September 8, 2015 – The rains in the plains fall mainly in the cool, paved streets
Not many people like driving in rain and I can be included in that majority. However, this long-term tire test has left me craving it for the purposes of science (or more accurately, instrument-free performance testing.) Unfortunately, the Toronto spring failed to deliver the goods. My patience for a good dump was tested more than that of a patient a couple of days out of surgery.
You see, I was impressed with the Nokian WR G3s slush performance during winter tire testing and I had a feeling they would be just as good in rain. But as it turns out, it took well into June before I saw the kind of downpour I’d be hoping for. Then it came…
I got my first taste of true wet-weather performance on a Sunday afternoon on the 401. The clouds were dark and the rain was so heavy that even my wipers set to full spaz-mode couldn’t complete. The shoulders on both sides of the collectors were littered with wreckage, white knuckles and tears. This was my day. It was time for some science.
First up was standing water addressing the tires of just one side of a vehicle. This tends to be quite dramatic, even at relatively low speed. There’s the change in sound, the pull of the steering wheel and an immediate reduction in speed. However, thanks to the deep channels and water-friendly tread design, the Nokians felt planted and instilled confidence. The tug on the wheel was all but non-existent. So far, so good.
Next up, I began testing progressive grip-loss on very wet roads by increasing my speed thought the bends on the highway. And while every tire on a wet road will slip when pushed, The ideal performance is one of smooth and steady loss of traction providing feedback and time to adjust your speed and steering angle. A tire that bites well up to the point of total traction loss can be quite dangerous. In this case, the slip was very smooth. Exactly what you’d want in this type of weather.
Finally, I found a quiet parking lot to see how the car would behave during emergency braking and steering maneuvers. And once again, I was impressed. The traction under braking was strong enough to make for rather aggressive jerking while the ABS worked overtime to keep up. This too can be a dramatic experience but the car came to a stop is a very straight and with minimal slippage.
Quick and sharp turning (occasionally required for collision avoidance) was the only area where I would take marks off. The soft sidewalls of the tire make for a comfortable ride but also mean that the tire bends before it affects the direction of the car. But to be honest, we’re getting into nitpicking. Once the suspension and tire pack down, the car changed direction smoothly and with stability.
Throughout all the driving I’ve done this year, my opinion remains the same. This is a solid tire in all conditions. It’s not designed for high-performance nor extreme winter driving but for what you’ll face in the city, it’s a safe, comfortable and well-rounded performer. I’d recommend it for any size or shape of family hauler as well as any non-performance oriented compact.
In my last update, I’ll address hot weather performance and tread wear but after 20,000 km, it’s still looking fresh out of the press.
April 8, 2015 – After a cold, heartless winter…
Well, March has ticked over into April and the cold grip of winter has finally softened. But if you live in an area where you’re still seeing snow, you shouldn’t be in the market for this tire – nor was it intended for you in the first place.
Having just driven on the Nokian WR G3s for the past four months, I can tell you that it hits the mark squarely between an all-season and a winter tire for typical winter performance. It’s one of those tires that is both quite good and sort of crap depending on what you compare it against. I was fortunately able to compare it to both an all-season and a proper winter tire on the same test vehicle so I can give you the full scoop.
In slushy or deep snow conditions, the Nokian WR is quite good. Deep grooves and a relatively soft compound make for predictable acceleration and braking. Uphill starts on a snowy road were no problem where I saw other cars on all seasons spinning and slipping. The letdown was the lateral stability on packed snow that you typically find on country roads. The outside edge blocks of a winter tire are sharp, such as on the Bridgestone Blizzaks that I used for comparison. The sharp edge digs into the snow to keep the car from slipping sideways and spinning. The WR G3 has a rounded side edge that improves cornering on a dry road but leads to a noticeable amount of slip on packed snow. Lateral stability is only marginally better than that of the Goodyear Eagle all-season I compared it to.
When it comes to ice, don’t look for exceptional support from the Nokian. They’re not in the same league as a winter tire and seemed to perform about the same as the all-season. That said, you should never expect exceptional support from any tire on ice. You just need to drive to the conditions and dodge idiotic (and often spinning) SUV drivers that believe AWD helps with braking and cornering.
The Toronto winter is over now (knock on wood) and the miles I put on the test tires were pretty well without incident. We saw a bit of snow, slush and plenty of bitter cold. We get nearly the same conditions every year and the roads are usually maintained adequately. For a city like this, Nokian WRs are a good fit so far.
Having already driven through the fall, I’m expecting the same solid performance this spring. I’m hoping for some torrential downpours to test the wet-weather grip! We’ll be back in a few months to continue this four seasons report.
Original article follows; originally published on November 24, 2014
Let’s face it, the whole winter tire thing sucks. They’re a pain to swap, store, and frankly they’re an expense that properly chaps the hindquarters. And although they’re the most important winter safety feature on the vehicle, many choose to forgo the ritual for all the reasons stated above. And the truth is, if you live in a city that gets a mild winter and has regular plow service, you can usually get away with it.
But what if it was easier? What if there was a single, magical tire that worked in all weather conditions and you didn’t need to swap them with the tilt of the earth’s axis? A tire that gave you winter grip when an all-season would fail while also standing up to the summer heat without melting and shredding into balls of ejected rubber?
Having extensively tested several top brands over the years, I’m a staunch believer in winter tires. So when Jonathan Yarkony proposed year-long test of Nokian’s third-generation WR all-weather tire beginning this winter, a hearty laugh did follow. But like many urbanites, I don’t really have space to store an extra set of tires and rims. And after some Guantanamo-style pressure application by our dear leader editor; here I am, risking life and car, embarking on a 12-month journey of ice, snow, rain, blazing heat and potholes. And I’m doing all of this for the loyal readers of Autos.ca.
Nokian WR G3 All-Weather installed on a 2014 Honda Accord, Nokian WR G3 compared to Goodyear Eagle LS-2 All-Season. Click image to enlarge
Mounted to my 2014 Honda Accord are a set of 225/45R18 Nokian WRs (slightly narrower than the OEM spec 235s.) At the end of each season, I’ll provide a detailed report on the tires performance. And while I’d probably say “wish me luck with the snow,” I’ve already logged a few proper winter km and so far I’m impressed.
After the first 500 km…
In the first two weeks of testing, I’ve encountered temperatures ranging from 15 above to 10 below and a mix of wet, dry, snowy and icy road conditions. So far my impressions are pretty simple. They’re softer than the factory installed Goodyear Eagle LS2s, which makes for a more comfortable ride but also means more body-roll in fast bends. That said, the footing has been solid through the wide temperature range with grip-loss coming on progressively and predictably as you push harder. If you’re looking for truly sharp performance, you’ll find them too compromised. However, the same compromise makes them perfect for the average family hauler looking to pack on safe, easy miles.
The only time I easily found the limit of grip was a panic stop on very hard-packed snow. The ABS gave my right foot a nice massage but ultimately brought the car to a halt without too much drama. We’ll see how it does in the deep snow (a rarity in Toronto.) Stay tuned!
*Note: The tires for this test were supplied free of charge for testing purposes by Kal Tire, the exclusive supplier of the Nokian WR G3 in Canada.