IT’S NOT too often I get thrown a set of tyres and told “these are the only set in the country, so don’t stuff them”.
Especially not when it’s backed up by “but we really want to know how they perform, so don’t hold back”. What’s a bloke to do? Well, I figured I’d go right on and ignore the first part – I never was much for doing as I’m told.
Nitto’s calling its new Ridge Grappler a ‘hybrid’, a combination of the best parts of a muddy mixed with the best parts of an all-terrain. With the Ranger punching out a hair less than 45,000km in its first year, doing everything from the Telegraph Track to the Snowy Mountains, Nitto figured it’d make the perfect test platform for the new offering in extreme situations. And with my better-half using it Monday to Friday to ferry the tin-lids to school, it’d show any flaws for daily driving. Things like road noise, tyre life, wet bitumen performance and ability to impress my friends are all easily tested.
So how do they perform? They’ve only been on for a hair over 2000km, so it’s still early days. That said, I have had the opportunity to beat on them like they cheated in a backroom poker game, and then had the audacity to call me ‘yella’. The first things I noticed after installing them was all the usual touring stuff: they have a reasonably tight tread pattern, which means they don’t drone like the old muddies at anything more than 50km/h; they grip damn well in the wet and the dry; and giving the Ranger’s tuned engine a boot-full of anger no longer results in a P-plate-esque tyre chirp before it lurches into life.
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There’s minimal tyre vibration, with only a small amount coming into play when the speedo needle touches 90km/h, and that’s most likely due to the fact I’ve got the Ridge Grapplers wrapped around beadlocked wheels on each corner. I’ve even given them a few ‘emergency brake tests’ with the Ranger pulling up straight and quickly each time. No barking of the tyres and no drifting sideways as the tread blocks scrabble for traction.
But this is 4X4 Australia gosh darnit, and that’s how these tyres deserve to be tested. With a couple of weeks before my next big off-road trip I figured I better tackle a varied 4x4 route that’ll see me pick up all sorts of terrain, from slippery mud, corrugations, slick sandstone rock ledges and articulation-inducing hill-climbs. I also didn’t want to spend my Tuesday sitting at a desk.
With pressures dropped to a moderate 20psi on each corner it was almost point and shoot through all terrain, forward progress only halting when I’d cock a corner in the air like an overly hydrated cocker spaniel. Even good tyres can’t beat physics, right? The ‘alternating shoulder grooves’ seemed to perform well, spitting whatever refuse I’d managed to jam in them clean out with a quick blip of the throttle. I haven’t had a chance to test them in thick Victorian mud yet, but give me a couple of months.
The stone ejectors held up their end of the bargain; each new revolution forcing out any stones I’d collected on the previous. I have noticed light damage on the leading edge on the rear tyres; it’s almost as if someone intentionally ran at higher pressures and pushed it up rock ledges in 2WD just to see what it’d take to get the new Grapplers to break traction. But that wasn’t me, I was told to take care of them.
SIZES TO COME
Nitto tells me they’ll be available in a range of sizes, but I shoehorned a set of 285/70R17s in the Ranger’s guards.
Wear can’t be gauged until well into five-digit-km figures, but so far, performance is more than up to the task.
AVAILABLE FROM: www.nittotyre.com.au
WE SAY: A serious do-it-all tyre with race-proven design.