BE­YOND EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

WE BEAT NITTO’S NEW RIDGE GRAP­PLER TO WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS LIFE.

4 x 4 Australia - - Gear -

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

A REA­SON­ABLY TIGHT TREAD PAT­TERN MEANS THEY DON’T DRONE LIKE THE OLD MUD­DIES

into life. 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 hill­climbs. 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.

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