RE­VIEW: FROM 4x4's TO LAMBOS

Con­ti­nen­tal & Gen­eral Tire Push The Lim­its

4WDrive - - Contents - Words and pho­tos by Perry Mack

I COULDN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF THE FLASH­ING LIGHTS OF THE CHRIST­MAS TREE, AND ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS HIS LAST WORDS. "When the last yel­low blinks, punch it be­cause it will take you that long to re­act be­fore it blinks green." I did. Then 500+ hp un­der the hood of the mod­i­fied Mus­tang squawked the tires, pushed me back into the seat, and I white knuck­led the wheel with one hand to keep the car in a straight line shift­ing as fast as I could.

Less than nine sec­onds later it was over - quite a bit shorter than my av­er­age trail ride.

What’s a 4x4 off-road jour­nal­ist do­ing be­hind the wheel of a drag­ster? I ini­tially asked my­self the same thing. I was

in Mirabel, Que­bec at the iCar fa­cil­ity with Gen­eral Tire and par­ent com­pany Con­ti­nen­tal Tire (Conti). Two brands com­mit­ted to the Cana­dian mar­ket and con­fi­dent that the tires they build are the best buy, and the best per­form­ing tires for Cana­di­ans.

I drove through two off-road cour­ses in both F-150’s and Jeep Wran­gler JKU’s test­ing the Gen­eral Grab­ber A/T X against its clos­est com­pe­ti­tion. But I also tested their au­to­mo­tive tires, the Conti PureCon­tact LS, (their pre­mium lux­ury sport all-sea­son tire) and Gen­eral’s GMAX RS (ul­tra high per­for­mance - UHP).

Some of us just have one ve­hi­cle - our 4x4 is our daily com­muter and week­end ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle. How­ever most are at least two ve­hi­cle fam­i­lies, and typ­i­cally the sec­ond ve­hi­cle is a car or CUV, out­fit­ted with more fuel-ef­fi­cient or higher per­for­mance road tires.

Be­fore I get to test re­sults, let me tell you the main rea­son this event was so ex­cep­tional com­pared to oth­ers, it was the lack of con­trol. Not of the tires but the fact that no one told me to slow down while I was be­hind the wheel, and I was be­hind the wheel. Too many tire demos only put you in the pas­sen­ger seat with a pro­fes­sional driver so you can ‘see’ what a tire can do. Oth­ers pre­vent you from go­ing full out, or full stop, in­hibit­ing your abil­ity to test the lim­its of your­self, your ve­hi­cle, and the tire. And rarely do you get the op­por­tu­nity to test the com­peti­tor’s tires on the same day, on the same ve­hi­cle, on the same course, in any or­der.

I was only told to slow down once - at the end of the drag strip so I didn’t hit the wall. Other than that, I drove trucks off-road as I would any day, and Es­calades, Mus­tangs, and even a Lam­borgh­ini as fast as I could - yes, I said Lambo. Once I signed the waiver, Gen­eral and Con­ti­nen­tal Tire were not afraid to let me find the lim­its of their tires.

Per­haps by chance, I started the day in the off-road course. Hills, mud, wa­ter, loose dirt and wash­board, where in F-150’s we pit­ted the Gen­eral Grab­ber A/T X against the BFG T/A K02. In the June 2018 is­sue of

4WDrive (20.3), we tested the out­stand­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion, trac­tion and brak­ing of the Grab­ber’s in British Columbia on our own Ram 1500 in dry, wet and snow cov­ered roads. Now we had an op­por­tu­nity to cross the coun­try and test them in Que­bec head to head against com­peti­tor’s tires, in a dif­fer­ent half-ton, and in more ter­rain.

The Grab­ber A/T X were su­pe­rior to the BFG A/T K02 in the off-road course. The trac­tion in­spired con­fi­dence and the treads con­sis­tently cleared the mud and dirt. I drove slow and even stopped in the mud pit to test mud trac­tion, climbed half­way up dirt in­clines and stopped to test the grip, and flew through the odd wa­ter haz­ard - just be­cause it was le­gal here.

We switched to Wran­gler JKU Sa­hara’s and pit­ted the Grab­ber’s against the Goodyear Wran­gler Du­raTrac on a course that in­cluded off-cam­ber banks, high break-over an­gles, and some ob­sta­cles that took tires off the ground. When the truck is es­sen­tially a rental, the slow grind of the Wran­gler’s rocker panels and un­der body, and the bumper grunt­ing against the earth doesn’t wear on your nerves very much.

In both cour­ses we got in one ve­hi­cle with ei­ther the Grab­ber’s or the com­pe­ti­tion and drove the course. The Grab­ber’s were the bet­ter tire. How much bet­ter was de­pen­dent on the driver and the ob­sta­cle. The com­pet­i­tive tires were good, the A/TX were bet­ter.

Gen­eral Tire’s con­fi­dence in the Grab­ber is well-founded. Over ob­sta­cles and off-road con­di­tions that would make for an epic day on the trails it per­formed flaw­lessly. The only thing hold­ing you back would be the lim­its of your­self or your ve­hi­cle.

In a com­pletely un­nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion, we moved to the drag strip. I am not a drag strip driver. The tach flipped to red­line

as fast as a fin­ger snap and I usu­ally hit the rev lim­iter and lost power in one of the three shifts it took to hit al­most 180 kph. Ev­ery­one per­formed bet­ter with the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion - just take a deep breath, put two hands on the wheel, punch the gas, go straight, stop be­fore the wall. The Gen­eral GMAX RS grabbed those 500+ horses and un­leashed them in a pure heart pound­ing, body crush­ing, fuel in­jected adrenalin rush and just screamed ‘more’!

Let’s bring our tire tale (and heart rate) back into the safe zone, if only for a mo­ment the dry slalom and brak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. We all ex­pect con­trol from a tire. More con­trol means a safer tire in­clud­ing bet­ter odds of ac­ci­dent avoid­ance. Us­ing Es­calades we pit­ted the Con­ti­nen­tal LS against the Miche­lin Premier A/S, and us­ing stock Mus­tangs it was a bat­tle be­tween the GMAX RS and Hankook ven­tus V12 evo2.

It is worth not­ing that I didn’t test drive alone. With an­other jour­nal­ist, we took turns as driver and pas­sen­ger, al­low­ing us two op­por­tu­ni­ties to see how a tire per­formed be­fore we switched to the com­pet­ing tire. Al­low­ing us to com­pare and ex­pe­ri­ence each tire un­der two dif­fer­ent driv­ing styles and two points of view.

The dry course was cre­ated us­ing cones to sim­u­late most of the turn­ing con­di­tions you ex­pe­ri­ence on road - in­clud­ing some haz­ardous ma­noeu­vres like emer­gency lane changes. There were hard turns, sweep­ing turns, three apex turns, rapid chi­canes and hard brak­ing. The G-Max RS have out­stand­ing cor­ner­ing. We didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence the un­der­steer that was so ap­par­ent in the Hankook’s, and our brak­ing dis­tance was 1.5 me­tres shorter - the dif­fer­ence be­tween an ac­ci­dent and just a fast heart rate.

The wet course was laid out dif­fer­ently than the dry, but with the same in­ten­tion of repli­cat­ing the turn­ing, brak­ing and emer­gency ma­noeu­vres you may be forced to make to avoid col­li­sions. It this case it was the Conti PureCon­tact LS vs. Pirelli Cin­tu­rato P all sea­son in Es­calades, and the Gen­eral GMAX RS vs. BFGoodrich G-Force Sport Comp-2 in Mus­tangs.

Here the Gen­eral was clearly the best per­form­ing tire while the Con­ti­nen­tal was equal in per­for­mance to the Cin­tu­rato’s. But while the Con­ti­nen­tal was on par in per­for­mance, it will be lower in price - pro­vid­ing you with bet­ter value. While a great tire is good to own, a great tire at a lower price is even bet­ter.

Fi­nally, I drove the Lambo clothed in Conti’s Ex­tremeCon­tact. iCar pro­vided us with a cou­ple of aids to make sure we could go as fast as pos­si­ble. I like the sound of that - as fast as pos­si­ble. This is af­ter all a pro­fes­sional race school and not a driv­ing train­ing academy. Their sole goal is to teach you how to get around

the course as quickly as a hu­man can pos­si­bly do so. With green cones to as­sist me in pick­ing the fastest line, a pro­fes­sional driv­ing in­struc­tor and or­ange cones for best pre-turn brak­ing, and other sim­ple in­struc­tions like ‘punch it, punch it!’ I knew I had it nailed mas­ter­ing the course by chan­nel­ing For­mula 1 leg­end Gilles Vil­leneuve. Right un­til I rode shot­gun with Cana­dian, for­mer IndyCar, and cur­rent Nascar great, Alex Tagliani. You know it’s se­ri­ous when a pit crew checks your hel­met, and straps you into a five-point har­ness. I was more than just hum­bled. I will never put my name in the same sen­tence, nay the same ar­ti­cle, as Gilles Vil­leneuve ever again.

MACK’S BOT­TOM LINE:

If you are shop­ping for tires, and your lo­cal dealer doesn’t of­fer you the Con­ti­nen­tal or Gen­eral Tire op­tion, look at what he has, but make sure you can get your hands on the Conti or Gen­eral as well. There’s no buyer re­morse when you do your re­search and end up with an ex­cep­tional tire like the PureCon­tact LS, GMAX RS or Grab­ber A/TX.

Gen­eral Tire GMAX RS were a thrill to drive, blow­ing the com­pe­ti­tion away.

Thanks for the truck, you can have it back now.

We loved the Grab­bers while test­ing in B.C. on a Ram 1500, and now on the JKU in Que­bec too.

Do off-road driv­ing skills trans­fer to the drag strip?

The A/TX clears the mud and is ready for more trac­tion.

My driv­ing in­struc­tor, Alex Tagliani, didn’t men­tion shoul­der checks or traf­fic laws.

We hit the wet pave­ment at 70 kph. RaceLogic timers proved we stopped faster in the PureCon­tact LS and GMAX RS.

Does it only come in black?

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