[see update below]

I’m an idiot. I think I’ve done a good job proving this in the past, but I seem to like driving the point home. My most recent proof was particularly annoying. I damaged my car’s fender and a wheel. Once I remove all of the stupid and embarrassment off my face, I’ll probably write about it. My mistake cost me a significant amount of money, but luckily no one was hurt.

“It could happen to you
So think for yourself
If I should stumble
Catch my fall”
—Billy Idol

The most important thing to come out of this, of course, is that I now have new winter tires. I love tires.

I bought Pirelli Sottozero 3s for my Subaru to replace my Bridgestone Blizzak WS70s.[1]

“I bring you plates from Rome
You say they look fantastic
I say we’re having fun
Nothing like that Italian plastic”
—Crowded House

Pirelli Sottozero 3
My Pirellis are not as pretty as the one in this picture (source: Tire Rack)

I’ve already expounded the benefits of winter tires. The Blizzak WS70 is a great tire for Michigan. I have no complaints about its ice and snow grip. It’s relatively quiet, and it must have a low rolling resistance because I get good gas mileage out of it.

My only gripe is its handling capabilities. With these Blizzaks, my car has significantly more roll in a corner than a sumo wrestler walking his Shar Pei. There’s a category of winter tires called “performance winter” that I like. These were designed to go 210 km/h (130 mph, H-rated) or higher down the autobahn with little issue, and still have decent winter grip. Their tradeoff is a rubber compound with less grip than “pure” winter tires on ice, but better handling characteristics.

My choices for this category were the Blizzak LM60, Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D, and the Pirelli Sottozero 3. I would have considered the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 as well, but it didn’t come in my tire size.

I originally considered just the first two, but I saw a Tire Rack test on all four which saved me the trouble of buying all 4 tire brands and shipping them to a private winter testing facility to try them out.

In the end I randomly chose the Pirellis because they were a good compromise of price and performance, and I wanted to try something different. I’ve used Pirelli performance winter tires before (as well as from Dunlop and Bridgestone) and liked them, so the risk was minimal to me.

A Snowy Road in Michigan
A Subaru’s playground
The Pirellis had no issues on this road

I’ve only driven the Pirellis about a thousand miles and only a couple of times over light snow, but I’m pretty happy so far. It has decent grip on snow. I haven’t noticed getting into ABS (anti-lock brakes), which happens on all-season tires on snow for me. I don’t know its performance on ice yet, but otherwise, I’m pretty happy with them in bad weather.

The handling is significantly better than the Blizzak WS70s. The ride is supple, but I’m comparing that to my Direzza ZII summer tires. I feel more confident in these tires on my favorite exit ramp than the Blizzaks.

My true test for winter tires is going around traffic circles roundabouts. The first winter tires for my car came from a company which I’ll not mention, because I like my job. Those tires could not make it around a traffic circle roundabout with snow in it. Fortunately that tire has since been replace by better ones.

These Pirellis have no problem going around a traffic circle roundabout at a good pace, wet or dry.

As for donuts in the snow, please see the first sentence of my post. I’d like to make sure the paint is dry before trying any YouTube-worthy stunts.

The only downside I’ve noticed so far is more road noise (it sounds like a propeller airplane), even more than my summer tires. That’s my fault though, as I didn’t have the radio loud enough. Also, I haven’t seen as much improvement in gas mileage like I did with the Blizzak WS70s, but it is slightly higher than my summer tires.

Overall, I’d give these tires 9 out of 11. I’ll update this post if my rating changes.

I have a bad feeling about this winter, so new Italian rubbers for my daily driver is welcome, even if it is because I’m stupid. I wonder if I’ve completed my requisite 10,000 hours of stupid yet.

“You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”
—Paul Simon

Crankiness Rating: 5.5 out 11 (On one hand: new tires. On the other: stupidity.)

Additional Links


January 7, 2014, 4:54 pm: After surviving Snowpocalygeddon, I still think these are great tires. They don’t have the absolute grip of the Blizzak WS70s, but they have plenty to make it through heavy or slippery snow. The difference is that with the Blizzaks, I can pull out to pass people in more extreme conditions than the Pirellis. But I prefer the handling benefits on the Pirelli over this slightly higher grip on snow and ice. I hope I don’t regret writing these words one day.

[1] I bought these from my local Discount Tire. There’s currently a rebate offer of $50 for these tires until December 31, 2013. I found the rebate form at Tire Rack. Discount Tire even reset my tire pressure sensors (TPMS) for free, which I had been paying $20 for. I love Discount Tire. And Tire Rack.