It's not often one of the biggest names in off-road tyres releases a new product, so when it happens it is big news.
BFGoodrich has been the tyre of choice for Dakar, Baja and Finke race-winners for decades and is one of the most popular brands chosen by recreational four-wheel drivers. Whether it’s its popular All Terrain or Mud Terrain tyres, BFG has an enviable reputation in the Australian off-road market and around the world.
It’s been 12 years since the fourth generation of BFG Muddies, the KM2, was launched, and pre-production prototypes of the KM3 have been spotted around the world and at off-road races for more than 12 months. The production version has finally landed, and BFG chose to do its global launch for the new KM3 right here in Australia, at Victoria’s High Country.
BFG has taken the knowledge gained from years of experience at the highest levels of off-road racing – with a display case full of winners’ trophies to prove it – and applied it to this latest Mud Terrain tyre.
“We designed this tyre for extreme toughness and traction,” said BFG’s global general manager, Harold Phillips, who was in Australia for the launch. “Whether building for off-road fun or for extreme capability to reach outdoor activities, this tyre was made to take drivers anywhere they want to go.”
Just because it’s called a Mud Terrain tyre doesn’t mean it’s only good for muddy tracks. Which is just as well, as the High Country in April was dry as a bone with barely a bog to be found.
Mud tyres remain the choice for outback travellers due to their heavy duty construction, excellent traction and ability to disperse stones and mud from the tread face. It’s these qualities that BFG has built on in creating the KM3, using Baja-proven design and technology.
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The KM3 uses an extra ply in its ‘CoreGard Max’ sidewalls, to make them more resistant to cut and punctures through the side. This is taken straight from its KR3 off-road racing tyres, as used by Dakar and Baja champions.
BFG claims the new KM3s are 27 per cent tougher in the sidewalls than the KM2s they are replacing, helped in part by an extra layer of reinforcement around where the tread meets the sidewall. This notched shoulder design also aids traction in soft dirt and mud.
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Overall traction is improved thanks to a new rubber compound BFG calls Krawl-TEK; funnily enough taken from its Krawler T/A KX tyres that aren’t offered in Australia. Again, motorsport experience was influential in the technology behind the tread compound, as the Krawler T/A has been the winning tyre in Ultra 4 and King of The Hammers competitions.
As you would expect of a muddy, the tread pattern is open and chunky. The pattern of the tread blocks is designed to bite into the terrain no matter what angle you’re attacking it from, which is particularly useful on the front axle when you have some steering lock on.
Ridges in between the tread blocks near the shoulder prevent any mud, crud or rocks from getting lodged in there, and any debris is ejected at the next rotation of the tyre. BFG claims the KM3 has five per cent better traction in mud than the KM2.
Linear flex zones in the tread face allow the KM3 to contort and grip rocks and obstacles when running low tyre pressures in more extreme off-road driving, especially when real low and mounted on bead-locked wheels.
ON THE TRACKS
It might not have been muddy, but the High Country provided a great testing ground for the KM3.
Steep, rocky climbs, rutted tracks and patches of wet clay put the tyre through its paces in terrain any Aussie four-wheeler would be familiar with. It also gave the international journalists on the launch a snapshot of some of our best bush country.
On road the KM3 was quiet for a mud terrain tyre, but these were all near-new and we all know muddies get noisier as they wear. The folks at BFG say the BFG is no noisier than the KM2 but wouldn’t claim they are any quieter either.
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We couldn’t really comment on the on-road grip and performance, as most of the drive was on gravel or off-road (and that suited us just fine). You don’t buy mud terrains for their on-road performance, and anyone fitting a muddy has to expect characteristics that are noisier and less grippy on-road than an all-terrain or other less aggressive tyre. That’s simply the price you pay for better off-road performance.
Most importantly the BFG KM3 didn’t let us down. Of the dozen or so 4x4s lined up for the two-day High Country drive, no punctures were reported and no-one got stuck on the tracks, in a river or off-road.
BFGoodrich’s new KM3 Mud Terrain tyres will be available in stores come June, initially in 25 popular sizes to cover most tyre needs. By the end of 2019 the KM3 range will expand to 38 sizes to fit wheel rims from 16- to 20-inch diameter. We look forward to testing them on some true outback tracks in the very near future.
SMALL BUT TOUGH
BFGoodrich has a strong following in the UTV/side-by-side market, where its Baja KR2 offering is a race-winner. The brand has now brought the KM3 Mud Terrain tyre to this segment, making it available in three sizes to suit the popular vehicles used for both race and recreational use.
We were able to sample the UTV KM3s on a test track in a Yamaha YXZ1000R, but our limited abilities in this style of vehicle were hardly enough to put them to the test.
The real revelation came alongside Polaris UTV racer Simon Evans as he carved up the berms and blasted around the track in his race-spec RZR. Simon commented that the new tyres are certainly a step up on what he’s been racing on in the past and will give him an advantage in the races ahead.