SWISS ARMY KNIFE OF ALL-TERRAIN TIRES
Like a tool for every occasion, ready at a moments notice, the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W were asked to be an instant performer through constantly changing weather and terrain.
It was early April and spring was in the air, just not here. The temperature hovered around 0°C, unpredictably dancing and dipping above and below the freezing point, while under pregnant, moisture laden grey skies, we began our journey into the mountains to test tires. Within ten minutes we could barely see.
3W stands for wear, wet and winter. It seems the Falken engineers were
targeting northern climates with this tire. All-terrain (A/T) tires are designed to be the daily driver for off-road trucks and SUV’s, perfect for the weekend warriors and the guys on job sites where traction in loose rock, sand, snow and mud is just as important as good road manners on dry and wet pavement. The M&S rating gets you through the winter on these tires, unfortunately this four season driving also
means you rack up a lot of kilometres. We need traction and a tire that wears well to protect our pocket book. Can we really have it all?
If you are into off-road racing, including events like King of the Hammers, you’ll recognize the Falken Wildpeak A/T name as it won the 2012 KOH Everyman on a buggy. The Falken engineers were determined to provide
everyman (you and me) with similar offroad prowess in a tire that we can drive every day and everywhere.
The folks at Falken seem to think they have it nailed. Some of the tires’ features are going to sound familiar - and they should. These are A/T tire design features that are proven to work. An aggressive upper sidewall and staggered, offset shoulder blocks protect the sidewall from rocks and curb damage, and provide extra traction while aired down, clawing out of ruts or climbing said curb. The silica tread compound reduces rolling resistance and improves traction on ice and wet surfaces, as does the angulated siping. The siping provides suction to the pavement and the angles provide stability to the tread block to reduce the wear that cutting sipes creates. It’s important to note that the LT tires don’t have the same silica compound as the other tire sizes. It decreases the wet performance of the LT, but enhances the durability.
Speaking of tread blocks, the spaces between the blocks are a mixed blessing. Movement of the blocks on pavement reduces handling but we need them for traction off-road to claw through dirt and mud, and we need them to clear themselves of the debris every rotation so they continue to work. Steps like a Mayan pyramid are built into the sides of some of the A/T3W blocks, helping to eject material, stiffen the block, while keeping a large opening to grab ground on every rotation.
Falken engineers also spent some time and money on the A/T3W sidewalls, specifically close to the bead. Internally, they built a secondary bead apex to reinforce the sidewall. This makes the tire tougher in this area and it acts as a heat shield. This has a net effect of improved durability and handling. Additional cooling comes from their heat diffuser technology, located externally in the same section of the lower sidewall. Keeping the tire cooler provides more stability, especially when carrying a payload or towing heavy loads.
LT tire sizes have the deepest tread in the segment at 10/16” so you get the most consistent performance throughout the life of the tire. They back the tire up with an 89,000km (55,000 mi) limited tread life warranty.
Our test tires are LT285/75R17 E/10, weighing in at 29.5 kg (65 lb) a piece, and wrapped around a set of Deegan 38 Pro 2, 17x9 wheels on our 2015 Wrangler JK Unlimited Sahara with a Teraflex 3” lift.
Early April in the Okanagan is usually a warm pleasant affair with flocks of tourists arriving for Easter vacation. This year, especially at higher elevations, it was a crap storm of fog, rain, sleet and snow, capping off an unusually high and deadly accident season on the upper highways.
With the tires mounted, we set out to test Falken’s claims.
We had a couple weeks on dry pavement and the tires held the road well and were on the quiet side for A/T tires. Cornering was solid and controlled and braking distance and time uncompromised. The ‘ugly’ weather test day provided a lovely combination of rain and wet snow. Cornering on winding, wet mountain roads felt the same as dry
pavement, and they performed reliably up to our max test speed of 100 kph. A stock 3.6L Pentastar is never going to be a drag racer, nevertheless, the tires didn’t slip when I mashed the skinny pedal to the floor from a dead stop in 2WD. Checking the rear-view mirror and finding no one behind me, I said a short prayer and slammed on the brakes from 80 kph. The ABS did not kick in and the truck came to a fast complete stop travelling in a straight line. Bonus.
We continued to climb heading up to Big White Ski Resort. With the hill still open, and the snow pack at record highs, I knew we would find snow. I owned a ski and board shop for more than a decade. I spent 16 years driving 4x4’s into these mountains to ski roughly 40
days a season, the last four as a volunteer ski patrol. In all humility, I’m not shy about driving a truck fast on snow - with good tires. Four-wheel drifting through corners on the way up the mountain was the warm-up to an adrenalin-packed day of skiing and boarding.
The Falken A/T3W are good, almost take-the-fun-out of-driving-on-snow good. Traction is solid and the treads cleared the wet snow very well. The staggered sidewalls provided extra traction to side-climb snow banks, proving that there is no rut you can’t get out of.
Days later we spotted some massive piles of broken concrete, gravel and rock at an 'unsupervised' construction site, and decided these hard, harsh, sharpedged stone pieces would provide a great durability test and a real loose rock traction test. And since it was in town, if we blew a couple tires at once, the towing charges wouldn’t be too bad. While it wasn’t as fun as driving trails, it did show with certainty how tough the tires are, and how good the traction is.
The Bottom Line
We tested the LT version of the A/T3W tires, which forego silica in the compound to improve durability given the extra load and harsher driving terrain in which they are used. If you plan on lighter use, and want even better wet road and snow/ice handling, get the non-LT version of this tire.
As a caveat, a designated mud tire like the Yokohama M/T G003 will be a better mud terrain tire, and a dedicated winter-only tire will be better on ice. But specialization means you have to make comprises in all other areas of tire performance, making them less desirable on a daily driver and weekend adventure vehicle.
The Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain A/ T3W proved to be a great performer in snow, wet and dry pavement, mud, sand and loose rock. This is a tire everyone can enjoy everyday and everywhere, in all conditions. It’s a hero tire you can count on when the going gets tough, which makes it a top choice for a 4x4 tire.
An aggressive upper sidewall protects the tire and helps you clear ruts.
Consistent traction in mud.
Siping improves wet traction and the angles stabilize the tread block to reduce wear.
Where do you go for steep hills and snow? A ski resort, of course.
Dare we say Pyramid Power? Steps clear mud, snow and debris.
We tested traction and durability in gravel and broken concrete..
Visibility going to zero in the rain, wet snow and fog.
Deep tread depth provide traction and longevity.