For the record, you won't be stopping by your typical wheel store to buy a set of Pirelli Sottozero WRC studded tires. Perhaps you can nab a set from a motorsports dealership for around $2,000, but even then, the studs used in World Rally Championship racing likely aren't allowed on the roads in your neighborhood. You'll have to settle for a set of Pirelli Ice Zero tires for around $600, fitted with kinder, gentler studs.
But what if you could run those skinny WRC tires in the snow? That's a question Jonathan Benson answers – rather gleefully at that – in his latest tire test video. Is it scientific? Not really. Does it offer a plethora of real-world information for tire shoppers? Not so much, other than to demonstrate just how good studded road tires are in icy conditions. We know Benson is exceptionally thorough when it comes to tire tests, but this time, it's all about shock and awe.
Watching WRC rally cars literally carving corners on icy stages is one thing. Clearly, the specialty tires are designed for maximum performance in winter conditions. But to give it all some context, Benson evaluates Pirelli's WRC tires next to a set of studded Ice Zero 2s. Naturally, the race tires will provide better grip, especially on ice. But will they make a big difference in snow traction?
In a word, yes. In Benson's words, fricken insane.
Driving an older rally-prepped Subaru WRX, he clocks a best snow-course lap time of 1:07 on the Pirelli road-spec tires. However, the Sottozero WRCs cuts the time to 59 seconds – 8 seconds quicker for the skinny, high-profile tires in conditions where the studs don't really matter. The lateral performance of the WRC tires is particularly impressive, leading Benson to say he's had less grip on some tires in dry conditions.
On ice, the WRC tires simply live in another universe. Compared to the Ice Zero 2 studded road tires – which Benson praises as extremely good – the Sottozeros were 17.9 seconds quicker on an ice lap. It's worth mentioning the course consisted of smooth ice, making for an extremely slippery surface. It's an eye-opening contrast to say the least.
Wherever your new year travels take you, stay safe on the roads and be mindful of your tires. All-wheel drive can help you accelerate in slippery conditions, but turning and stopping are important, too.