Have you ever watched a runty little dog try to take a bone away from a much bigger pooch? Most will keep at it, getting knocked down repeatedly—until they score that bone. There’s some of that plucky spirit in the Kelly Tires Safari TSR all-terrain tires we’ve been testing. Indeed, they’re willing to take on much more aggressive terrain than their mild-mannered tread blocks would suggest—sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
We first mounted our 31x10.50R15s on our ’78 Cherokee Chief and dialed the pressure in at 32 psi front and rear. The Safari TSR features deep treads with zigzag siping and ample voids that make wet pavement traction and standing water a non-issue. Around town and on the freeway, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference in noise and harshness from standard passenger car tires. They’re superbly smooth, quiet, and grippy. After a couple of thousand miles we started to notice some moderate wear on the outer tread blocks, which is somewhat common in solid-axle Jeeps, but we couldn’t help but wonder if extending the siping would increase tread block flexibility and reduce the scrubbing.
With our Cherokee stuck in 2WD, we swapped the tires onto our ’89 Wrangler equipped with front and rear lockers. We found the correct contact patch for the 3,100lb Jeep at 23 psi in the front and 21 psi in the rear. In our test size, the Safari TSR tires have a Load Range C rating, with 4-ply tread (2-steel; 2-polyester) and 2-ply sidewall (2-ply polyester) construction. We’re not gonna mince words. Despite a nice rim protector bead around the wheel’s circumference, the sidewalls feel kinda flimsy. They reminded us of old Goodyear AT tires from the late ’80s and early ’90s, so we kept out of the really razor-sharp granite. Besides, if you’re buying a tire of this ilk, you’re probably not going to be doing hardcore rockcrawling with them anyway.
Still, with the tires at 11 psi, long expanses of smooth granite, moderately sized boulders, and small riprap-type rollers all fell prey to the little TSR’s flexible carcass and siped lugs. Grip from the little all terrains is good—until it isn’t. We found that the tires don’t really telegraph their limits. Simply stated, you’ll keep climbing until all of a sudden you’re not climbing anymore. Still, overall traction in the rocks is dead-on par with other all terrains we’ve tested.
In hard-pack dirt, the trials-type lugs squirmed and fingered to keep pulling our little Jeep forward at a snail’s pace even without the lockers engaged. Only on very steep climbs did we encounter wheelspin. A bit more momentum was usually all it took to carry us through the climb. The same held true in sand, where wheelspeed was an asset. Keeping the tires up on top and spinning was the rule of the day and (we’re hypothesizing) allowed the sidewall tread to help paddle the Jeep forward.
Not surprising, like almost every all terrain we’ve tested, the Safari TSRs found their true Achilles heel in wet, alluvial soil and mud. With no rib between the lug surfaces to aid in self-cleaning, we noted that even with generous wheelspeed, the tires did not eject material from the treads once clogged up. However, we’ve grown to really appreciate our Safari TSRs and despite their few disadvantages, we’re keeping them on our Wrangler project. Their light weight, exceptional on-road manners, and plucky off-road attitude make us want to keep ’em around for a while.
• Smooth road manners
• Good dirt/sand/dry rock performance
• Sharp looks
• Wet soil and mud performance
• Sidewall strength
• Limited driver feedback
Put ’em on
• Vintage resto-mod Jeep
• Daily-driver/weekend warrior
• Off-road exploration rig