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If you’re stuck on the fence between the “I like the practicalities of an all terrain tyre” and the “I’m so hardcore I need the most extreme tyres I can get” camps, then you’re in luck, as there’s a slowly growing segment of tyres that caters for you. Yes, you, sitting there, staring at the screen thinking that you need some sweet new treads for your bus so you can get outside, where you really want to be.
The Nitto Ridge Grapplers entered the scene in 2016 in the US, then finally made it to Australia’s sunny shores in 2018. Nitto have been calling them a “hybrid” tyre, and this is because they take flavours from both the all terrain and the mud terrain segments, and blend them into a package that should suit those who want more, from less.
Taking a look at the tyre, you can see that the shoulder blocks are more widely spaced than an average all terrain tyre, however they’re not as widely spaced as an actual mud terrain, so you’re unlikely to cop as much road noise as you would with a muddy. Whether that’s achieved or not is a big question! The centre blocks of the tyre are more tightly packed like an all terrain, however looser than some street oriented ATs, so another tick for the aggressive side there.
The build of the tyre, so the carcass and the bits that make it up like the belts, compound etc, are all supposed to be more MT inspired. I noticed when selecting these tyres that they actually state on the website how many plies a specific size has, in terms of tread face plies and sidewall. Interestingly, the majority of them have a 10 ply face, however one 47” tyre has an 8 ply face, and some 18” and 20” rim sizes end up with 12 plies.
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Where the number of plies plays more into the comfort of a tyre is in the sidewall, and being able to choose between 2 ply, which is what an AT usually comes with, and 3 ply, which is how MTs usually roll, is a great option. It means you can go with this more aggressive tread pattern, and have the choice between a more comfortable ride, or the possibly reduced likelihood of sidewall punctures on the trail.
I chose the 3 ply sidewall 295/70 R17, which is slightly larger than my usual size (285/70 R17), but only by a small margin. Here’s a snapshot from the Fitment Finder
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What I was keen to see with the Ridge Grapplers was how they would hold up to daily use as a substitute for an all terrain tyre. Would they be sensible enough for my car, which does farm work, family work, renovation work, as well as getting me to and from work, while also offering decent traction off road?
I noticed two things about these tyres as soon as I got them off the back of a truck (it was legit, promise!). The first was that they’re heavier than some of the other tyres I’ve been using recently, and the other was how tacky the tread compound is. It just felt… stickier than much of the rubber I’ve handled recently, and I’ve handled a fair bit of rubber.
On the weight side, I looked it up, and the 295/70 R17 Nitto Ridge Grappler is actually about 6kg heavier than the 285/70 R17 Cooper AT3 XLT tyres that I had on the Ranger recently, with the Ridgey coming in at 30kg vs 24kg for the Cooper. I’m sure this is contributed to by a heavier build and the additional sidewall ply, but I found it interesting that there was such a difference.
One of the first things I noticed when I strapped the tyres on was that they certainly feel a bit heavier through the steering wheel than most of the tyres I’ve tested previously. During day to day driving, you don’t really notice it after getting used to it, but it certainly made the vehicle less responsive when having a go in the twisties. It also had a marginal impact on fuel efficiency over the full test period, but not as much as I thought it would be. It was perhaps half a litre per 100 kilometers, which when the car was already doing 12.5 or so, isn’t much as a percentage, and that’s a price I’m more than willing to pay.
The tread pattern is also quite unique, like many Nitto tyres are, and certainly grabs the eye when they’re on the vehicle.
The next thing I noticed was just how good these tyres are in the wet. Normally when you stick a new set of tyres on a vehicle they have pretty good characteristics for the first couple of hundred k’s, after you’ve rubbed that initial layer off, then the real tyre starts to come out, so I figured it was just the honeymoon period. These things stuck to wet roads like glue for the whole period. Like, better than many of the all terrain tyres I’ve tested up to this point. I could honk it through a wet roundabout like a chain smoking bogan, driving with one hand, and they’d stick. Obviously, if I gave it a blat of the loud pedal it would step out a little, but the sheer road holding in the wet was awesome.
This grip factor held over in the dry as well, making it a little harder to chirp the tyres with the relatively slovenly 3.2 diesel in the Ranger (boring!), but meant it held on well in corners and under simulated emergency turns.
The tyres were also remarkably quiet, right through until the end of the test. I did rotate them once at about 10,500km, but, you know me, they got driven pretty hard. They certainly weren’t whisper quiet, but the only noticeable sound was very low down, and no hint of tread noise, even at lower speeds. They were probably about on par with the average AT tyre I’ve tested, and certainly quieter than some.
In terms of comfort, I’d say they’re about middle of the road. You don’t notice any jarring, but you can still feel lumps and bumps without much additional cushioning from the tyres. Given that they’re three ply tyres, that’s to be expected, and they were certainly more comfortable than mud tyres I’ve had on the car, which is a consideration given that they’re supposed to have some MT characteristics.
I only got a minor chance to test them in snow, and they performed well enough on looser small amounts over gravel on a formed road, however I did try a relatively steep formed road that had a couple of inches of snow on it, and found it was slipping relatively easily. I didn’t want to push things, as it was getting dark, so I chickened out without giving it too much of a red hot go!
On gravel the tyres held well, not drifting too much, nor getting floaty at speeds, and they certainly stopped well, as I had to do another emergency stop on a gravel road. I didn’t feel like the vehicle was skating at all, which was really nice.
Now, onto the most important side of things, the tracks! I can certainly say I was stoked with how they performed off the road as well, allowing me to point and shoot the Ranger, and holding onto dodgy ruts and muddy surfaces well. They gave me absolutely nothing to complain about, which is good.
In terms of their mud evacuating capabilities, they certainly didn’t pack up with mud out at the farm, clearing the tread nicely in a couple of different situations, although you can see with one of the pictures on the right that the centre tread did pack in with mud after one trip, but the shoulder blocks still had nice gripping edges. It’s nothing a little spin wouldn’t clear, but sometimes you just can’t do that on certain trails.
The only other thing I picked up on is that, because the size I got is a three ply sidewall tyre, they don’t back out as much as a regular AT tyre. The pictures of the ute on the beach had tyre pressures at about 16psi, and there wasn’t much obvious bag. It certainly helped on that trip, but a larger footprint at a reasonable PSI would help more in certain situations, depending on where you’re driving. Of course, you could always go lower, but then that increases your risk of debeading if you’re unlucky/doing silly stuff.
As you might be able to tell, I was pretty stoked with these tyres. For day to day use, given that they boast such an aggressive tread pattern, I found them very tractable and easy going, and their wet grip characteristics meant that I certainly didn’t live in fear of wet roundabouts!
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these tyres to anyone looking for a more aggressive all terrain tyre, based on my experience. The only thing I noticed was that perhaps you might get slightly less overall distance out of them, as my back-of-a-beer-coaster maths indicates I would have got around 55,000km out of these tyres. You’d probably get more out of a road oriented all terrain tyre, and less out of a proper mud terrain tyre, so I’d say that’s fair that they sit in the middle. That maths was based on an initial measured tread depth of 12.5mm, a final depth of 11mm, meaning I used 1.5mm over 9218km travelled.
If you’re looking for a tyre that’s going to do it all, from the city to the bush, and do it in style, then it’d be hard to go past the Nitto Ridge Grappler. I can really see why on many of the online forums and groups I’m part of, lots of people are frothing on this tyre, and that’s even led to some inventory shortages at times.
I guess that’s one final consideration for you. They are a great tyre, and they’re in demand, but they’re also priced to suit. They’re a premium tyre that actually backs up that value proposition with some serious capability. I’d consider them. Would you?
Approximate prices (3 stores mystery shopped)
Range (cheapest to most expensive): $325 (267/75 R16) - $679 (37x12.5 R17)
Size tested retail price: $449
This is the last test that will take place fully on the 2017 Ford Ranger XLT. It's been a good bus, but it's time to move on, and up! Keep an eye out for the next AT test bed, coming soon ;)
About Tyre Review's long term reviews
Our long term reviews are conducted by everyday people, using the tyres as they would every day, just with a more critical eye for the individual tyres performance. The long term tests are offered for informational purposes only, and you should always draw your own conclusions for what are the best tyres for you from broad research - read the consumer reviews, read our long term reviews, and check with your tyre shop when actually purchasing the new tyres.