If you live in a region where ice and snow are only an occasional threat, consider the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II. Although it can't compete with the best winter tires, like the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $105) or the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 (*Est. $185), the Pirelli strikes a good balance between the two, experts say.
Good -- not great -- for mild winter weather. If you have to plow through heavy snow and skate over sheets of ice, this is not your tire. But if you live in a mild climate that sees little frozen precipitation, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II will brake and handle better than regular snow tires like the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, one major test shows.
Owners give the Pirelli middle-of-the-pack ratings: some love it, while others hate it. One Ontario customer, a Chevy Cobalt driver, writes at TireRack.com, "I think these tires should be mandatory tires in Southern Ontario in the winter. They are that good." In the next review another Ontario customer, a BMW 135i Cabriolet driver, writes, "Cold weather, clear road, excellent tire. Any snow on roads, just awful."
Overall, the Pirelli earns ratings of Excellent or Superior on every measure from TIreRack.com customers. Still, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 beats it on every road condition -- especially dry roads.
Comfortable ride, but some find it noisy. "Be warned, these guys are NOISY," writes one BMW driver at TireRack.com. A Mazda Miata owner writes, "I can't stress this enough, road noise from the tires is huge! ... I understand if your car has a lot of factory noise suppression built into the car, you won't notice it too much. But when you're in a lightweight sports car like the Miata, well, you feel and hear everything!"
The tire's speed rating might make a difference, too: The H-rated version of the Pirelli is rated as Very Good for quietness in a major test, while the faster V-rated version earns a rating of Fair. Still, most owners find it quiet -- although not as quiet as their favorite, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 -- and give the Pirelli a rating of Excellent for noise at TireRack.com.
Ride comfort is top-notch in one expert test, as good as the Pilot Alpin PA3. Owners agree, awarding both tires ratings of Superior for comfort.
No treadwear warranty, but early reports indicate that it's durable. Like most winter tires, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II carries no treadwear warranty. It's hard to tell how long it will wear in real-life use, as only a few owners at TireRack.com have driven more than 10,000 miles on the Pirellis. Overall, however, owners rate it Excellent for treadwear -- on par with the long-wearing Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3.
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org tests the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II in both H-rated (which they class with severe-winter passenger-car tires) and V-rated (which they class as a performance winter tire) versions. Each version is rated for snow traction, braking on wet, dry and icy roads, hydroplaning, handling, ride comfort, noise and more, then ranked alongside others in the category.
Review: Pirelli Winter 210 Sottozero Serie II, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
2. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good With nearly 60 customer ratings (about 50 with written reviews), the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II finishes mid-pack among performance winter tires. Although owners rate it Superior or Excellent on every measure, it's still not quite as confident as the top-rated Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 on wet, dry or snowy roads.
Review: Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II, Contributors to TireRack.com, As of November 2012
3. Automobile Protection Association
Review Credibility: Good This Canadian nonprofit organization picks the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II as a top performance winter tire. It's "competent on ice," and all-wheel-drive vehicles can get by with it in heavy snow. But if you drive a rear-wheel-drive car in the snowbelt, experts here say you'll need a tire with better snow traction than the Pirelli.
Review: Winter Tire Info: Performance Tires, Editors of Automobile Protection Association, Not Dated