BEYOND EXPECTATIONS

WE BEAT NITTOíS NEW RIDGE GRAPPLER TO WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS LIFE.

WORDS AND PHOTOS DAN EVERETT

SIZES TO COME

Nitto tells me theyíll be available in a range of sizes, but I shoehorned a set of 285/70R17s in the Rangerís guards.

ITíS NOT too often I get thrown a set of tyres and told ďthese are the only set in the country, so donít stuff themĒ. Especially not when itís backed up by ďbut we really want to know how they perform, so donít hold backĒ. Whatís a bloke to do? Well, I figured Iíd go right on and ignore the first part Ė I never was much for doing as Iím told.

Nittoís calling its new Ridge Grappler a Ďhybridí, 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 itíd 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, itíd 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? Theyíve only been on for a hair over 2000km, so itís 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 Ďyellaí. The first things I noticed after installing them was all the usual touring stuff: they have a reasonably tight tread pattern, which means they donít drone like the old muddies at anything more than 50km/h; they grip damn well in the wet and the dry; and giving the Rangerís tuned engine a boot-full of anger no longer results in a P-plate-esque tyre chirp before it lurches into life. Thereís minimal tyre vibration, with only a small amount coming into play when the speedo needle touches 90km/h, and thatís most likely due to the fact Iíve got the Ridge Grapplers wrapped around beadlocked wheels on each corner. Iíve even given them a few Ďemergency brake testsí 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 thatís 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 thatíll see me pick up all sorts of terrain, from slippery mud, corrugations, slick sandstone rock ledges and articulation-inducing hill-climbs. I also didnít 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 Iíd cock a corner in the air like an overly hydrated cocker spaniel. Even good tyres canít beat physics, right? The Ďalternating shoulder groovesí seemed to perform well, spitting whatever refuse Iíd managed to jam in them clean out with a quick blip of the throttle. I havenít 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 Iíd collected on the previous. I have noticed light damage on the leading edge on the rear tyres; itís almost as if someone intentionally ran at higher pressures and pushed it up rock ledges in 2WD just to see what itíd take to get the new Grapplers to break traction. But that wasnít me, I was told to take care of them.

A REASONABLY TIGHT TREAD PATTERN MEANS THEY DONíT DRONE LIKE THE OLD MUDDIES

RATED

AVAILABLE FROM: www.nittotyre.com.au RRP: POA WE SAY: A serious do-it-all tyre with race-proven design.

EARLY RATING

Wear canít be gauged until well into five-digit-km figures, but so far, performance is more than up to the task.