Review: Nokian WR G2 All-Season Tires

Jack of All Seasons, Master of 3

Nokian WR G2 all-season tire
courtesy of Consumer Reports

For well over a decade, Nokian has been the industry leader in winter tires. Being located in Finland allows them to operate the only year-round winter test center in the world, and they routinely meet strict standards for winter tires in a place where snow tires are mandated for most of the year. In the WR G2, they have made an all-season tire that excels in all the dangerous weather conditions and is still pretty good in the safest one.

That's a beautiful thing.

Pros

  • Superior linear and cornering grip in snow and ice.
  • Innovative slushplaning technology.
  • Extremely low rolling resistance saves fuel.
  • Ecologically responsible materials.

Cons

  • Summer performance is average.
  • Softer compound means faster tread wear.
  • Relatively high price.

All-Season vs. All-Weather

Many tire experts will tell you that all-season tires are a waste of money; being neither fish nor fowl, they try to do everything and end up doing nothing very well. There is definitely some truth to this perception. Most all-season tires are in essence either watered-down snow tires, summer tires with winter features tacked on, or an overambitious hodgepodge of features that end up canceling each other out.

The almost eerily passionate Finnish engineers at Nokian Tyres will readily agree that very few tires called “all-season” by their makers are really anything of the sort. They will however, proudly point you towards their WR G2, which is - in their admittedly biased opinion - the only true all-weather tire in the world.

There is some truth to this perception as well; of the mass of all-season tires out there, the WR G2 comes closest to excelling in all driving conditions. But in truth, the Nokian WR G2, while it functions perfectly well as an all-season tire  shines brightest when the weather is worst.

Patented Siping Patterns

The WR G2 has three distinct siping patterns cut into the tread blocks.

  • The company's patented “Hakka Sipe” cuts a zigzag pattern completely through the tread block, separating each block into a series of semi-independent strips with jagged edges. Under pressure, this allows the strips to flex like the bristles on a paintbrush, placing multiple rows of triangular “teeth” against the road surface and creating extraordinary grip on snow and ice.
  • A series of straight sipes known as "Wipe Sipes” cut into the front edges of the tread blocks. Under braking pressure, the tread blocks flex backward, closing the Hakka sipes and opening up the straight sipes, which act like tiny squeegees on wet pavement, sweeping water out from under the treads and increasing braking grip in wet conditions.
  • Finally, there is another series of straight sipes cut perpendicular to the others on certain tread blocks. These “3D Self-Locking Sipes” reduce the lateral flexibility of the tread, enhancing lateral stability and increasing cornering grip.

Slushplaning Technology

Nokian puts a great deal of testing and R&D effort into the condition known as “slushplaning,” which they consider much more dangerous than hydroplaning, particularly because it can occur even at lower speeds and be more difficult to recover control once it is lost.

The current WR G2 has two features designed to prevent slushplaning; the sharply beveled edge of the tire, which throws slush and water away from the treads, and the series of highly polished asymmetrical grooves between the tread blocks, which facilitate evacuation of slush and water from under the tire.

Low Rolling Resistance

Nearly all of Nokian's tires feature extremely low rolling resistance, which can save significant amounts of fuel, and the WR G2 is no exception. Independent labs estimate that the WR G2 has approximately 20-25% less rolling resistance than comparable tires, which has the potential of saving you some real money.

Ecologically Responsible Materials

Nokian has developed a rubber compound for their tires that uses canola oil and cool silica rather than high-aromatic, carcinogenic oils.

In addition to being a greener choice and contributing to the low rolling resistance, the compound stays very flexible on snow and ice and gives a positively sticky feel in the rain.

Confident 3-Season Grip

I work for a rim and tire shop. I can, and often do, drive on any tires I want, since I like to know what I'm talking about when I recommend tires to my customers. The Nokian WRG2 is by far the best bad weather tire I've ever driven, and has for many years been my personal choice for tires in the wildly varying conditions of a New England winter. They take on the worst snow and ice as well or better than nearly any dedicated snow tire out there, and handle ski trips into the wilds of northern Vermont and Maine with ease and grace. While I find that I can deliberately break the car loose into a skid on packed snow, it is actually quite difficult to do, and the tires recover extremely well. They stay rock steady even through lane changes in heavy slush, which is a white-knuckle maneuver on many tires. I don't even think they know how to hydroplane at all. These are tires that inspire a lot of confidence, largely because they always seem to come through in the worst of conditions.

Weaker Summer Performance

Dry pavement, in general, is the WR G2's weakest area, although “pretty good” is only a weakness in comparison to “excellent.” In hot weather, the tires do feel noticeably softer, and performance is just good at highway speeds. As with any winter-capable tire, treadwear is accelerated in warm dry weather.

The tires are remarkably quiet even on a Prius hybrid, but customers whose opinions I trust as well as some online commentators have complained of worse than usual road noise from the WRG2. Others have expressed surprise at how quiet the tires are. I confess that I have found no pattern to this phenomenon, and I suspect that there may be other variables involved.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the WRG2 is a truly great bad-weather tire that is good enough to ride on year-round.

It does, however, sacrifice some summer performance for winter punch. I, therefore, prefer to use mine as 3-season tires, putting them on in late fall and swapping them out for summer performance tires in mid to late spring when the rain has dried up. This cuts down on summer treadwear, extending the life of the tires and saving the tread for when you need it most. But I don't have to do that; it's a luxury.

The WRG2 is ideal for areas with very mixed winter weather, the kind that can cycle quickly through rain, snow, ice, slush and dry conditions. For areas where the snow comes heavy and stays for long periods, dedicated snow tires like Nokian's Hakkapeliitta R or Michelin's X-Ice might be a better choice. Drivers in areas with more temperate winter conditions might want a less winter-biased tire such as the Bridgestone Turanza.

The WR G2 is priced somewhat higher than comparable tires, but this is partially offset by the low rolling resistance. If you want superior performance over a full range of conditions and you don't want to swap out tires, the Nokian WR G2 is a little bit more money for a whole lot more tire.

Confident 3-Season Grip

I work for a rim and tire shop. I can, and often do, drive on any tires I want, since I like to know what I'm talking about when I recommend tires to my customers. The Nokian WRG2 is by far the best bad weather tire I've ever driven, and has for many years been my personal choice for tires in the wildly varying conditions of a New England winter. They take on the worst snow and ice as well or better than nearly any dedicated snow tire out there, and handle ski trips into the wilds of northern Vermont and Maine with ease and grace.

While I find that I can deliberately break the car loose into a skid on packed snow, it is actually quite difficult to do, and the tires recover extremely well. They stay rock steady even through lane changes in heavy slush, which is a white-knuckle maneuver on many tires. I don't even think they know how to hydroplane at all. These are tires that inspire a lot of confidence, largely because they always seem to come through in the worst of conditions.

Weaker Summer Performance

Dry pavement in general is the WR G2's weakest area, although “pretty good” is only a weakness in comparison to “excellent.” In hot weather the tires do feel noticeably softer, and performance is just good at highway speeds. As with any winter-capable tire, treadwear is accelerated in warm dry weather.

I personally have found the tires to be remarkably quiet even on a Prius hybrid, but customers whose opinions I trust as well as some online commentators have complained of worse than usual road noise from the WRG2.

Others have expressed surprise at how quiet the tires are. I confess that I have found no pattern to this phenomenon, and I suspect that there may be other variables involved.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the WRG2 is a truly great bad-weather tire that is good enough to ride on year-round. It does, however sacrifice some summer performance for winter punch.

I therefore prefer to use mine as 3-season tires, putting them on in late fall and swapping them out for summer performance tires in mid to late spring when the rain has dried up. This cuts down on summer treadwear, extending the life of the tires and saving the tread for when you need it most. But I don't have to do that; it's a luxury.

The WRG2 is ideal for areas with very mixed winter weather, the kind that can cycle quickly through rain, snow, ice, slush and dry conditions. For areas where the snow comes heavy and stays for long periods, dedicated snow tires like Nokian's Hakkapeliitta R or Michelin's X-Ice might be a better choice. Drivers in areas with more temperate winter conditions might want a less winter-biased tire such as the Bridgestone Turanza.

The WR G2 is priced somewhat higher than comparable tires, but this is partially offset by the low rolling resistance. If you want superior performance over a full range of conditions and you don't want to swap out tires, the Nokian WR G2 is a little bit more money for a whole lot more tire.