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Pirelli Gets Dirty: We Test the Scorpion All Terrain Plus on the Trail and the Track

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on June 11, 2018
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Photographers: Pirelli

While the name Pirelli might conjure up images of high speed and G-force turns on the racetrack, those were only part of our first experience with Pirelli’s new tire—the Scorpion All Terrain Plus. We found ourselves in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a place we don’t normally visit to test our tires—the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Pirelli catered to the growing SUV and light-truck market by making some serious changes to its previous all-terrain offering, the Scorpion ATR. The company focused on three areas for the new Scorpion: designing a more aggressive-looking tire, deepening the tread grooves, and developing a “new generation” tread compound. Rather than lecture us on the merits of the Scorpion All Terrain Plus, we were shown out to the racetrack to feel out the new rubber for ourselves.

The increased void space between the tread blocks on Pirelli’s Scorpion All Terrain Plus tire had no problem clearing the mud and maintaining traction through the sloppy turns.

On the Road

A sports car racecourse seemed like an odd place to test an all-terrain tire, but pavement certainly falls under the all-terrain umbrella. We hopped into a fleet of SUVs and were instructed by professional race car drivers how to navigate the chicanes and sweepers. Our ears taught us two things. First, even considering our auditory nerves might be numbed from years of droning mud-terrain tires, we couldn’t pick up any offensive road noise from the Pirelli all-terrains when speeds reached the triple digits. Second, the squeals and shrieks we did hear from the tires only came as we plunged into turns far faster than we would in our daily rigs, and were followed by a very predictable relinquishment and regain of traction on the tarmac. We were told that the Scorpion All Terrain Plus was designed to maintain performance with extended highway use throughout the life of the tire, even if that doesn’t include routine laps on a racetrack.

With the instruction of trained professionals, we pushed this SUV and its set of Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tires far past everyday road duty. The tires gripped farther into the turns than we’d expect for an all-terrain tire. When they did slide, the tires regained traction in a smooth and predictable fashion.

In the Dirt

We shuffled into a new fleet of SUVs and pickups and were shown a course designed to test the Scorpion’s off-pavement manners. We mashed the go-pedal and made abrupt transitions between pavement, dirt, mud, and gravel, all while instructors nagged at us to throttle, turn, and brake like we were Formula 1 racers. When our adrenaline levels normalized, we dismounted and inspected the tires. First off, the aggressive new tread pattern looks even better covered in mud. Pirelli’s new tread compound handled the high-speed gravel gauntlet without any noticeable chunks or tears, which was impressive considering how we treated the gas pedal. Even in the thick mud, the deep voids betwixt the tread blocks resisted packing and instead hurled the gumbo out, allowing the tires to claw forward. Tires that see regular gravel duty are also prone to stone drilling—punctures from stones that become lodged between the tread blocks and get subsequently drilled into the tire. The Scorpion’s conical stone ejectors all but eliminated this problem during our test, evidenced by the distinct lack of flats and the sounds of stones plinking off the fender flares as they sailed skyward.

Our last tests tilted the new Scorpion tires off camber on dirt and gravel as we swapped our lead feet for low range and crawled across some desert obstacles. From what we could tell, the tires held our lines while traversing hillsides and crossing ditches, but we were unable to air the tires down to our favorite air pressure to really test the flexing characteristics of the sidewalls.

That being said, the sidewalls left us with two areas to explore in the future. The shoulder blocks were beefed up significantly from the previous generation of Scorpion, and we suspect they would conform even better to rocks and mud when tire pressure is lowered. Second, the sidewalls also sport the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake, which was difficult to test in the Nevada heat. Further testing will give insight as to how the Scorpion All Terrain Plus handles in the snow.

Even at triple-digit speeds on the race oval, the largest sources of noise were the engine whine and air whistling around the SUV.
The tread blocks on the Scorpion All Terrain Plus are heavily siped, directing water out from beneath the tire and helping maintain traction. When we threw this SUV from the pavement into a wet turn, we were impressed by how much throttle we had to give before it began to slip.
We took a look at the tires (before we got them dirty) to examine the souped-up sidewalls. Though they remained at street pressure for this test, we expect these shoulder blocks to wrap nicely around obstacles when aired down to a lower psi. This tire also features deeper grooves between tread blocks and the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake, indicating improved performance in snow and ice.
Even off camber in the gravelly dirt, the tires gave us the bite we needed to keep from sliding off the trail.

Specifications (as tested)
Tire: Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus
Size: LT285/70R17
Type: Radial all-terrain
Load range: D
Max load (lb): 3,200
Approved rim width (in): 7.5-9
Tread depth (in): 15/32
Section width (in): 11.5
Tread width (in): 9.3
Overall diameter (in): 32.8
Maximum psi: 65
Weight (lb): 54
Warranty: 50,000-mile limited tread wear

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Pirelli Tire
New Haven, CT

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