62 degrees of lean angle and still keep rubber on the road. Taylor Knapp was regularly recording these lean angles during the Moto America Superbike test at Barber Motorsports Park.
9. Dunlop’s Jointless Tread (JLT) technology lays the rubber on to the carcass in one long smooth line. Because there are no joins or changes in compound, there is no transition or change in the tire’s feeling as it leans over. JLT increases tire stability and reduces flex, and helps create a larger more consistent footprint during braking, cornering, and acceleration. Another benefit is that the rear tire is approximately one pound lighter than the same size Q3+.
10. The tire carcass maintains the carbon fiber technology used on the Q3+, so the sidewalls have the stiffness needed for stability on the brakes. The Q4 has the same stiff sidewalls of the Q3+ and it keeps the same predictability when turning in, or coming hard on the gas on corner exit. I found I was able to brake much later than I usually do at Chuckwalla, as the Q4 was so stable on the brakes without the tire squirming at all.
11. Dunlop recommended running 32 PSI Front; 30 PSI Rear pressures and those worked perfectly. Despite the very hot 90 degree (avg.) ambient temperature of the California desert that day the tires behaved impeccably at those pressures and the wear was as expected with the rubber balling up nicely without any tearing.
12. The Dunlop Sportmax Q4 is available in more rear sizes than the Q3+, including a 200mm rear. The front tires are all the standard 120/70ZR17, however rear choice has now been expanded to include 180/55, 180/60, 190/50, 190/55, and 200/55.
13. Dunlop has priced the Q4 aggressively, with the Q4 only costing around 10 to 15 percent more than the Q3+. Obviously, prices vary depending on outlet, so you may do better than these prices, but essentially a front will retail for roughly $140 (vs. $125 for the Q3+), and $215 for a 190 rear (vs. $185 for the Q3+). The 200 rear will retail for around $250.
14. The Dunlop Sportmax Q4 is a no-compromise street-legal track tire. The performance far outpaces the Q3+ that it supplements, and continues Dunlop’s tradition of a forgiving high-performance tire.
*LAP TIME NOTES: Yes, 4.27 seconds off a lap time is huge, and as good as the Q4 tire is, I cannot attribute all that saved time to it. At the first track day on Q3+ tires, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R was a little soft at the rear and would shake the ‘bars strongly coming out of slow corners. John Ethell at JETT Tuning, Camarillo recommended going up 4 full turns of preload at the rear shock, and that cured the head-shaking completely for this more recent Q4 track day test. I suspect that shock adjustment contributed about half the time saved over the Q3+ tires, but there’s no way to truly quantify it. However, I think it is fair to say that the Q4–for me–is at least 2 seconds a lap quicker than the Q3+.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Viñales
- Suit: Cortech Latigo 2.0 RR
- Undersuit: Cortech Quick-Dry Air
- Back Protection: Alpinestars Nucleon KR-R
- Gloves: Cortech Adrenaline II
- Boots: Cortech Latigo Air Road Race