Why do you buy the off-road tires you do? There should only be one immediate answer here: performance. While performance should always be the trumping determining factor for tire choice, there has been at least one instance where this editor has let the looks of a tread design persuade me to choose a tire too aggressive for my truck's main duties. I'm guessing I'm not alone here. While we all want a tire that will get traction in the gnarliest of off-road conditions, many of us need a high-mileage tire that can survive spending most of its life on pavement. And most of us don't want to diminish the on-road performance of a street-licensed vehicle with too extreme of a tire. Depending on where your biases lie, you can end up with an all-terrain that can fall short in the dirt or a mud tire that wears out more quickly than you'd like.
But tires are changing. There is a new class of tires gaining market share that walks the line between all-terrain and mud-terrain. Tires that get more grip than all-terrains in the dirt but handle highway duties better than any mud-terrain. We may have to invent a new term for these latest types of tread patterns that have been offered to the off-road world, but calling it a "mid-terrain" sounds lame. Maybe "ultra-aggressive all-terrain" is something that tire manufacturers would like? Nah, that seems too wordy. … If you've got a suggestion, email it to email@example.com and I'll send an OFF-ROAD T-shirt to the person with the best new name or term for these "in-between terrains."
Whatever they are called, I am a fan of this new breed of tires. There are a few available right now—Pro Comp's Xtreme A/T, Mickey Thompson's ATZ P3, and Goodyear's Wrangler DuraTrac to name a few—but I have no doubt that more models fitting this in-between tread description will be showing up at tire stores in the near future. They are a culmination of everything an off-road enthusiast wants with the good highway manners that we need from our trucks' tires.