Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 vs Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P

Last updated 10/11/2023 - Originally published 10/11/2023
Written by SimpleTire

Pirelli and Continental both have formidable reputations as top-quality, premium tires with excellent value, performance and engineering. The Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 and Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P are both top-notch winter tires that are designed specifically for the demands of winter driving while still delivering the roadability, ride quality, steering response, and handling you’d expect from a Grand Touring or all-season tire. Both are a great fit on a wide variety of vehicles, and both have their respective strengths and weaknesses that we’ll touch on in this comparison review.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 tires

With the Cinturato Winter 2, Pirelli reimagined their excellent Cinturato family of tires to meet the demands of winter driving with confidence and style. Here’s just some of the full suite of features that enable the Cinturato Winter 2 to get you through the worst winter driving has to offer:

  • Directional V-shaped tread grooves enhance handling and reduce risk of hydroplaning in slush or standing water
  • Complex, dense network of 3D sipes increases the number of hair-thin biting edges to dig in and chew through snow and slush
  • As the sipes wear down, a zigzag pattern emerges so there will continue to be a sipe pattern to deliver traction as the tire wears away
  • Main groove chamfers offer a secondary channel for water evacuation to resist hydroplaning
  • Innovative specialized winter tread compound stays flexible for traction in snow, slush, ice
  • Select sizes feature Pirelli’s SEAL INSIDE run-flat system, enabling a driver to go as far as another 50 miles even in the event of complete loss of inflation pressure
  • Three Peak Mountain Snowflake rated for severe winter service
  • Stamped with ELECT on the sidewall to denote it’s a good fit for EVs and hybrids
  • Groove pattern is wider toward the shoulder, narrower toward the middle for improved handling, cornering, steering response
  • Tread pitch is computer-tuned to help keep road noise low

Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P tires

Now we get to the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P, another purpose-built winter tire designed to tame the worst snowy roads and slushy curves. Braking performance, control and acceleration are all effortless and decisive with the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P:

  • Asymmetric tread pattern is designed with circumferential, lateral and angled grooves for water evacuation, to resist hydroplaning
  • High degree of lamination and specially-designed sipe edges help break through the film of water on ice for braking performance
  • Hard apex, flexible sidewall, and additional bead reinforcement all contribute to great handling and low rolling resistance
  • Select sizes feature Continental’s ContiSeal run-flat design
  • Continental’s ActiveBand technology improves high-speed stability, road manners, braking performance
  • Features ContiSilent layer of polyurethane foam attached to the tread’s inner surface with an adhesive, lowering road noise and cabin noise
  • Three Peak Mountain Snowflake rated for severe winter service

Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 vs Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P tires on traction

First off, we should point out that neither the Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 or the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P are equipped with studs, or are pre-drilled for installation of studs. Studded tires are sometimes the only workable solution for getting across sheet ice and skating rink-like roads.

That said, driver impressions of the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P point to a tire that’s very competent on icy roads, fairly deep snow, or wet pavement. Control, acceleration, and braking are all top-notch with minimal skidding or slippage, even on ice. Interestingly, though, reviews also indicate that this tire’s braking performance on dry pavement could be better, with longer braking distances than expected.

Reviews of the Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 report that it’s a tire that feels well-balanced with good road feel and control, but drivers also had to exercise a little more care to not let the vehicle get away from them at higher speeds. Braking performance on dry pavement outperformed the Continental, but confidence and control in snow and ice left something to be desired.

ADVANTAGE: We have to give the edge to the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P on this one

Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 vs Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P tires on handling

Often, winter tires on dry pavement tend to be a little more sluggish and a little less responsive than what drivers might be used to with all-season tires. That’s usually due to the softer, “squishier” tread formulation that doesn’t deliver the same kind of crispness in steering response that you might be used to. Can the Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 or Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P beat that impression?

Driver impressions of the Cinturato Winter 2 show a tire that’s responsive and precise, and actually fun to drive on wet, snowy, or dry pavement. Roadability and general road manners are on par with what you’d expect from a performance-oriented all-season tire, and cornering is accurate and predictable with little tendency to understeer or oversteer.

When it comes to the Continental tire, the sipe pattern and groove design (along with its shorter sidewall) deliver confident cornering and accurate control on snow, slush, ice, and wet pavement. However, drivers report a bit of lag time responding to commands on dry pavement, for that bit of sluggishness mentioned above. Granted, this all might be a little subjective and can vary from one vehicle to another, but it looks like the excellent winter traction of the Continental might come with a bit of a tradeoff in dry-pavement handling properties.

ADVANTAGE: Cinturato Winter 2, mainly for its edge in handling on dry roads

Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 vs Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850P tires on longevity

When discussing any winter tires and their longevity, it’s important to remember that few winter tires are covered by a tread life or mileage warranty, and that their softer tread compound will definitely wear prematurely in warmer weather. No winter tire should be used if temperatures are above 45 degrees F.

Wear properties of both of these tires are excellent, especially considering that they’re only going to be used for a limited time every year. However, the Cinturato Winter 2 is designed with emerging full-depth sipes that continue to dig in and deliver traction even as the tire’s rubber surface wears down. That’s a clever feature and an innovation that the Continental tire doesn’t offer.

ADVANTAGE: Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2, thanks to its sipe design that stays effective even as the tire wears down

When to use each

Both these tires deliver exemplary performance in difficult winter conditions. That said, though, they both have a studless design that might be less than ideal if you have to try to negotiate icy roads (the kind of conditions where you’d rather be home, warm and cozy, on the couch).

The Pirelli and Continental tires are both next-generation winter tire designs that are equally competent on packed snow, fresh fluffy snow, or wet roads, although the Continental may be a little less of a performer on dry pavement. Both are designed for midsize sedans, SUVs, and crossovers, and both deliver ride quality and handling that rival a performance-oriented all-season tire. These are both tires that would be a great choice for difficult winter conditions where you live, even if you have to try to manage driving in hilly terrain. We think that between the Pirelli and the Continental, neither one will let you down.

Which one should you choose?

This is a tough call, to be honest. If road noise is an issue for you, the Continental might be the better choice on account of its noise reduction foam layer. If you’re concerned about handling and braking performance on dry pavement, then the Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 is a stronger option.

Both are at a similar price point, and both are available in a wide range of sizes for various fitments. For us, though, we’d probably give the Pirelli a slight leg up for its innovative sipe design that can continue to give you the traction you need as the tire wears down.

Still not sure which tire to buy? Fortunately, SimpleTire is here to help as our helpful agents are more than happy to assist you in selecting the right tire for your ride and budget.

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