The Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
We put the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Tire to the test. Short Cuts

by: David Gray
Dec '99

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Part II
Our experiences testing the new Goodyear Wrangler MT/R

Photo by David Gray
The 35" MT/R side by side with the 35" tires on YJ2K

Though you are only just seeing the initial impressions of the production version of the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R in print magazines, 4x4Wire's quick Web publishing times (days), allow us to report on more than 5 months of experience with these tires.

When I first saw them as they came off the delivery truck, I was impressed with the tough looks and heft of the tires, but I knew that I needed a lot more than just tough looks. I soon had all 5 of these 35"x12.5" tires squeezed into back of the Jeep and was headed down to the local Big-O Tire store where their technicians mounted and balanced all 5 tires. These early production versions of the MT/R took an average of about 4-6 ounces of weights to balance, with the best tire taking 1/2 ounce and the worst taking 12 ounces - this was not bad at all for tires that tips the scales at around 60 pounds each. Once the tires were mounted on YJ2K and inflated to 28 psi, I headed back home (a 30 mile ride down both highway and back country roads). During the drive, I noticed that these new tires were significantly quieter than the tires that they had replaced. For the first time in my open top Jeep Wrangler, at highway speeds, I was actually able to easily hear my stock radio (feebly running on just one speaker now) and I was also easily able to carry on a normal conversation without yelling. These aggressive MT tires were even quieter than some AT style tires I have used.

We found the ride quality on the highway to be very nice and smooth. After I got on the more deserted back roads I made several quick test stops and radical maneuvers (just to get an idea of what they could do). My initial impression was that these tires had great grip and control on the street. With a 5.61 first gear and 4.88 differential gears, even with the Jeep 4.2L engine, I could easily "light up" the old tires in both first and second gear, enjoying the loud bark as they broke loose. The new tires hooked up quickly and smoothly without even a little chirp.

Photo by David Gray Photo by David Gray photo by David Gray photo by David Gray
A Jeep with 10 tires.
Packed up and ready to go get these new meats mounted
A little bead cement is applied to help to hold the bead when aired down... ...then the Big-O technicians careful mount and balance the tires. YJ2K wearing a fresh set of the new Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires

About 3 weeks after having the tires mounted, with more than 1000 miles on them, I joined many other members of the press* on Goodyear's introductory run. Goodyear sponsored a Rubicon trail run as part of their official introduction of the Wrangler MT/R.
(*ORN was the only Internet 4x4 Publication attending this event)

Winding our way down the Rubicon's granite slabs.

I was one of three people running their own vehicles on this trip (the others being Rick Russell of Sidekick Off Road and Jeff Waggoner, who also competed in both the ARCA & Warn Rock Crawling competitions on these tires). The rest of the folks drove virtually stock Jeep Wrangler TJs on 31" versions of these tires, part of Chrysler's test & press vehicle fleet. The Rubicon this late in the year (after the Jamborees run through) is not the same trail monster that it is earlier in the year. For a large group that included many journalists who had never driven off pavement, driving stock TJs (no lockers, no winches, stock gearing), it was still an incredible challenge. Mark Smith & the Jeep Jamboree crew provided guidance and support for these new drivers and I was quite impressed at what a great job they did getting everybody through quickly and without incident (and how 5-6 of their spotters make a great substitute for a winch in the tough spots).

Photo courtesy of Goodyear Photo courtesy of Goodyear Photo courtesy of Goodyear Photo courtesy of Goodyear
Mark Smith, having been down this trail hundreds of times, leads the drivers meeting Then the journalists, some with no previous off-highway experience, are let loose in stock Jeep Wrangler TJs The Jeep Jamboree spotters do a great job of getting these Drivers and Jeeps through Here is Jeff Waggoner on the Rubicon, spotted by none other than Walker Evans

Since this run was put on by the folks at Goodyear, and I had a brand new MT/R spare sitting on the back of YJ2K, I aired down to a super-low 8 psi and really let out all of the stops to try and tear these new tires up. I hit ledges, turned into sharp rock faces with the sidewalls, purposely sliding off of sharp rocky points - and when I was done, the tires didn't even have a slice or gouge anywhere. Without beadlocks of any kind on my 8" wide rims I did not lose a bead or even get anything stuck in them. I had the same pressure at the end of the trail as I had when I aired down.

Photo by David Gray Photo by David Gray Photo courtesy of Goodyear Photo courtesy of Goodyear
The MT/R had excellent deformation over rocks, while firmly holding the bead and without incurring any damage YJ2K moving down the Rubicon... ...and up on a rock at the overlook

Photo by David Gray
At 8psi, and with YJ2K twisted up, this tire has an impressive footprint.

While I was impressed with the way these tires handled on all parts of the Rubicon trail, I was perhaps most impressed with the not just the stickiness, but with the overall smooth traction breakaway characteristics of the tires, especially when wet. There are several areas, particularly around Buck Island Reservoir, where I was climbing very steep rock faces - often with wet tires. With my old tires, when I started losing traction, the Jeep would start bucking as the tires would grip, suddenly let go, and then restablishing traction again. This bucking can be dangerous; you could easily jump and skew sideways until you rolled over. With these new tires, I found that if I let off on the throttle a bit climbing up these hills (enough to start losing traction), that the loss of traction was very smooth. I could sit in the middle of the rock face smoothly steering back and forth, not moving up, just moving gradually from side to side, before I lined it up and blipped the throttle to cleanly climb the obstacle. (Please note: this was my experience on this trip - I would never suggest that anybody put their life or vehicle at risk trying to duplicate this.) By the time I finished the Rubicon, I broke a rear shackle and a trackbar mount, but I did not damage these tires.

Photo by David Gray
YJ2K on the Fordyce trail during Sierra Trek '99
Photo by David Gray

Immediately after getting off of the Rubicon trail, I drove straight from the Tahoe end of the trail up to where Sierra Trek '99 was being held - stopping only for gas along the way. The drive into and out of the Meadow Lake staging areas allowed my to do some moderate (30-40 mph) runs down rock strewn washboard and rutted forest roads. Again these tires impressed me, because aired down to 20psi for these runs, the tires were as smooth as anything could be on these roads and control and bite was excellent. I ran the Sierra Trek Short Wheelbase run (Fordyce Trail) on Friday and again, even though I was trying, I was unable to damage the tires - I walked up all 5 winch hills (lights on) smoothly and with impressive traction.

MT/R Sizes

30x9.50R15
31x10.50R15
32x11.50R15
33x12.50R15
35x12.50R15
37x12.50R15
LT305/70R16
LT235/75R16
LT245/75R16
LT265/75R16
LT285/75R16
LT235/85R16

Since that time I have made a second Rubicon trip and driven several thousand highway miles on these tires. The edges of the tread blocks are only now starting to show any kind of wear at all. The tires are still quiet, provide great traction, and have no signs of tread chunking or sidewall damage. The MT/R is a tire than can handle the toughest trails and still make it easy on your ears and your kidneys when running down the freeway. If they live up to the treadwear predictions that Goodyear promises, then the increased miles that you get out of these tires can make a real financial difference as well.

I can quite honestly say that after 5 months with them on YJ2K, I am happy with these tires. My only wish is that Goodyear accelerates the release of the Wrangler MT/R in the 37x12.50x15 size and considers building a slightly wider (14") tire as well.

As I mentioned in the opening, I hope none of the competition is taking it easy and sitting on their laurels. Goodyear, like several other off-highway tire manufacturers, has been hard at work improving their off-highway tires. I believe that we will shortly see a whole new generation of these tires. This new breed of off-highway tires will be a vast improvement over the older technologies, both on and off the highway, and benefit us all. Goodyear has definitely indicated to the world that they intend to be in the thick of things with the new Goodyear Wrangler MT/R, and they have proven their commitment and willingness to test these tires in the toughest possible conditions with their sponsorship of the ARCA-sanctioned Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Challenge.

Availability: Goodyear has indicated that the tire will first be available to their dealers in 31" and 35" sizes in mid-January, 2000 with other sizes to follow in March.

 

Click to go back to the report on the features on the MT/R on page 1


Contacts & Related Links:
Big O Tires
1150 N. Beale Road
Marysville, CA 95901
(530) 742 8581

Goodyear Tires
See your local Goodyear Retail Dealer
Dealer Locator

Sierra Trek '99 Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Challenge
(Farmington, 1999)
Basic Wheel Facts ORN 4x4 Expo Center
Rubicon Trail Reports