The cold months present a particular challenge to manufacturers with a reputation for delivering performance products – how does one combine the superior handling qualities buyers of the brand have come to expect with those needed for safe winter driving? How can a single tyre fulfill these two seemingly contradictory roles? This is a task that researchers and designers at Pirelli have grabbed by the horns, and the tyremaker’s strong work towards developing a better product in the early stages of the modern winter tyre’s development continues to this day. The result is a range of winter tyres with an enviable reputation.
The reigning sovereign of Pirelli’s winter performance range is indisputably the Winter Sottozero, a tyre whose test results have earned it lavish yet deserved praise from several leading European motoring magazines. The Sottozero – Italian for ‘below zero’ – is, as Pirelli’s cold weather addition to the Planet Zero portfolio, the most performance oriented winter tyre yet offered by the Italian manufacturer. Promoted by Pirelli as the “first real dual season tyre,” the Sottozero is a product that deserves the attention of performance car drivers in the UK. Pirelli states that the Sottozero is suitable for fitment from mid-autumn to early spring, regardless of what condition the weather may throw in our direction; the Sottozero, while obviously designed for cooler conditions, will also safely take unseasonable weather in its stride.
A cursory glance at the Sottozero’s asymmetric tread pattern makes it clear that this is a tyre intended for extremes in driving. However upon closer examination the traditional hallmarks of a tyre designed for winter conditions become apparent. All tread blocks are extensively siped and wide longitudinal grooves provide a channel through which water and slush can “escape” from the Sottozero’s contact area. Less obvious through visual inspection but no less important is the compound and casing used in the tyre; it goes without saying that Pirelli’s engineers have designed these to deliver the goods at low temperatures and on minimum grip surfaces. Pirelli claims the Sottozero can do all this without relinquishing the ability to realise the full potential of high performance vehicles on dry asphalt.
Drivers need not even compromise on the appearance of their tyres in order to reap the benefit of added winter safety. While in the past fitting winter tyres often meant settling for a higher aspect ratio on a smaller diameter rim, the Sottozero can be fitted to the same rim as a summer UHP tyre. The Sottozero portfolio of sizes includes run-flat variations and encompasses aspect ratios from 30 to 65 Series, wheel diameter codes 15 to 20 and speed ratings up to ‘V’ (240 km/h, 150 mph).
Although placed one rung below the Sottozero on Pirelli’s winter tyre ladder, the Winter Snowsport still manages to offer a level of performance few cold weather tyres can match. Derived from Pirelli ultra-high performance technology, this sophisticated winter tyre is available in ‘T’, ‘H’ and ‘V’ speed ratings. The asymmetric tread design and low temperature compounds used in the Snowsport is its key to its delivery of safe, controlled driving, even on snow or slippery road surfaces. The ‘V’ rated version, in particular, enables sports cars to achieve levels of performance previously unattainable with winter tyres under normal road conditions. The Snowsport range, including selected run-flat sizes, comprises aspect ratios 30 to 70 Series and wheel diameter codes 14 to 19.
A third Pirrelli winter passenger car tyre available in the UK, the directional Pirelli Snowcontrol, was developed to provide balanced winter performance and comes in sizes to fit a wide range of vehicles from city cars to medium/high powered cars, including MPVs. As well as offering a high degree of grip and safety on difficult surfaces, the Snowcontrol uses a tread compound that gives excellent performance at low temperatures as well as ride comfort and low sound emission. The Snowcontrol is available in aspect ratios 60 to 80 Series, wheel diameter codes 13 to 15 and speed ratings up to ‘T’ (190 km/h, 118 mph).
For 4×4 drivers Pirelli has the Scorpion Ice & Snow, a tyre aimed at the performance end of the winter market. Designed to enhance the low-temperature performance of fast, luxury 4x4s without compromising safety and comfort, the Scorpion Ice & Snow allows drivers to stay in control even on gravel and rough surfaces. Its strength is derived from the compound and profile chosen for the tyre, elements that incorporate the technological know-how and experience acquired in the development process of the “Scorpion by Pirelli” off-road range. The Scorpion Ice & Snow is produced in aspect ratios 45 to 75 Series, wheel diameter codes 15 to 21 and speed ratings up to ‘V’ (240 km/h, 150 mph).
Light commercial vehicle drivers have not been overlooked by Pirelli’s winter line-up, with the Chrono Winter offering van drivers traction and manoeuvrability on all snow covered surfaces. The Chrono Winter’s directional tread includes a full shoulder for improved load carrying capability and the tyre’s reinforced structure permits performance levels to be maintained even when the vehicle is fully laden. Pirelli also states that noise levels are kept to a minimum with the Chrono Winter. The tyre is available in wheel diameter codes 14 to 16 and speed ratings up to “T” (190 km/h, 118 mph).