Updated August 26, 2023 with frequently asked questions
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is surprisingly capable in winter, despite its minuscule ground clearance and front-wheel drive. I own a 2022 GTI, and it came from the factory with Pirelli P-Zero All-Season tires, which are fine but won’t cut it for the northern New England winters. Thankfully, Pirelli sent me a set of its brand-new Cinturato Weatheractive tires that promise year-round performance and a Three Peak Mountain Snowflake rating. I tested the tires through the mid-winter, including several snowstorms and countless miles trudging through slush and cruddy road conditions.
Verdict: Pirelli Cinturato Weatheractive long-term test
I spent a few thousand miles and three months riding on these tires, including two short road trips from my home in Maine to the Boston area and back. Before I go any further, I have to stress that I would buy these tires again and would absolutely recommend them to anyone needing peace of mind across a range of nasty weather conditions. The tires are quiet and comfortable on the highway, and they maintain plenty of performance and grip when the roads aren’t covered in winter gunk.
In snow, the Weatheractive tires provide good confidence when accelerating, and there’s a notable improvement in braking distance – though my tests were completely unscientific in nature. The three-peak rating doesn’t include testing for turning grip, but I found a great deal of confidence from the improvement in grip, and the GTI retained much of its playful nature in the snow.
Early spring in Maine can be one of the most challenging times to drive, as the road conditions can change rapidly. It’s often very cold in the morning before warming significantly. The Pirellis held their grip across the temperature range and do just fine in the rain, giving me the confidence to recommend them as a year-round tire, as they’re advertised. They did struggle a bit in the soupy, slushy snow we received in March, but I’ve yet to find a tire that can give a front-wheel drive car enough grip to consistently tackle those conditions.
Regarding performance, I didn’t take the GTI to a skidpad or autocross event with the tires equipped, but I can honestly say that I don’t think you’ll give up much performance between the Weatheractive tires and a more performance-oriented all-season tire. In fact, you’ll likely gain performance if you drive during times of the day or year when temps dip.
The only real downside here is price, but the Pirellis aren’t out of line with premium tire pricing from other brands. Looking at local tire shops, it does not appear that the Weatheractives are available near me, but several national chains offer the tire for fast delivery, and you may have better luck in a more populated area – Maine isn’t known for the widest selection of, well, anything. That said, the price is well worth it for me because it saves me the hassle of swapping between snow and all-season or performance tires twice a year. I don’t have to store the spare set of tires and don’t have to worry about the shop damaging my wheels every few months during the changeover.
Multi-season tire testing
I’ll be testing the tires on the GTI through the winter and into spring, which brings slush, mud, and wildly varying temperatures here in Maine. Our test will focus on a few key areas to help you understand if these are the tires for you:
- Stability in winter weather
- Wet traction
- Longevity and wear
- Comfort and noise level
Pirelli promises a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty, so these tires should stand the test of time. The tread is designed to retain siping (grooves that grip the road and channel water), even when the tire is 90 percent worn. Additionally, the rubber compound is designed to provide traction in wet across various temperature ranges. The directional tread should reduce noise, and a zig-zag center channel helps improve traction and stability.
While they’re not winter tires, the Cinturato Weatheractives feature the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake rating. The designation means that the tires are tested for acceleration on medium-packed snow. They are not tested for braking and turning performance, nor is ice traction part of the rating. Our test will focus on how well they perform in light driving but will not explore severe snow here due to the car’s low ride height.
Sizing and competitors
The Pirelli Cinturato Weatheractive tire is available in 18-, 19-, and 20-inch sizes, making them the perfect replacement fit for the GTI SE’s 225/40 R18 tires. If I was looking for dedicated winter tires, there is a wealth of choices in that size, including the Bridgestone Blizzak, Pirelli Winter Sottozero, and Nokian Hakkapeliitta.
Frequently asked questions
Are snow tires worth the money?
If you live in a place that receives regular snowfall and temperatures that remain below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods, winter tires or snow tires are worth their weight in gold. Accelerating, stopping, and turning are all much more secure and confident with good traction, and all-season tires don’t cut it in the snow.
Are three peak mountain snowflake tires considered snow tires?
No. Snow tires are more capable and provide better traction in slippery conditions. Three peak mountain snowflake tires have only been tested for acceleration on snow, and have not been subjected to the same development process. That said, they’re far better than standard all-season tires in snow, and can be a good alternative for rarely driven vehicles or people with short commutes.
Can I use snow tires all year?
You can certainly drive on snow tires all year, but they don’t provide the best traction in warm weather and rain, and their specially-tailored rubber compound can wear much faster in warmer conditions.
Is Pirelli a top-tier tire brand?
Yes, Pirelli is considered one of the best tire brands in the world. It provides rubber for Formula 1 racing, and its passenger car tires are widely praised.