In a business where a few companies are experts at calling in the locksmith after the horse has fled, Nokian is one of the tire brands keeping ahead of themselves and the industry. Best known for its admittedly excellent series of winter tires, the company could easily rest on their laurels and continue to sling round rubber hoops best deployed in winter’s worst. After all, it’s brought Nokian success both now and in the past.
But tires, by their very nature, don’t stand still. It would seems that Nokian has no interest in doing such a thing either. Seeking to double (double!) its market share in this country, the company plans to broaden its brand awareness through the sales of all-season tires. This makes sense, given the vast majority of its expansion plans include areas which receive less snow than the hottest corners of Hades.
What is The Nokian One HT?
Leading the charge will be a new tire called the Nokian One HT. It’s a rugged all-season tire positioned at the premium end of the bracket, crafted for back roads and daily urban driving alike. Available in both LT and P-metric sizes, the Finnish company told us the One HT is designed to perform in conditions North American drivers are likely to encounter. This is critical to remember, since Nokian believes – correctly, we think – that driving demands on this continent differ greatly from those across the pond.
Built to provide reliable grip and stability on a variety of surfaces, the One HT employs a closed shoulder tread design that firm up the outer edges of the tread, promoting rigidity and stability because the tread block stays more upright during cornering. This improves handling by increasing the limit at which the tire starts to fold over. If you’re having trouble visualizing this, grab the nearest empty soda can. Use your hands to try and make a dent in its smooth side. Pretty easy, right? Now try to do the same in the raised crease near the can’s lip. Harder, eh? This illustrates the difference between open- and closed-shoulder tread designs.
An easier-to-pronounce replacement for the Rotiivan line of rubber, the One HT has wide circumferential grooves with sipes in the middle rib for extra biting force during braking or when pressed into the rough stuff. That’s why we grabbed the keys to a Ram 1500 4×4 equipped with LT versions of these new tires. Are they ready to play in Peoria? We hit the Tennessee dirt to find out.
A quick science lesson in case you fell asleep back in high school. Aramid fibers are a class of heat-resistant and very strong synthetic fibers. They are used in aerospace and military applications for ballistic-rated body armor fabric and ballistic composites. In other words, it’s pretty stout stuff. To paraphrase a famous Newfoundland writer: you may know it as Kevlar, ma’am. Kevlar was developed by DuPont, though, so Nokian chooses to use the Aramid name.
LT sizes of the One HT extend the Aramid all the way across the tire, spanning the tread completely and including both inside and outside sidewalls. This helps with puncture resistance, improving the tire’s off-road chops. P-metric One HTs also get Aramid but it is limited to just the sidewall areas. This is still helpful for preventing expensive wounds caused by random road hazards and sharp objects wielded by jilted ex-lovers (the latter being a strangely specific example).
How Does the Nokian One HT Perform?
Checking the Ram’s TPMS readings revealed a set of thicc 70-series One HT rubber inflated to about 40 psi, pretty standard for this type of tire. Our route took us out of Chattanooga and onto the area’s web of freeways. Here, it was easy to see why Nokian is using this tire as its beachhead into the heart of America. This set of 17-inch One HT tires were notably smooth and quiet, hushed even over grooved surfaces.
These polite on-road manners can be chalked up partially to those closed shoulders mentioned earlier. Absent of open channels from the tread blocks to the tire’s outside edge, road noise is contained quite well. Close examination of the tread pattern reveals a saw-toothed and stepped-like pattern in the rib, also a feature which also interrupts air flow at speed to reduce noise. LT tires generally scupper conversation in a truck. Not these.
The rural backwoods of America’s deep south has plenty of dirt lanes and twisty two-tracks, so we flipped the Ram’s turn signal and headed into the thick Tennessee woods. Nokian made copious mention earlier in the day about the LT’s wraparound Aramid and its propensity for resisting punctures, so we headed straight towards a dirt road loosely lined with sharp and angry-looking stones.
Over the course of about two hours, the One HT proved itself to be an agreeable companion, one that was easy to read on loose surfaces and eager to paw its way through dirt roads while dealing with washboard surfaces. Their level of grip allowed the front end of the Ram to wash out first, creating an understeer that was easy to modulate.
The Nokian One HT isn’t a KO2 beater in terms of off-road prowess but nor is it meant to be (if you’re looking for Nokian’s entrant in that field, check out the excellently-named Rockproof line of tires). Any gearhead who has run that sort of off-road tire knows what they’re in for when it comes to on-pavement performance. The One HT handily exceeds the capabilities of those hoops in dry conditions while handling off-road challenges equal to or worse than what will be tackled by the average American driver.
One other notable attribute of the One HT was the inclusion of some too-perfect practical features which prove Nokian engineers take customer feedback to heart. On the tire’s center rib are three numbers – 80, 60, and 40 – which reveal themselves as the tread begins to wear. They are intended to serve as percentage indicators for the customer, letting them know when it’s time to start thinking about replacements. In a nod to service techs, a top-down car pictogram is molded into the sidewall, allowing the tech to make a chalk mark on the corner from which the tire was taken rather than scrawl “LR” or “RF” on the sidewall to help with rotation during reinstall.
Wrapping it Up
Many tire retailers say the hardest tire to sell is the first one. With capable tires like the One HT designed specifically for North America, and a claimed loyalty rate higher than that of Michelin or Goodyear, it would seem Nokian stands a great chance to realize its goal of doubling sales and becoming a household name in this country. Building a brand new factory in America and employing hundreds of locals doesn’t hurt their chances of entrenching themselves in the country, either. The company has done its homework; now it’s time to sell product.
Rest on one’s laurels? Not at Nokian. The One HT will be available in all sizes, both LT and P-metric, in January.
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