Review of Nokian WRG3 Asymmetric

Nokian WRG3 Asymmetric. Nokian Tyres, plc

There are a whole lot of tires out there that are called All-Season, and an unwary consumer might make the mistake of concluding that such tires are really meant to perform in, say, all the seasons. This is not generally the case. Most all-season tires are designed for wet and dry grip alone. Some have the most basic of winter capabilities. A few are trustworthy in all winter conditions. Only a handful carry the “Mountain Snowflake” symbol, indicating true winter capabilities.

Only one really deserves the name “All-Weather,” and that is the Nokian WR line.

WRG3 Lineage

Nokian's WRG2 is a tire that is quite literally in a class by itself, largely because it invented its own class. The original Nokian WR was apparently designed as a UHP Winter tire for high-speed performance on cold, dry pavement, but Nokian's engineers quickly realized that the tread compound that was intended to deal with heat due to high speed could also deal extremely well with heat due to summer temperatures. The second-generation WRG2, incorporating a lot of the technology from the Hakkapeliitta snow tire line, proved to be far and away the best “winter-biased” all-season ever built, so far above most tires in its class that it could no longer really be called a part of that class—thus the All-Weather designation that Nokian gave it. 

Pros and Cons of WRG3

When Nokian updated the WRG2 for the American market, incorporating nanotechnology, new compounding and tread improvements from the Europe-only WR-A3 and D3 models, drivers discovered they handle better at high speeds and offer a smooth, firm, and quite ride.

But some people, including myself when I originally tested the tires, felt the snow and ice grip was markedly worse.

Technology

3D Self-Locking Sipes:
Nokian has been a leader in the design of self-locking sipe technology, in which the siping has an internal topology that prevents the cut treat block from flexing too much.

Preventing this “tread squirm” is the key to densely siping the tread block for winter grip without increasing treadwear and causing mushiness on pavement.

NanoBase Compound:
The WR A3 and D3, which have never made it to the American market, showcased Nokian's first foray into nanotechnology. The resulting tread compound has tighter molecular bonds between natural and synthetic rubber polymers. This results in less heat generation when the bonds are stressed and makes for longer treadwear.

Polished Grooves:
Nokian hand-polishes the circumferential and curved grooves in the tire to speed the evacuation of water and slush.

Silent Sidewall Technology:
A thin strip of softer rubber between the tread shoulders and the sidewall dampens noise and vibration for smoother and quieter driving.

Cool Touch Siping:
When the sipes cut all the way through a tread block, the tread block will flex easily. By only connecting the edges of some sipes, Nokian makes the tread block flex less, reducing heat buildup and tread squirm while still allowing enough flex to engage the sipes.

Slush Blower:
A set of slanted edges set on the front side of the tread blocks “blows” slush quickly away from the tread and into the grooves.

Performance

When I tested the WRG3 in 2013, I nearly killed Tommi Heinonen, the General Manager of Nokian North America, by overestimating the tire's ice grip. That gave me my first clue that the tires might not live up to their potential. Winter grip in general was substantially reduced relative to the WRG2's. Even a smooth application of power while moving spun the wheels in snow. On the other hand, they rode quite well on the highway and handled with great precision and authority on cold pavement. Braking grip was excellent in the dry and pretty decent in the snow.

I've said that Hakka 7s made sheer ice feel like pavement and the Hakka R2's made snow feel like pavement. The WRG3s made pavement feel like pavement, snow feel like snow, and ice feel like something to be avoided at all costs.

The Bottom Line

I was disappointed in the WRG3 Asymmetric. I am admittedly biased in favor of Nokian, but this tire simply didn't measure up to the sheer lightning-strike awesomeness of the WRG2's winter capability. On the other hand, it performed beautifully on cold pavement and fair-to-middling on snow, which is more than many "all-season" tires can come up with.

I am told that the directional version has much better winter grip. I hope that is so, but the asymmetric version is basically a Grand Touring All-Season tire. Which is fine, and as winter-biased all-seasons go it's at least toward the head of the pack, but it's not an All-Weather tire, by which I mean of course that it's not a G2. As Tommi said to me, "If you live in a place where winter visits but doesn't stay, these are the tires for you." That I can completely agree with.

Update

The WRG3 tire has now also earned a Mountain Snowflake designation for use in severe winter conditions, and reviews left on the website are overwhelmingly favorable.