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New BFG Rugged Terrain Tire Test

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on March 1, 2012
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Maybe it’s just us, but we usually reserve the BFGoodrich tires for the rigs we really care about. It’s kinda like busting out the fine China or those sniffy bathroom soaps for special guests. Sure, some of our rigs would be just as happy chugging fortified bum wine from a Styrofoam cup, but others deserve something with proper vintage and pedigree. For those vehicles, we reach for the top-shelf BFGoodrich label.

Here’s the thing: BFG came out with the Krawler T/A KX in the early 2000s. Then it revamped its tried-and-true Mud-Terrain, introducing the M-T KM2 just a couple years ago. The company seemed to be on a redesign roll, but when we heard from BFG insiders that they were considering revamping their industry-standard BFG All-Terrain T/A KO, we kinda took a step back. To us, it didn’t seem like a good idea to go messing with success. And the A-T is a big, fat, whopper of a success. We’re not saying the company’s newest Rugged Terrain T/A tire was designed to be that A-T replacement, but if it walks like an A-T, sounds like an A-T, and grips like an A-T…hmmm.

Regardless of our tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories, the new Rugged Terrain T/A is here and BFG is marketing it as a missing link between its All-Terrain and Rugged Trail T/A lineup. And while it isn’t replacing the A-T, we’re here to say that plus or minus, it’s on par with the beloved All-Terrain in most regards. We mounted a set of 285/70R17s on a lifted ’05 Hemi WK for some off-road evaluations and then swapped them over to our Cummins-powered ’07 Ram 2500 tow rig to burn up some real street miles.

The first thing we noticed in both vehicles was an instant 0.5 to 1.1 mpg improvement in fuel economy. The other thing we noticed was a slight hum at lower speeds. At speeds above 50 mph the tires are silent, but you will hear some tread hum around town—especially when cornering. Despite having no siping, the small tread blocks and large water evacuation channels handle standing water and panic stops in the rain without trouble, and greasy boat launches don’t require throwing the T-case lever to engage 4x4.

In the snow and ice, forward grip and cornering are sure-footed, but we did notice a slight propensity to slide a couple of inches just before coming to a final stop on glare ice and hard-pack snow. Perhaps it’s that lack of siping again. In all, however, we’ve logged over 15,000 miles on this particular set of tires, and despite running on a full-time 4WD Grand and heavy diesel pickup, they still look almost new. With proper rotation, the Rugged Terrains should be around for a while.

The biggest gripe we have about these tires is that the voids in the lugs love, love, love to pick up and hold on to small pebbles. The tires scoop ’em up like a vacuum and hang on to them until you hit the road surface again. Then, for the next several minutes you’ll hear the plinking sound of dozens of rocks pelting your fenders and rockers.

In mild rocks we have to say that performance is slightly below that of its A-T brother, but not by much. Despite a heavy Load Range E rating, the sidewalls feel a bit flimsy, so we didn’t feel good about grinding them into obstacles. However, the carcasses enveloped small rocks and wrapped around larger ones, providing a stable purchase at angles and during sidehilling maneuvers. The highly siped, crescent-shaped treads of the A-T just seem to work a bit better.

Naturally, as you would expect of such a mild-mannered tread design, wet soil and mud performance aren’t legendary, but given the civilized nature of the design, they do get the job done better than you’d think. The voids do pack, but the irregular spacing between them ejects debris at different rates of tire speed. So at slow-speed rotation, the sickle-shaped voids tend to clear, then as speed increases, the outers and then the inners purge debris. It provides you just enough traction to keep clawing to freedom without your speedo needing to hit 100 mph.

We don’t consider the new BFG Rugged Terrain T/A a hardcore off-road tire. The company has other products for that. But if we were looking for a high-mileage survivor that wouldn’t shirk dirt duty, these would definitely be in high contention.

• Long life
• Great in wet
• Good economy

• Slightly noisy (considering)
• Slip on ice/hardpack snow
• Pick up rocks

Put ’em on
• Black-tie commuter
• Tow rig
• Family SUV



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