Make the best better. That was the task given to Shawn Bell, an avid trackday enthusiast, whose motorcycle rides the streets of Buffalo New York on his daily commute more often than it howls across the start/finish line of the local track. It’s worth noting that Shawn also happens to be Dunlop North America’s Lead Innovation Engineer and part of Qualifier team since the product line launched in 2005. That original Qualifier set a new standard of performance for a street tire. It was followed up with the Q2 in 2009 and Q3 in 2013, each building upon the qualities of the last with the Q3 offering near race-like grip coupled with daily street usability. This performance came at a price however and that was mileage. The current Q3 just wasn’t getting the longevity that riders are looking for on the street and this has caused the market to shift towards more sport-touring style tires, sacrificing grip.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ tire tread
The profile of the Sportmax Q3+ is unchanged from the Q3, and the tread looks the same. Dunlop also says the overall weight has remained the same.Photo: Jeff Allen

Could you increase the life of the tire without giving up the Qualifier line’s trademark traction? Common math says no. When tire longevity goes up, grip goes down. Those are the rules. It was a huge challenge facing Dunlop’s team out of Buffalo New York, but the team recently invited us to Austin, Texas to show us how it tried to rewrite the arithmetic with the Sportmax Q3+. Increased performance! 20 percent more life! 1 second per lap faster in testing! Bold claims, no doubt.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ street review
A street ride of about 150 miles gave us a chance to test the Sportmax Q3+ in a commuting and joyride habitat. This is when you don’t want to think about your tires, and the Q3+ didn’t make a peep.Photo: Jeff Allen

We put the Sportmax Q3+ through 150 miles of street riding along freeways, Austin’s city streets, and the rolling backroads of Texas hill country aboard a fresh Honda CBR1000RR. The Q3+ didn’t feel harsh across the expansion-joint lined highways and gave us the traction we desired in both low-speed and high-speed turns, even when coming straight off a gas-station break. When riding on the street the last thing you want is to be worried about your tires—you’ve got enough things out there demanding your attention. The Q3+ was invisible to us during the street segment of our ride and we mean that as a compliment. While rain threatened us throughout the day, it never came, so we didn’t get to test the tire in a wet street scenarios. However, since it’s forbearer the Q3 performed admirably in wet conditions, we don’t expect much change there with the Q3+.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ track test
Dunlop always warned not to mix the old Q2 rubber with the Q3, but the Sportmax Q3+ can happily be shared with the Q3, in case you want to swap out one at a time.Photo: Jeff Allen

The true benchmark for a performance-oriented tire is the closed-course crucible of the track, and that’s where we took the Sportmax Q3+ next. The Circuit of the Americas is a very challenging track with multiple hard braking zones, decreasing and increasing radius corners, and fast switchbacks. We took to the track on a current-generation Honda CBR600RR which really allowed us to throw the bike around and push the cornering limits of the tire. Through the long 3rd gear sweepers the tire was stable and predictable with us finding the limits of the stock peg-feelers before we found the limits of the tires. The front was also strong and we felt full confidence trail braking into turns and pulling the bike through the double-apexes that litter the track. Compared back-to-back with the Q3, we did notice that the Q3+ front was a bit more stable under hard braking, a feeling Dunlop attributed to the Q3+’s increased tread stiffness.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ Honda CBR600 test
Dunlop recommends cold pressures be set at 32 psi front and 30 psi rear for track use. Hot off the track the pressures should be between 34 and 36 psi.Photo: Jeff Allen

So how did they accomplish these upgrades? More life and better grip? Tire construction and compound. The Sportmax Q3+ rear is still a dual-compound tire but over 80 percent of the Q3+ rear has been redesigned with the longevity increase coming from a new silicone-based resin making up the center-area compound. This silicone resin replaces the Q3’s carbon-based resin and is what led to the increase in tire longevity. Redesigned carcass construction of the Q3+ saw gains in surface area while at lean, resulting in gains in edge grip and tire drive out of the turns. Worth noting: these changes apply to the rear only with the front Q3+ still being a single-compound tire.

Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ trail braking test
One of the biggest differences with the new Q3+ is stability under braking. Yes, even with a tan sedan in the background...Photo: Jeff Allen

The big question? Do these tires last 20 percent longer? Well, obviously due to the nature of our introductory ride, we don’t know. We’ll need to long-term test them to get a better understanding of that claim but we do know that Dunlop conducted countless hours of testing at their Proving Grounds and don’t make the claim lightly. This tire is a Big Deal for Dunlop North America and the pride they had in it was evident throughout the entire affair. The Q3+ was designed, tested and built completely in-house, all in the USA, at their Buffalo, New York plant and Huntsville, Alabama test grounds.

We do know that the Sportmax Q3+ increases the already great performance of the previous generation Q3 while Dunlop's rhetoric, and data, speak to a significant increase in longevity. For us, as serious sportbike riders, this is news to be excited about all-around. Pricing for the Q3+ is set at $181 for a 120/70 front (Amazon has the front on sale HERE) , and rear prices ranging from $233 to $272 depending on sizing.

Sportbike lineup
Dunlop’s Q3+ is made for, and fits, most modern sportbike rims, from 180 to 190 rears, and the standard 120/70 front size.Photo: Jeff Allen