Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 Winter Tire Review

If you work (or play) in the snow as much as we do, having a serious winter tire rolling under the chassis of your vehicle isn`t a luxury, it`s a necessity. Even if you only plan to spend a short time on a ski holiday or live in a place with generally moderate winters, the ContiWinterContact TS 850 is in our opinion the best winter tire on the market in its category-&-price range for all winter driving conditions.

[For reference, the ContiWinterContact TS 850 featured in this review is size 205 55 R16 fitted on an Audi A3 S-Line. Direct comparisons are made between the ContiWinterContact TS 850 and the Michelin Primacy Alpin as we have experience using both tires and both basically fall in the same category when searching for a winter tire for small to mid-size vehicles].

Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 Winter Tire Review

If you want a bunch of fancy technical specs you`ll need to look elsewhere as winter tire construction isn`t our area of expertise. But if you want an honest winter tire review of the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 from a non-affiliated reviewer who needs those four rubber tubes to do their jobs everyday, you`ve come to the right place.

We`ll save alot of time for those of you with attention deficit disorder. If you`re looking for a very well-priced, trustworthy winter tire for relatively heavy winter use on your small to mid-size vehicle, this tire is an excellent option. The Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 is versatile in terms of dry/wet/snow/ice road performance and is priced competitively making it what we believe to be one of the best winter tires for around 200 CHF/USD/Euros/GBP.per tire.


Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Dry Roads Performance

Ironically, the biggest gripe drivers complain about when discussing winter tire handling is how they behave on dry roads. More specifically, softness, loudness and affects on gas mileage (aka, negative rolling resistance leading to higher petrol expenses) are key dry road winter tire performance factors persuading consumers to buy or not to buy a specific winter tire. In each instance, the 2012-13 ContiWinterContact TS 850 performs very well.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Dry Road Softness : There`s an undeniably “squishier” or “softer” feel to most winter tires, noticeable when cornering at speed or accelerating from a stop-position. This also applies to the ContiWinterContact TS 850, but not at the expense of stability. Compared to the Michelin Primacy Alpin tires we were previously using, the Continental`s are definitely softer. However, we`re glad to overlook a bit of softness as this is exactly what allows the TS 850 to excel in snowy/icy conditions. The Conti`s are still quite responsive and give a feeling of confidence if required to make an evasive maneuver at speed. The mad scientists at Continental made this quick responsiveness a focal point for the TS 850, along with other goodies that make it a truly impressive piece of engineering.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Dry Road Noise : When cruising on the motorway, the majority of winter tires are far louder than summer tires. Our unscientific interpretation leads us to believe that the increased friction created with the road surface due to the softer rubber compounds used in winter tire construction, as well as the more aggressive tread pattern, makes for a noisier roll. Noise from the ContiWinterContact TS 850 is noticeable on the motorway, but it`s not obtrusive on dry highways at speed.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Gas mileage : We`ve noticed a slight decrease in monthly gas mileage since having our tires mounted at Pneuhaus Frank in Luzern (no… we don`t blame Frank`s nor do we get free stuff from Frank, we just think they offer the best deal in Central Switzerland for new tires/tire mounting). Our previous Michelin Primacy Alpin`s were excellent in terms of gas mileage, so if you`re a highway driver in a place with milder winters but still need a solid winter tire, the Michelin Primacy Alpin could be a good choice for you. But there`s really no comparison in our opinion between the Primacy Alpin and the ContiWinterContact Ts 850 when we start considering tire performance on hazardous winter roads. For that reason, we`ll gladly pay a few Swiss Francs more per month in gas expenses to have peace of mind zooming around the snowy Swiss Alps.

Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Wet Roads Performance

Enough about dry roads…let`s get down to business. You want a winter tire that can blast through snow like Mr. Plow, grip hockey rink ice better than a Zamboni, slice through frozen slush easier than the Snoopy Slush Maker and maintain control over a patch of standing water like a cruise ship. The ContiWinterContact TS 850 meets every demand like a champ.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Snow Performance : We haven`t tested our ContiWinterContact TS 850`s in extremely deep, over the wheel-wells type snow, but we can already tell by how they perform on roads covered with 20cm of snow (8 inches) that they`ll grip it, slice it, carve it, rip it, whatever you want to call it, with the best of them. You can literally feel the tires grab the roadway and grind through the snow. We`ve been driving in nasty winter conditions for a long time and can say the Conti WinterContact TS 850`s grab snow covered roads better than higher priced models we`ve owned.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Ice Performance : Sometimes it`s difficult to determine if a road is icy or not. Black ice is especially dangerous regardless of how good your tires are and we aren`t going to make any hasty claims as to the TS 850`s magical performance in every icy condition you`ll experience. But our Audi tells us when the temperature is below freezing outside, so we know we`ve been rolling over unseen icy patches on the motorway at speed, as well as visible sheet-ice that layers mountain roads in the Swiss Alps no matter how efficient the salt truck drivers are in this country. We`re also required to exit our underground parking garage at a relatively steep gradient that gets icy near the top as we pull out onto the surface street. Our tires haven`t slipped, making it clear that these tires are very well designed for icy travel. The TS 850 also gives us confidence when braking on icy roads or zipping across icy ski resort parking lots as they allow for quick, stable speed reductions.

ContiWinterContact TS 850 – Slush / Standing Water Performance : Having done tons of research trying to find the best winter tire for at or under 200 CHF USD GBP Euros, one of the most alarming statistics we encountered was how poorly many winter tires (regardless of price range) perform on wet roads where hydroplaning is possible. The sleek profile and tread pattern — Continental claims to have put alot of effort into enhancing these features in the TS 850`s — allows these tires to carve through water on the roadways extremely well. We haven`t felt any instance of instability or loss of steering control when driving over water-logged roads.


Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850…the final verdict

We`re meticulous researchers when it comes to all-things-winter and expect our equipment to perform at the highest level. We don`t want garbage gear in our camera bags or attached to our feet when we slide down the mountain. The same goes for our winter tires.

As we`re not scientists, we have no clue what it takes to make a good tire or even a bad one. But we know when something works correctly, feels solid and is a good bargain. For us, the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 is a beast-of-a-winter-tire. This might be the best winter rubber on the market in any price category. Dry motorways, snowy mountain passes, ice covered village streets, water logged side roads…these tires give us the confidence we need behind the wheel to get to the powdery goods in Central Switzerland

If you`re interested in learning more about the actual science involved in one of the best performing, most affordable snow tires on the market as of winter 2012-13, check out the official Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 page.


Discover where to roll your Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850`s to for great skiing & snowboarding in Central Switzerland


Posted on August 27, 2013 in Alpine Safety, Gear Reviews, Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowsports, Travel Tips