While its reputation might not be on par with classic models from BFGoodrich, Cooper, or Bridgestone, Nitto Nomad Grappler is a pleasant surprise regardless in terms of real-life performance. Its innovative combinations of variable pitches, tapered blocks, and optimized contact patches have reportedly increased traction maintenance to an incredible extent – a matter we aimed to confirm through our annual tire test.
Scroll for full reports in the following tire review.
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Nitto Nomad Grappler Specifications & Features
Nomad Grappler is developed for pickup trucks, Jeeps, SUVs, and CUVs that mostly travel on-road with occasional off-road ventures. It focuses on wet, dry, loose, and snow surfaces (enough to grant a 3PMSF symbol) through the following features:
- The balanced tread compounds (symmetrically molded), broad patches, and interlocking blocks of tapered edges create more bites on dry surfaces.
- Variable pitch tread patterns with slight size differences minimize tread noises and enhance on-road riding comfort.
- Wide circumferential and lateral grooves evacuate water to resist hydroplaning in wet conditions.
- Triangular sipes inside tread blocks produce traction for wet, ice, and light snow roads.
- Two-ply polyester casings and double steel belts (wrapped with nylon ply) promote high-speed manners and durability.
Nitto Nomad Grappler Review & Performance Test Results
As part of the annual 2023 COR Wheels Tire Test, the Nitto Nomad Grappler (245/65R17 tire size version) was installed on the 2017 Ford Explorer across on- and off-road terrains.
1. Dry Performance: 9.2/10
Dry Traction: 9.5/10
The contact patch between Grappler and the road settled in startlingly fast, establishing contact points with impressive confidence that left little room for hesitant steering.
Each 40-MPH strike was carried out breezily on paved and less well-paved roads alike while veering in decisive cuts around roadblocks, encouraging us to rev to 55, 65, and 75 MPH, respectively along the way. No stutters or delays (often seen in abrupt accelerations) could be spotted throughout the entire process, if not growing even more solid as we moved from regular roads to highways.
On highway lanes, drifting symptoms were barely there (if they did emerge, Grappler trampled them down quickly with its strong sidewalls), and the on-center ribs did not once show its hesitancy through lane merges. Long, wide-spaced curves could not wear down the footprint as we often see in on-road AT tires, allowing you to balance adventurous handling with safe margins at higher speed limits.
There was hardly any real downside to mention. Some of our members did wish for a slightly stronger recovery upon steep ascents, but the muted feeling vanished so quickly that we hardly considered it a bother.
Corner Stability: 9.2/10
Nomad Grappler impressed us with its very solid confidence around corners. Its on-center rib did a spectacular job on straight-line endeavors and continued to carry most of its edges here, adapting to speed changes excellently while keeping slippage at a minimum. Intentional oversteer and closely aligned liners also came out much nicer than most Nitto tires, ensuring each thud landed exactly where it was supposed to.
Better yet, you will unlikely have to worry about the tire’s cornering behaviors during sudden speed increases. Our experiments with 3-second revs from 40 to 70 MPH ended themselves uneventfully at the exit, supported by consistent momentums that were instantly established right from the very first moment.
Cargos beyond 500 lbs did admittedly result in more drags under the patch than expected. But other than that, towing tasks rarely had any real impact on Grappler’s cornering manners.
Steering Response: 9/10
Nomad Grappler checked all the basic criteria boxes regarding punctuality and sharpness, while also exceeding the market’s average by introducing high levels of flexibility in critical situations (e.g., 180-degree turns to avoid oncoming vehicles). As such, regardless of steering input, the feedback mostly fell right within the lines, paving the way for accurate predictions of how the tire would navigate and react on certain rough texture patches.
Even better, unlike most rivals, Grappler’s steering did not change itself much upon speed fluctuations. You will find the feedback to deliver more or less within the same margin whether the car travels at 30 or 50 MPH; long delays were also very few and far between.
2. Wet Performance: 9.2/10
Wet Traction: 9.1/10
Most Nitto tires pay much more attention to dry performances than wet; not Nomad Grappler, however. We could still detect a slight difference compared to dry tests, evident in the way Grappler choked up on slippery corners and across steep descents. But other than that, it was hard to spot any traction reduction in basic driving situations: Nomad gripped the road, veered around blocks, and refilled drifting symptoms at relatively the same pacing, leaving little room for panics or jostles.
Even deep, stagnant water could barely put a real damper on your momentum. After a few initial shakes that merely lasted for a few seconds, the tire composed itself right away and worked the grooves deeply into the road textures, straightening up our car down to the final destination in breezy, seamless movements.
You might prefer a bit more wet refinement with cargos beyond 600 lbs, however. But considering that the heavy lag could easily be negotiated by downshifting to 35 MPH, we could still consider this an acceptable trade-off.
Hydroplaning Assistance: 9.3/10
Despite having only two circumferential grooves (contrary to the usual four), Grappler beat most rivals by a long slide in terms of hydroplaning. Even water beyond 7 inches was well-distributed under the contact patch, and chances of intrusive drags inside the grooves and tread blocks were extremely rare. If you have the required physique, navigating flooded highway curves (below 5 inches deep) at 60 MPH without aquaplaning was totally possible.
3. Off-road Performance: 8.2/10
Dirt Traction: 8.4/10
Compared to on-road endeavors, the tire’s plummeting on gravel dirt was rather obvious. Nevertheless, Grappler still managed to play mostly in our favor thanks to the strong triangular sipes and open blocks, which did quite a decent job gumming the tire through predictable clawing actions against thick, sticky dirt packs. High speeds beyond 60 MPH were obviously still out of reach – but with consistent push-pull, maintaining relative confidence at regular driving rates would be totally doable.
The tire’s road manners around corners were not exactly the best, but they gave us enough margin to deal with unexpected chokes and panics regardless. Plus, with ample support from the tire’s even rolls, you will also find it quite a breeze to tow/load cargo below 300 lbs here.
Sand Traction: 8.2/10
Despite several loose-surface features, Grappler still felt a bit weaker on sand than off-road dirt. Fortunately, soft sand particles were still quite easy for it to deal with, judging by how our car filled up traction losses on inconsistent dunes quite quickly. Gradual accelerations also did not choke/startle the vehicle as much as we expected, though we still had to grind down the wheel with slightly more force to avoid dippings at the flanks.
You could carry 200-300 lbs of cargo with 2-3 passengers here. Raising these numbers is still possible, but preferably only when you already have prior experience with these sandy terrains.
Mud Traction: 8.2/10
Nomad Grappler repeated most of its sand capabilities on mud (since both are loose terrains), hence the predictable strikes around the corners and similar stutters on rough patches with inconsistent textures. And like with sand, 200 to 300 lbs remained the safest range to keep heavy drags at bay.
On another note, it would be better if Grappler had better internal composure against wet, thick pits; if the downshifts are not applied on time, you may waste minutes trying to get the stuck car out of these hellholes.
Rock Traction: 8/10
Given the lack of stone ejectors, Grappler actually maintained traction quite well here. Except for obvious slippage on thick riverbeds or rock staircases, light rock trails and mountain passes were totally within the tire’s operation scope. We managed to pull around corners (and even attempted successful oversteer at some points) despite minimal inputs, so traveling on these terrains would be quite a breeze for seasoned and beginner drivers alike.
4. Winter/Snow Performance: 9.2/10
Light Snow Traction: 9.3/10
Grappler was a true delight on light snow, with almost the same confidence as on dry roads. Clawing actions were very aggressive, and recoveries happened impressively fast around corners before our car faced any plummeting risks. Plus, given its on-point composure against colder temperatures, using Grappler as a winter tire is a total possibility.
Deep Snow Traction: 9.1/10
For an on-road AT tire, Grappler’s performance on deep snow is phenomenal. Its tire-road connection did not fade out or grow muted no matter how fast we rode, even becoming twice more reliable when we bound snow chains on the two fronts while reducing cargo to below 200 lbs.
Highways and mountain passes were just as breezy, posing little to no difficulty during lane changes, reversing, or before exits; you will have no problem using this tire for the rest of the winter months.
Ice Performance: 9.2/10
The tire’s sidewalls reacted even better to ice than deep snow, probably because of the triangular sipes with the tread blocks that distribute traction very evenly across the contact patch.
Revving beyond 55 MPH could barely choke up the tire, and cornering attempts at wide corners were so smooth that our team members even managed to attempt extremely low leans near the liners. The tire admittedly grew somewhat burnout through extended zigzag esses, though, but no worries; it still retained enough composure to last our car to the end of the test.
5. Comfort: 8.8/10
Riding Quality: 8.7/10
Grappler’s only weaknesses were off-road endeavors, where the tire struggled to minimize significant thuds over rough textures and bumps. Other than that, any other on-road terrain was a breeze: vibrations occurred few and far between on snow/wet roads and even less on dry asphalts, smoothing out each shudder with a reliable, cushioned feel.
Road Noise: 8.9/10
This Nitto tire easily topped our entire list with excellent noise frequencies. Even with 180-degree correction skids, rough corner dives, and straight-up hard brakings in deep waters, the noises only raised to low-key whispers at best. You might find this all-terrain tire slightly noisier on canyon roads and long highway curves, but the issue could easily be fixed by consistent push-pull and – if possible – aftermarket wheel upgrades.
6. Treadwear and Durability: 8.5/10
This is one of the first on-road AT tires we tested that managed to balance riding comfort and treadwear rates in excellent ratios. It handled temperature extremes (both cold and hot), resisted aquaplaning and sharp debris with ease, and had no trouble relying on the tire flex to compensate for occasional stalls amidst thick gravel and mud.
As a result, Grappler remained unchanged by the end of the test, promising good long-term usage with the help of the generous 60,000-mile warranty.
7. Nitto Nomad Grappler Test Result Highlights
- 2023 Subaru Outback Off Road Tires Test: Ranked 8th out of 10 tires
- 2023 Toyota 4Runner Off Road Tires Test: Ranked 4th out of 10 tires
- 2023 Ford F-150 Off Road Tires Test: Ranked 5th out of 10 tires
Nitto Nomad Grappler Pros & Cons
Exceptional dry performance and steering
Extremely confident on wet surfaces
Excellent handling across both snow and ice roads
All-round off-road manner (no metrics below 8)
Great noise control
Good treadwear rates and warranty
Loose-terrain road manner could still be better
In this Nitto Nomad Grappler tire review, it’s easy to see the tire shined brilliantly on dry, wet, snow, and icy roads, leaving almost no room for traction losses and slippage. Off-road performance capabilities did have room for improvements but still checked the criteria boxes, easily elevating the tire as the second-best on-road AT tire of the entire market.
President & Automotive Expert at COR Wheels
Robert Herrera has been with COR Wheels for 17 years and has a great passion for the automotive industry. During his time at COR Wheels, he has driven and test-driven a variety of vehicles.