When I picked up the 4X4 Australia Ranger in Melbourne for our impending Tassie adventure, it had been fitted with a new set of Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar muddies, which was reassuring since I was expecting to encounter a fair bit of mud in the island state.
The Wrangler MT/R Kevlars are the same LT285/70R17 size as the Maxxis RAZRs that were fitted previously, those tyres having done a tough stint on the Ranger on its 2019 trip through the Flinders Ranges.
Mounted to the Ranger’s good-looking KMC XD Addict 2 alloy rims, the new MT/Rs certainly look the part thanks to their aggressive open-block tread pattern that wraps around on the sidewalls. The MT/Rs also feature a somewhat unique asymmetric tread design, which Goodyear claims benefits both “aggressive traction” when driving off-road and “superb handling” when driving on-road.
My first taste of the MT/Rs was on dry roads, firstly commuting through Melbourne and then, once off the Spirit of Tasmania I, on the highway from Devonport down to Longford. This leisurely cruise on the highway, with a freeway section thrown in, didn’t yield much information when it comes to on-road grip, steering and braking, but it did highlight the noise generated by the MT/Rs which, while not excessive, seemed more noticeable than some other new muddies we’ve tested before. Sure, muddies generally get louder with age when the edges of the tread blocks start to flare, but the MT/Rs were too new exhibit this type of wear.
The next day I got to sample the MT/Rs on wet bitumen and gravel roads, and Goodyear has obviously gone to great lengths to ensure they perform well in such conditions with their unusual asymmetric tread pattern. There are few sipes on the inside tread blocks, which are chunky items spaced far apart, no doubt aimed at gaining purchase in slippery off-road conditions, as well as quickly clearing away mud. And while the outer half of the tread pattern is also quite chunky, there’s an obvious longitudinal channel and a lot more siping in the tread blocks, clearly aimed at maximising water dispersion when driving on wet roads. Just look at the overall tread pattern and it’s quite clear to see what the Goodyear engineers have tried to achieve with this asymmetric design: a combination of off-road grip and on-road performance.
The tread compound is also important when it comes to on-road grip, especially in wet conditions, and while the use of silica in tyre compounds is nothing new, it’s the blend that dictates how a tyre performs in terms of rolling resistance and grip. In the MT/R, Goodyear claims to have come up with a special blend it imaginatively calls ‘Advanced Silica Compound’ that’s claimed to enhance off-road traction and wet on-road grip. Wet-road performance certainly proved impressive, with good steering feel in sketchy conditions, plenty of grip and strong braking performance.
Tassie provided an opportunity to test the MT/Rs in a wide variety of conditions including gravel, undulating rocky tracks, high-country hills, muddy sections, hard-packed sand and, on the West Coast, what the locals call quicksand. I ran 35psi on the road and dropped pressures once off the blacktop, down to 28psi on gravel roads, to 23psi on gnarly off-road tracks and as low as 16 to 13psi on super-soft sand.
Project Ranger: Tasmania adventure
The MT/Rs did not disappoint, offering good traction no matter the surface. They also copped a pounding on some of the narrower tracks we encountered, with tree roots and rocks attacking the sidewalls at every opportunity but inflicting no visible damage – not even a scratch. As well as traction ridges that see the tread pattern continue over to the sidewall, the MT/R has a Kevlar reinforced sidewall construction, which proved impervious to damage despite my sometime wayward off-road driving that saw me occasionally brush up against rocks and other obstacles.
When lowering tyre pressures for soft sand driving, the MT/Rs didn’t ‘bag-out’ too much in the sidewalls, even at 13psi when recovering one of the other vehicles on our Tassie adventure.
Tassie is only a small state and, so far, we have only put around 3000km on the MT/Rs, but there’s plenty more off-road work ahead for these muddies.
Available from: www.goodyear.com.au
RRP: $499 ea
We Say: Strong performance on and off the road, albeit a little noisy.