·Now that I have finally put a decent amount of miles on these tires in various conditions, I feel like I can finally provide an in-depth view of my experiences and opinion on the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2.
Photo from the Nokian Tire website
This past July, I purchased a new 2016 Subaru WRX STi. From the factory, it comes equipped with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT in 245/40-R18. While this tire is a pretty grippy tire and rides nicely, it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to drive on through a Buffalo, NY winter. So that meant it was time to go winter tire shopping. Unfortunately General Tires doesn’t make my favorite snow-tire, the Altimax-Arctic in 18” sizes, and I didn’t want to downsize, so I had to look elsewhere.
I was up in the air on what I wanted to do. I thought about cheaping-out and just finding a so-so winter tire that was cheap. But then I realized that I will be putting more miles on this car in the winter than I will in the summer, so I should probably buy something that I liked.
I have owned snow tires from a number of brands and I have heard from many people how great Nokian snow-tires are. My only previous experience with Nokian Tires was a worn set of WRG2-SUV’s that were on an ex-Michigan State Police Tahoe that I owned. They were OK in that application and got me through a mild Michigan winter just fine.
My STi in its winter-form
After a little bit of reading and research, I decided on buying a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2’s in 225/45-R18 through tiresbyweb.com (free shipping). I went a little narrower because it’s generally accepted that narrower is better in the winter and also because that size was $42/tire cheaper. But at $792 total, they were far from cheap. I had a friend of mine install them last Novemember and have been running them ever since.
For the Wet and Dry segments of this review, I am going to provide my feelings about this tire in two categories: Over 40*, and Under 40*. This particular tire acts very different in the warm and cold and I feel it’s important to address both areas separately.
Over 40*- In the warmer weather, the compound on this tire gets extremely soft. Sure, this is true for pretty much all winter tires, but I have never had such sponginess in a tire. There was a day I had to drive to work when it was 70* out and I took a right-hander kind of hard and it felt like I was driving on pudding. It felt like the tires were going to fold over on themselves. After this happened, I upped the tire pressure to 43F/41R-PSI to help compensate. It helped, but not much. I felt I had to be a much more tentative driver. 4/10
Under 40*- Once the compound in these tires firm up a bit, they are a totally different tire. Even in single digit temps, they provide excellent grip. Where even all-seasons start to feel like riding on hockey pucks, the Hakka’s are still pliable and grabbing the road for all the mechanical grip they can provide. They still aren’t the stiffest tires in the world and have a good amount of sidewall flex, but they aren’t designed for track handling anyways. 8/10
Rok Blokx mudflaps; for when you don’t want to drop $200 on Rally-Armors
Over 40*- Once again, the compound these tires are made of are downright scary in warm situations. I had a couple of heavy understeer incidents on wet pavement in the warmer weather (60*+). It almost felt like my tires had a coat of oil on them. Hydroplaning in standing water is something that snow-tires tend not to handle well, but the few times I hit some with these, I had no issues. 4/10
Under 40*- Wet pavement became nothing to fear. Handling seemed predictable, and you could feel the loss of traction at a much higher threshold than when it was warmer out. Hydroplaning resistance remained strong. 8/10
I took my STi to an empty lot one evening after a freezing rain left a nice sheet of ice on the lot. ‘Wow’ is about all I can say. On Nokian’s website, they talk about how this tire has microscopic crystals within the compound that help dig into the ice. Well, it works.
Cryo-Crystals Yea! Buzz-words!
Acceleration and braking were excellent. I had to put quite a bit of input into the throttle to get significant wheelspin and brakes had a good amount of modulation before the ABS would start engaging. Cornering was the same. I cornered as hard as I was willing to and the tires held strong. When they did break grip, it felt predictable and easy to regain control. I did own an ’11 WRX with General Altimax Arctics, and I feel that on ice, the Hakka’s are far-superior to those. These perform as good or better on the ice than the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 and WS80's that I have used. I really think you would have to go to a studded-snow-tire to find better grip. 10/10
I had a fair bit of time on snow-covered roads and these tires tore through it like a boss. As long as there is not enough snow on the ground to where my STi simply can’t clear it, these tires will get through it. The aggressive design, jagged edges, and insane amount of sipes provide plenty of area for the tread to tear into and through the snow.
Sipes and aggressive tread: these tires have it
Like on the ice, you really have to be heavy on the pedals to spin the tires or engage the ABS. A conservative, safe winter driver probably would very few white-knuckled drives with these tires and Subaru’s AWD system. 10/10
When I first put these tires on the increase in road noise was instantly noticeable. They are a fair bit louder than the stock Dunlops. The STi isn’t exactly European-quality in its cabin-isolation so the added noise would probably be annoying to some. To me, I don’t mind it as I enjoy hearing what my car is doing (Seriously. I hardly ever even drive with the radio on), but I feel that the noise increase is worth mentioning.
As for the overall comfort of the tire, I can’t complain. The tire does a good job of absorbing bumps and rough roads. I’m sure the softer compound and sidewall contributed to that. I would say that while the noise increased over the Dunlops, the ride quality improved as well. 7/10
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2’s are probably one of the best snow and ice tires out on the market period. The way these tires handle bad weather is remarkable and they have excellent grip in cold-dry weather.
These tires have the all-out snow performance of the General Altimax Arctic with the superior ice-grip of the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 all in one.
That said, this performance comes at a sacrifice. For as great as it is in the cold, it becomes downright scary in warm weather. If you live in a place that only has relatively mild winters with the occasional warm-snap, I would certainly recommend you buy something else.
But if you are like me and live in a frozen-tundra of lake-effect snow, single digit temps, and sub-40* weather from November to March with little-to-no relief, this tire might be one you want to consider.
In all honesty, unless the only thing that matters to you is having the best in snow and ice performance, I wouldn’t recommend this tire to most. There are a lot of tires out there that are cheaper, have better handling characteristics in warmer weather, and still have 90-95% of the snow and ice capabilities of this tire.