In the world of mud-terrain tires many brands have laid claim to quiet on-pavement performance. However, typically when we test 'em, we sometimes find the word "quiet" was misused. Not so with the newest tread from Nitto. In fact, we believe the new Nitto Trail Grappler M/T may just be the quietest mud-terrain tire we've ever tested. And in all actuality, Nitto set out to do just that. Using sophisticated sound analysis equipment, Nitto's team of engineers optimized the Trail Grappler's design until they believed they had the best possible balance between performance and road noise. The pattern ended up looking somewhat similar to one competitor's now discontinued mud-terrain, so Nitto further refined the tire and at the same time added a few tricks that consumers are sure to appreciate.
The Trail Grappler features two distinctive sidewall designs, each with its own subtle styling hues. We suspect that one side will appeal to the younger generations with its aggravated lettering and modern V-shaped, rib-accentuated stone deflectors. The other side, while less stylized, appears much more cheerful and ready to get the job done. Nitto expects contractors and business-oriented people to favor the latter of the two. We think the tire's split personality is no disorder at all-we consider it a smart move on Nitto's part. With two different sidewall designs, the tire should appeal to a broader range of consumers.
The Trail Grappler's carcass is constructed using two wide steel belts as a foundation for the tread. Three thick layers extend from the tread's base and continue up to form the sidewalls. The traction surface features large angled blocks that interlock to ensure lateral stability while interacting with the road surface. Deeply-tapered three dimensional Z-grooves help channel away mud and debris while helping the tires run quiet on pavement. A well-balanced void-to-tread-block ratio helps the Nitto Trail Grapplers run cool, especially when the tires are working hard. Most of our testing was conducted on dry asphalt, where we think the Trail Grappler will spend the majority of its time. However, a few summer thunderstorms did give us a chance to evaluate the tire's wet-pavement performance. Thanks to deep sipes in between each half of the two-part center lugs, the tires felt comparable to other M/Ts we've tested in the wet. Our test vehicle was a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 diesel, quite possibly the perfect test rig for such a tire.
In the mud, the Trail Grappler performed as expected, returning our test mule to pavement with wheelwells completely packed with thick goo. The self-cleaning tread design yielded only to the thickest and stickiest mud we could find in California's agriculture-rich Central Valley. In the sand, the Nitto Trail Grappler returned acceptable traction considering the weight of the vehicle we mounted them to, though we wouldn't recommend the Nitto Trail Grappler for dedicated sand machines as the robust side buttresses prevent the sidewalls from flexing at medium to low pressure. Without beadlocks, we didn't dare drop the Trail Grapplers down below 12 psi, for fear that we might possibly lose a bead. On the rocky terrain surrounding California's Lake Tahoe region, the tires returned ample traction and didn't give us any reason to question the trailability that the name implies. We're impressed with this tire's across-the-board performance, and readily recommend it for heaver vehicles such as work trucks and tow rigs.
The Bottom Line
The Trail Grappler is among the better of all M/Ts we've tested. In particular, the tire really shined in the areas of on-road ride and comfort, as well as in the noise category. We think they will quickly win over those with high demands for tires and become a mainstay in the full-size pickup truck arena. As we went to print, Nitto had plans to release a plethora of light truck sizes, from 35- to 38-inch diameters, with wheel sizes ranging from 16 to 24 inches. Every Trail Grappler produced will carry an E load rating, which to us, implies that this tire is particularly well-suited for heavier rigs such as the 3/4-ton pickup we tested them on.
Tire: Nitto Trail Grappler M/T
Load range: E
Max load: (lb @ psi): 3,415 @ 65
Sidewall: Three-ply polyester
Tread: Three-ply polyester, two-ply steel, two-ply nylon
Approved rim width (in): 8.5-11
Tread depth (in): 21/32
Tread width (in): N/A
Section width (in): 13.39
Overall diameter (in): 35.04
Revolutions per mile: 592
Weight (lb): 80.91