Nitto Ridge Grappler vs Falken Wildpeak AT3w

2 Comments

The Falken Wildpeak AT3w is an all terrain tire, while the Nitto Ridge Grappler sits in the rugged terrain category, (such tires are also called hybrid). Being a R/T tire, the Nitto Ridge Grappler provides better off road traction with it’s multiple biting edges which help it crawl on the toughest terrains out there, while the Falken Wildpeak AT3w does things much better on highways.

Falken Wildpeak A T 3w
The slanted U shaped sidewall lugs of Falken Wildpeak AT3w looks dope.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler provides a really nice dry grip with stable lateral traction, but it lacks to it’s competitor overall, especially on wet roads. Falken Wildpeak AT3w on the other hand provides amazing on road performance, where it shines on wet pavements the most. And it can also handle snow really well and is tagged with severe winter rating. Nitto Ridge Grappler does not provide as good a winter traction, but the tire sure is tough which makes it very suitable for rocky terrains and also a little bit of mud.

Things you should know about both these tires:

  • Falken Wildpeak AT3w is better tire on wet roads by a very large margin.
  • It’s 3 peak mountain snowflake rated.
  • It provides better comfort, and resistance to wear.
  • Nitto Ridge Grappler is simply awesome on rocks.
  • It’s 3 ply sidewall construction provides better durability, (but difference is still marginal).
  • The tire can even handle some mud as well.

Detailed Review of Falken Wildpeak AT3w.

Let’s start things with Durability

Durability is an interesting subject here, because you may think that Wildpeak is a weaker tire, but real world examples show otherwise.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler comes with 3 ply polyester, 2 steel belts and 2 ply nylon (nylon does not cover sidewalls, so sidewalls are 3 ply on this tire, which is strong enough).

The Falken Wildpeak AT3w on the other hand, have 2 ply polyester construction and rest is similar. But the tire also has 2 more layers of another durable polyester, dedicated to sidewalls.

So the sidewalls get to have 2 ply polyester inner construction, with 2 more layers of polyamide (running around). So it’s actually a 4 ply construction.

So in comparison, although Ridge Grappler with 3 ply polyester is stronger slightly, the difference is very low. So, both tires give you a same kind of confidence on rugged terrains.

For Your Info: One of the most tough A/T tires is BF Goodrich KO2 (review).

Tread Appearance

The Falken Wildpeak AT3w shows you a pretty neat looking design.

Wildpeak Falken AT3w
Falken Wildpeak AT3w shoulder blocks cover most of its tread.

The prominent Z shaped blocks have ramps and sharp chamfered edges, while the rest C shaped ones have notches.

All of them have reinforced foundation supports which provides on road stability.

If I talk siping, the tire features dual pattern where its more wave like on shoulders.

Speaking of shoulders, they get divided from the middle by clear longitudinal zig zag channels.

These shoulder blocks have notches and stepped edges towards the middle of tread where on outer edges, they form sharp saw tooth edges and U shaped lugs.

But these lugs are not as aggressive when compared to it’s competitor.

On the other hand, Nitto Ridge Grappler comes up with 4 sharp blocks in the center. They all are triangular shaped, so with that, sharp edges are made which provide tremendous biting power.

Tread Nitto Ridge Grappler
Nitto Ridge Grappler dual sidewall design features very aggressive lugs on one side.

Adding to these biters, the blocks on sideways are equipped with full depth notches, while the other two have similar siping like the rest (and they also join the shoulder blocks).

All these blocks make Z shaped grooves which connect the wave like longitudinal (wider) outer channels.

Also note that, these blocks have solid foundations underneath and this helps in tire’s stability a lot.

Moving on to the shoulders, they look boring in comparison, as there aren’t any notches or any other kind of biters.

But due to wider lateral spacing between these blocks, the tire provides good off road traction, including gravel, where the stone ejectors help.

And although looks are subjective, in my opinion, it’s probably the best looking rugged tire that you can get. It’s sidewalls are very attractive and comes in dual design where the it features bulkier lugs on both sides (compared to Falken Wildpeak).

Tire Sizes

Both tires offer a lot of sizes. Falken Wildpeak AT3w ranges from 15 to 22 inches, where most sizes are offered in 17″ and least in 22″ (just 2).

Speed rating varies in Q, R, S, T, and H, and load rating goes from C to F (weight range: 35 to 79.4 lbs).

The tire claims to have deepest tread in the category, which is true as it’s starts from 12/32″ (in only one size) and goes all the way up to 19/32″, (most sizes get to have 17/32″ tread depth, which is still a lot, given that it’s all terrain tire).

On the other hand, the Nitto Ridge Grappler comes in 16 to 24 inches where most sizes are available in 20″.

Load rating is same as the Wildpeak, C to F, but the speed rating has less range, as it only comes in either T or Q.

Tread depth of the tire varies from 13 to 18/32″ (most sizes have 16.4/32″, less in comparison), and weight of the tire range from 36 to 90 pounds (more in comparison).

Also Falken Wildpeak AT3 is offered with 55k miles warranty, where Ridge Grappler doesn’t come with any.

On Road Performance

Tires good off road mostly lacks on highways, that’s because when their tread is made aggressive, wider grooves compromise on the contact patch with the road.

But there are other factors besides grip, like the steering and handling response, and of course traction, let’s talk all these key areas.

Dry Traction

With more grip offered with compact blocks arrangement, the Falken Wildpeak AT3w is a better choice on highways. The tire besides offering smaller gaps between blocks also presents supporting ridges (see ramps on Z shaped blocks, and braces on C shaped blocks, in tread section).

The shoulder blocks also have reinforced foundations between them, so even with softer rubber material, the tire does not compromise on grip during braking and cornering.

On the other hand, the Nitto Ridge Grappler lacks here slightly as its wider grooves takes away the rubber contact. But it’s very surprising to see that in all other rugged terrain tires, it provides better lateral grip, as with minimal tread features on shoulders the tire is still able to provide a decent rubber space to meet the pavement.

Steering Response & Handling Stability

Tire’s response highly depends on its construction and weight. So Nitto Ridge Grappler with wider tread voids, especially on sides is not able to provide faster feedback.

That’s why maximum speed rating on this tire only goes up to T (compared to Wildpeak’s H).

With 3 ply sidewalls, which makes this tire heavier, steering becomes harder, and the tire understeers a lot, slowing down the handling response.

On the other side, the Falken Wildpeak AT3w (although still quite heavy), is still lighter in weight on average, and with compact blocks arrangement and on road oriented sides, it provides decent response times, comparatively.

Winter Performance

Winter traction depends on acceleration, handling and grip (mostly measured with braking distances), on light and deep snow.

Now as the Falken Wildpeak AT3w is 3 peak mountain snowflake rated, we can tell that it’s much better in acceleration (as that’s exactly what this rating is about).

But other than that, the tire is also superior in rest of the tests as well, as it offers better siping and notches which allows effective snow holding capability.

Snow holding is important, as on snow, you don’t want rubber contact, you want snow contact as ice crystals have an interlocking design so they stick to each other with more friction.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler, is not 3pmsf rated, but with wider grooves, the tire can still work on deeper snow, where it’s sidewall lugs can come in handy.

For Your Info: One of the best tires for snow, in AT category, is Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T (I reviewed it here).

Wet Performance

When it comes to wet highway performance, there are only a couple of tires which are really impressive, and Falken Wildpeak AT3 comes on the top (given it’s off road capability). That’s why I rated this tire with it in my list of best all terrain tires.

Let’s see why is that and how it performs here in comparison.

Wet Traction

On pavements, the wet traction relies on siping and the tire’s rubber compound.

More number of siping and a softer rubber of the tire work together to provide best possible results, but as they also have “side-effects”, like they decreases fuel efficiency and increases wear, etc, so a lot of engineering has to go in to their designs.

Sipes basically suck water in and rubber composition provide these sipes flexibility. In case of Falken Wildpeak AT3w, the tire comes with a softer rubber (which is also elastic), so where the sipes get to be flexible, the tire does not have to suffer too much in the wear department.

It also comes with dual siping design where the shoulder blocks have interlocking pattern (more efficient, as they don’t stiffen up on corners), so that’s why the tire produces better results.

On the other side, the Nitto Ridge Grapple although has a soft enough rubber, the sipes are very less in number, so water does not get cleaned away properly.

Moreover, its sipes are not interlocking so while cornering they get too stiffen up to wipe off water particles and maintain traction, as effectively as the Wildpeak.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning means floating on water. If a tire is not good at it (or in other words not resistant to hydroplaning), on standing water, it would not roll and would just float, as water is an in-compressible liquid.

That’s why it’s measured with float speeds (how fast a tire can move without floating).

Now with wider channels it makes sense that the Nitto Ridge Grappler would provide better water evacuation, but it’s just as good as the Falken Wildpeak AT3 which offers deeper tread, so similar water flow rates are seen on both tires.

Ride Quality

Ride quality depends on two main factors, comfort and noise, and it’s no surprise to see that Falken Wildpeak AT3w is superior here in both sections.

Let’s talk noise first, which is just air passing and hitting the walls of the tread, and that air mostly enters/escapes through the shoulders (lateral grooves).

Now since the Falken Wildpeak AT3w provides ridges between the blocks (on shoulders), much of the air flow is restricted, so you get a quieter ride.

This tire also offers variable pitch technology like the Nitto Ridge Grappler, and this further reduces the noise levels.

Nitto Ridge is not as effective, but the tire does provide you with a very quieter ride if you compare it with mud terrain tires for example. So you can say it comes right in the middle of AT and MT.

If I talk comfort, both tires are good here, as both of them provide you with a spongy shock absorbing rubber. But with 2 ply polyester construction of Wildpeak (instead of 3 in Nitto Ridge), its less stiffer in comparison, so you get slightly better results on it.

But off road, the Nitto Ridge is better, for example, on gravely roads, with stone ejectors (missing in Wildpeak) the tire provides better comfort performance.

For Your Info: The Yokohama Geolandar G015 is one of the best AT tires for comfort.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency depends on rolling resistance of the tire, which depends on weight and tread’s composition.

With softer rubber on top, which sticks on roads, the Nitto Ridge Grappler offers higher rolling resistance values. It’s 3 ply polyester construction also puts more pressure on pavements (with more weight), and this further adds to it’s resistance to roll, so it consumes more fuel.

Falken Wildpeak AT3w, on the other side, is a lighter tire in comparison so it shows better efficiency.

Tread Wear

Another factor directly related to rolling resistance is the tire’s tread life. So again as Falken Wildpeak AT3w is lighter, it puts less pressure on roads and it’s rubber wears at a slower rate.

Furthermore, with more tread depth, the tire takes longer to wear, so it’s also helped here this way.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler with more weight and softer material wears faster and the tire’s tread depth although is good enough, is still less in comparison, so it’s tread tends to have a shorter life.

For Your Info: Out of all AT tires, one of the best for tread wear is General Grabber A/Tx (review).

Off Road Performance

Off road, there are a lot of terrains to consider, I’ve discussed all the significant ones below.

Mud traction

Mud traction depends on mud evacuation capability of the tire. So with wider grooves, the Nitto Ridge Grappler comes out better here.

It’s outer wider channels are interconnected with Z shaped grooves, so mud gets broken down with sharp triangular blocks as it escapes through these tread voids.

In comparison, the Falken Wildpeak AT3w does not offers good enough space for mud to pass through, and even though the tire has good tread depth, it’s closed up shoulder blocks does not allow mud to escape sideways, and so the tire get packed quicker, comparatively.

Sand Traction

Sand traction depends on tire’s weight, tread’s footprint, and sidewalls (in case of A/T tires).

Now although the Falken Wildpeak AT3w is lighter in weight, the tire is not able to outperform it’s competitor. But why is that? Well, first, it’s light sure, but it’s not too light (as it has 2 thick layers of polyamide running around the bead).

Second, the tire’s shoulder blocks are not properly staggered and they make sharp saw toothed edges which dig in the sand, and you don’t want that on sandy terrains.

Third, it’s sidewall lugs are although good enough, they are not bulkier in comparison, so Nitto Ridge Grappler provides larger footprint when you pressure down the tire, which naturally provides it with more grip.

Traction on Rocks

On rocks, Nitto Ridge Grappler is a champion. It’s has all the key ingredients to make it one of the best on this terrain.

It’s construction is very powerful so you don’t worry about sidewalls getting punctured. It’s thicker lugs add to protection as well, but along with that they also provide better biters (when you run the tire with lower PSI).

And of course, with such aggressive design, you get more biting edges in the middle (with triangular blocks).

The Falken Wildpeak AT3w although is not as good, is not bad either, the tire has sidewall protection too (with 2 polyamide layers). And it provides U shaped lugs which provide lowered pressure traction. And it’s biters are also enough to grip in all directions.

The only thing missing on this tire however, are stone ejectors, which could have improved it’s performance on gravel and dirt filled roads too.

To Sum Up

Overall, both tires are simply great, but there are few key areas where both shine separately. The Wildpeak is great on 3 things in comparison, wear, winter and wet (that means, the 3 w in it’s name, would meet your expectations).

But where the tire is so good on highways, it compromises a little off road, and that where Nitto Ridge Grappler comes in, so it handles rugged terrains with better efficiency, though it should have been rated with 3 peak mountain snowflake rating like the Falken AT3w.

2 thoughts on “Nitto Ridge Grappler vs Falken Wildpeak AT3w”

  1. The best evaluation, seemingly objective, that I have seen on these two tires. I have had wild peaks for years and really just want to try something different. A friend has the nittos has been a repeat prior of them for years. I do a lot more highway driving and probably twice the miles per year as my friend. Is uses more local and a lot more off-road, job site and gravel. I will stick with the wild peaks!

    Reply

Leave a Comment