Nokian produced the first winter tire ever in 1934, so one could say that they've had awhile to figure this out. The tire model we were provided for our van is the Hakkapeliitta R3 SUV. The Pacifica is obviously no SUV, but at almost 5,000 pounds it's perfect for this flavor of tire. Nokian says they're designed for high performance SUVs and are made with Aramid sidewalls to resist punctures or cuts. Chrysler fits the Pacifica Hybrid with all-season tires from the factory, but we were determined to make it a proper seven passenger sleigh.
We got a fair amount of snow this year in Michigan, but I encountered the worst conditions on a road trip to Buffalo, N.Y. I was actually sort of hoping a lake-effect blizzard might present itself as a challenge, and my snow prayers were answered with authority.
Inches of snow don't usually pile up on highways here easily with the amount of plows and salt typically employed, but it did in this storm. The Pacifica hardly flinched from the deep tracks of powder on the road. Near-whiteout conditions forced slow driving, but the Pacifica never felt like it was going to slip and slide out of its lane as I tracked around highway bends with increasing speed. Braking was impressive, as the tires managed to find grip in the snow that all-season tires just can't match. Thankfully, I never needed 100 percent lock in any emergency situations, but I tried it out in some empty parking lots to see how well it does at hauling everything to a stop. The Nokians performed admirably here, too. With ABS firing away, the winter rubber finds grip in places all-seasons would just slide on by.
Starting wasn't much of an issue, either. We tested the tires in anything from dustings to snow that was about six inches deep and largely untouched by other vehicles. The front tires would scrabble for grip initially with greater throttle inputs in the deep stuff, but they'd hook and pull the van forward with authority after a quick second. This is typical of most front-wheel drive cars with winter tires. If you're gentle and feather the throttle to keep traction control from activating too early, acceleration comes steady and quickly. We can't say the Nokians are technically better than other winter tires, but we can say they did an exemplary job on this big van.
On dry roads, they didn't affect the ride or generate noise all that much. They're definitely a little louder than the all-seasons our van came with, but it's worth it for the grip. Actual road holding and grip on dry pavement on warmer days is predictably lesser than the all-seasons, but they never felt mushy or imprecise.
These Nokian tires in particular strike a good balance between grip on cold pavement and ability to claw through heavy snow. They make the Pacifica Hybrid a no-brainer for winter weather states where all-wheel drive is constantly pushed as the answer in utility vehicles. Just as we've said time and time before, winter tires are worth every penny, and we should all be rocking them when the snow starts to come down.