Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 vs Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

Both the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 and the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, come with their unique strengths and weaknesses, promising impressive performances that have set the bar high for winter tires. Though, lets see who will triumph in this fierce winter duel?

Blizzak WS90

Tire Sizes

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 comes in 52 total sizes in 15 to 19 inches (wheels) with following specs.

  • Speed ratings: T or H.
  • Load ratings: SL or XL.
  • Tread depth: 11 or 12/32″.
  • Weight: 17 to 29 lbs.

Review this tire in greater detail: https://snowytires.com/bridgestone-blizzak-ws90-review/

On the other side, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 comes in 16 to 21 inches with following specs.

  • Speed ratings: H, V and W.
  • Load ratings: SL and XL.
  • Tread depth: 10/32″ on all.
  • Weight: 18 to 32 lbs.

Review this tire in greater detail: https://snowytires.com/pirelli-winter-sottozero-3-review/

Tread Appearance

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 stands out as a formidable winter tire, characterized by its thoughtfully engineered tread pattern. Let’s unpack its distinguishing features.

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

The tread encompasses three distinct sections, which are referred to as ribs.

Two of these ribs constitute the shoulders of the tire, and the third rib forms the central part.

This central rib is continuous running, and features slanted slits which join up with the V shaped notches, facing both sides.

(See how the slits form a triangular shaped pattern as well).

Delving into the shoulder ribs, these parts are packed with a lot of biting edges.

One of these are laterally placed (facing the central section), while the other are longitudinal, right in the middle of the blocks.

And of course, like the rest of the tread, you get a lot of siping everywhere here as well.

On the other hand, Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 also features a directional design, and here you see 3 ribs as well, just like the Blizzak WS90.

Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

Let’s talk about the middle rib first.

So here, there are V shaped lugs (if you will), with sharp edges, longitudinal slits and wave like siping pattern of multiple angles.

Moreover, as all of these lugs are sitting on a continuous running secondary rubber layer (underneath), you get reinforced foundations.

So these lateral tread voids between the blocks act as in-groove notches, proving great overall bite and traction.

Moving towards the shoulders, you see elongated lugs here, with wider lateral tread voids in between.

These lugs also have a lot of siping, though their edges are smoothed out.

Wet Traction

In the realm of tire performance, one critical trait is the ability to maintain unwavering grip on wet surfaces. This crucial feature is largely dictated by the tread pattern and the rubber’s texture.

And both competitors here, being in the winter terrain category offer pretty great performance values with their numerous tread voids that aid in efficiently dispersing water, providing resistance to hydroplaning and wet grip.

Though still by a very tiny margin, you get to see the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 edging out a bit more, (past its rival).

This is because this tire offers a clever mix of interlocking and straight sipes, which have a more aggressive biters to them, so you get a more gripping tread here.

Moreover, the tire also features better flexibility to its tread, so all its sipes create superior suction to soak up water particles coming beneath (this is how sipes work by the way).

On the other hand, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, although commendable in its resistance to hydroplaning, thanks to its wide grooves, and its decently designed lateral sipes, doesn’t quite match up to the Blizzak WS90’s prowess on wet surfaces.

Snow Performance

When it comes to tackling (soft) snow, both tires put up a stellar show, being designed to deliver top-notch performance even in harsh wintry conditions.

However, here the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 is the one taking the lead, still.

So what causes this tire to have better performance on fluffy snowy terrains?

The secret to its success lies in its unique tread pattern which is spacious and furnished with lugs that enable snow-to-snow contact.

The tread voids of the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, basically, act like snow trappers, effectively capturing snow particles and creating a layer of snow that interacts with the ground, as the tire rolls.

And this results in superior traction, as snow binds better to snow than to rubber.

On the other hand, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 opts for a less aggressive approach, especially with heavier snow. Its compact and less assertive tread pattern does not gather snow as efficiently.

So overall you get a superior performance with Pirelli’s tire.

Ice Performance

When venturing icy terrains, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 shines as a top performer, with its distinct tread design, featuring a mix of angular cuts and V-shaped notches varying in size and direction.

All these biters, coupled with the tires intensely siped pattern, ensures quicker braking and superior handling responsiveness.

In contrast, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 falls short, with its larger tread voids and fewer notches.

These simply put can’t grip ice as effectively as the Blizzak.

Directional Grip

The performance of directional grip largely depends on the tread’s central area as, this part carries the majority of the tire’s load during straight-line driving.

And considering this factor explains, why the Blizzak WS90 excels here.

The tire comes with a more streamlined continuous running central rib, forming greater contact with the ground. Whereas on Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, you get in-groove biters or notches instead, which eat away the rubber, that could have contacted the ground, and provided directional grip.

That’s why the Blizzak WS90 comes out with shorter braking distances (a direct measure of directional grip).


The essence of a tire’s handling or lateral traction is anchored on the performance of its shoulder lugs.

This is because, as the tire navigates through corners, the weight is redistributed towards the tread’s edges, or shoulders. And the efficiency of these lugs in adhering to the road underlies the overall handling capabilities.

In this context, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 claims an advantage due to its less deep tread and denser shoulder lugs.

With a compact shoulder design, the tire achieves superior road contact as it corners, as more of its shoulder lugs engage with the road surface.

And with a shallower tread depth, its lugs are less prone to flexing or bending as the tire navigates corners, resulting in a more balanced steering feedback, and consequently, superior handling.

On average, the tests show the Blizzak WS90 lacking a whole second, on average, on lap times.

Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency hinges on the tire’s rolling resistance, essentially the ‘stickiness’ of the tread against the road.

And in this regard, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 takes the lead, despite the similar weight and tread design of both tires.

With its shallower tread depth and slightly harder rubber compound, the Pirelli’s lugs are less flexible and are less prone to bend or mold as the tire corners, brakes, or accelerates.

And this leads to less heat generation and overall energy expenditure, enhancing fuel efficiency.

So overall, Blizzak is lacking in the fuel economy department.

Tread Life

In the realm of tread life, winter tires often struggle to keep pace due to their softer rubber composition that tends to wear more rapidly. Therefore, it’s not surprising that both tires exhibit similar, and admittedly not overly impressive, performance in this area.

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, with its thermally adaptive rubber, tailored to handle winter’s harsh temperatures, is prone to faster wear. However, its lifespan finds a lifeline in its deeper tread depth.

This means that while its rubber might be softer and wear down quicker, the additional tread depth provides extra mileage before reaching the 2/32″ tread depth, which is the legal limit for driving.

Thus, despite its faster-wearing rubber, the Blizzak WS90 manages to keep pace with its counterpart in terms of tread life.

Vibration Absorption

Tires can be considered as the secondary suspension system of a vehicle.

And so in this regard, the Bridgestone WS90 comes out on top, with its cutting-edge compound, which not only offers better thermal adaptability on snowy terrains, but also a better cushioning to the imperfections of the road.

When the tire interacts with bumpy surfaces, its build proficiently diffuses these disturbances, resulting in a remarkably smoother ride. Here, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 doesn’t quite measure up, owing to its stiffer tread compound.

However, when it comes to noise reduction, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 has the upper hand.

Noise Generation

Tire noise predominantly gets generated from air, which enters through the sides/shoulder voids, and hits the walls around generating unwanted sound-waves.

That noise is further amplified (literally), by the phenomenon, known as in-groove resonance, where echoing happens.

Now, the Blizzak WS90 although produces similar noise at the start, its softer compound still gets to be louder, with its susceptibility to generate larger resonance values.

On the other side, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 pulls ahead thanks to its advanced pitch sequencing technology.

This technology, which involves variations in tread block geometry, generates different sound frequencies that effectively cancel each other out, thereby reducing “resonance” noise.

To Sum Up

In the fierce duel between the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 and the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, it’s clear that both tires demonstrate strengths in different areas.

While the Blizzak WS90 outperforms the Winter Sottozero 3 in aspects such as wet traction, ice performance, directional grip, and vibration absorption, the latter takes the crown in terms of snow performance, handling, fuel economy, and noise generation.

And yes, when it comes to tread life, both seem to offer a balanced showdown.

As such, the final choice would ideally come down to specific driver requirements and the typical driving conditions encountered.