We had a unique opportunity to spend a couple of days testing the full line of Nitto Grappler truck tires with some of the Nitto team which also included a very accomplished off-road racer named Joe Bacal.
We arrived at the track, signed our release forms and then went over the rules. We were to have two people in each Jeep and would switch seats after each round. Basically going from the passenger to the driver, then going to the next vehicle as the passenger and so on. We all had score cards for each tire and talked with our other occupant about how the tire was performing throughout each test.
Here is how the test/course was set-up.
The Nitto Grappler line of tire includes The Dura Grappler, Terra Grappler, Dune Grappler, Trail Grappler and Mud Grappler. Joe and the team had a course set up for us at Speedworld with 5 identical Jeeps with Jeep having a different set of Grappler Tires. We had a big rain storm the day before our test so we were definitely going to be able to test the tires in OFF-ROAD
conditions. They also had a water truck which would spray water on parts of the course between runs to try to keep the track in the same condition throughout all the runs. I was lucky enough to get to sit in the passenger seat the first time through the course with Joe driving. We had all the other Jeeps follow in a line as he talked them through each obstacle along the way using two-way radios.
The first test was a road course of about five miles around the track grounds which included some highway driving. The object behind the road course was to pay close attention to the handling and amount of road noise from each tire.
After completing the road part of the course we lined up at the base of a steep hill that had a large pool of mud and water at the bottom. The idea was to get across the mud and stop at the start of the hill and to then judge the traction of each tire going up the hill in wet conditions.
Next we went to an area that had a 45 degree camber. Here we tried to stay on the side of the hill without sliding down the slope. Joe said to think of the bottom of the slope as being a straight drop off to impress on us how important it was to stay on the hill.
Now on to a high speed lane change scenario. The Nitto team set up two barricade drums that were about 100 yards from the starting line. The objective was to floor it on command straight towards the barricades until you were about 15 feet from hitting them, turn hard right around the barrels, then back hard left around the cone set up, and back to the center position.
The last test was a muddy slalom course. They had set up some poles with flags on them to go through to see how the tires handled in deep sloppy mud.
***Note: Each test was performed in 2WD
After our one time through with Joe leading the way we were off on our own with Joe watching and giving us guidance over the radio. What a blast to be able to ride with Pro racer Joe Bacal to get a feel for the course.
We had 6 different categories to test that included:
The most surprising tire from our test (IMO) was the Nitto Dura Grappler. I thought it would have been the worst when it came to off-road traction but I would say it was the overall
winner. This is a fantastic tire. It is quiet, handles very well and is amazing in all terrain. The one area it struggled was in the deep mud but that is understandable as it is designed primarily as a highway tire with some light off-road capabilities.
The Terra Grappler was another outstanding tire across all the categories. The road noise was minimal and it handled extremely well in all types of terrain. It did a good job on both wet and dry traction. If you drove slow enough on the side hill it would hold the line well.
The Dune Grappler was a tire that was definitely out of its element but it was fun to be able to see the difference in how the actual tire worked. The ride was excellent as was the handling on dry terrain but the tires had no side bite when it came to the camber test. They also suffered in the mud which was expected. The Dune Grappler is designed for dry desert/sand terrain.
On to the Trail Grappler. This tire was louder on dry pavement than the other tires but again this is part of the design as it is a more aggressive trail tire. From all the trail tires I've driven on, the Trail Grappler is one of the quietest. This model had very good side bite and the traction was excellent with our muddy track conditions. It would sling mud with the best of them.
On to the big bad Mud Grappler. The track was made for this tire although the road section hurt the overall performance. It is not that the tire did not handle well it was just that it was the loudest of all the tires on pavement. It also took a bit more effort to control the vehicle. When it came to the dirt and mud sections of the course the Mud Grapples was right at home. It breezed through the hill climb and stayed straight on the side hill with the very aggressive sidewall design. In the slalom section of the course the mud was flying everywhere. I would not have wanted to be behind the vehicle in those conditions.
This was an excellent opportunity for us to be able to have a hands on training exercise so we can tell our customers how the tires handled in real world conditions. This was not a scientific test but rather a way for Discount Tire Direct and Nitto tire to partner together and help our staff understanding how each tire works.
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