tyre test - goodyear wrangler mt/r
When Land Rover wants to really show what its vehicles are capable of, there's one tyre they turn to first. We take a look at the Goodyear's Wrangler MT/R
On the face of it, a grassy slope doesn't look much of an obstacle. In fact it couldn't look much less threatening, angled at maybe 20 degrees, dotted with shrubs. Having just spent the morning bumping and grinding through some awesome rutted tracks, this slope separated our Land Rover group from a welcome lunch. I decided to nip up and steal a march on everybody else. Ten seconds later, I was left pondering the wisdom of that decision.
Despite being able to clamber rocks, negotiate streams, and belly its way through deep ruts, the Range Rover Sport I was driving was completely defeated by this wet grass. I tried all different settings on the car's clever Terrain Response system, but as hard as the car tried, it could only work within the constraints of its tyres and the road-biased rubber fitted could handle all the tasks asked of it that day but didn't have the chops to tackle wet grass.
If we'd have encountered thick mud, we'd have faced a similar result, but unseasonable rain had washed much of Eastnor's notorious mud down to bedrock so the road tyres had shone. Yet it isn't wading or rock climbing that most typical 4x4 owners ask of their cars when they do take them off road. Instead, they want to be able to negotiate a muddy field, possibly with a trailer or horse box in tow, and for these seemingly innocuous tasks it pays dividends to come equipped with the right equipment. In order to demonstrate what the right equipment is, Land Rover had on hand a set of cars equipped with the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tyre.
If you've got a mental picture of coarse tread blocks and a noisy ride, think again. The Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs are atypical of the standard fit tyres you'll find on most large 4x4 vehicles because they're specifically designed for the latest generation of sport-biased models such as the Range Rover Sport where demanding customers not only want off-road ability but will also reject a tyre that's too noisy on road or which squirms uncomfortably on its tread blocks when pitched into a corner.
When designing the WranglerMT/R, Goodyear identified four key surfaces on which the tyre had to perform before being signed off. To cope with rock climbing, the Wrangler uses a radical sidewall concept called DURAWALL. Although it's not quite as obvious on the low-profile 19-inch tyre as on a more bulbous 16-inch example, DURAWALL takes the construction elements of the tread area of the tyre and wraps them around onto the sidewall. Including a healthy amount of polyester and hybrid Silica compound helps to offer more tear strength and wear resistance yet still retain some flex in the sidewall. It also reduces puncture likelihood by 35% compared to the MT/R's predecessor, the Wrangler M/T. It's easy to catch a flat while driving in rugged, flinty terrain and any thing that can offset this likelihood will be welcomed by off-road drivers.
Driving in mud is an inescapable part of off-roading in the UK and the Wrangler M/TR features deep notches in the recessed shoulders and pronounced radial cuts to really get a bite on mud. The wide tread crown also retains excellent grip when out of ruts. What's good for mud is often good for snow as well and Goodyear has engineered tapered grooves to prevent snow being compacted into the tread pattern.
We drove some sections on the standard fit Continental road-biased tyres and then repeated them with the Wranglers. Switching to the Goodyears was illuminating. The incidences of traction losses were instantly reduced and the Sport was able to crawl up slopes that would have required a run up and hope with the less aggressive rubber. The only area where the Goodyear's weren't markedly better was when trying to climb a polished limestone face where they were just putting less rubber onto the surface than the Continentals. Everywhere else they were markedly superior and the slightly larger rolling radius of even gave a few precious millimetres of additional ground clearance with which to tackle the deepest ruts.
The best indication as to the Goodyear's superiority came on a downhill slope that threaded its way between mature saplings that the Eastnor veterans dub the Slip'n'Slide. On its standard tyres, the Sport slid down here almost sideways, the front tyres unable to generate enough grip to negotiate the left turn onto the slope, with the whole car just letting go laterally. I had no desire to repeat this but was assured that the Goodyears would be rather different. There was still a little bit of yawing but the Wranglers got enough grip to get the front end of the Range Rover pointing downhill which was half the battle won.
The real clincher came on the road routes back to our accommodation. On excellent country roads, we were able to push the Sport quite hard but Goodyear have paid great attention to fitting irregular-sized tread blocks so that the tyre doesn't set up quite the same harmonic singing noise as most other off-road tyres. Tarmac grip was probably 85% of what you'd expect with the Continental tyre, which is a fair return given that the Wrangler's off-road performance is superior by a way bigger margin. Most drivers of 4x4s with 19-inch alloys will never venture off road. If you do, arm yourself accordingly. It's pointless spending £50,000 on a high-tech 4x4 and then hobbling it by scrimping on the final couple of per cent when it comes to tyres.