OK. We are Off-Road magazine and want to cover everything off-road. Our 2004 GMC Denali is all-wheel drive and heads onto dirt roads every once in awhile, but spends most of its time on the highway, either acting as a daily driver or towing projects around. We think many of you probably have a vehicle that does the same thing, so we thought we'd try a set of Weld 20-inch wheels and four Goodyear tires to see if they'd work on a multipurpose, fullsize SUV.
First, let's talk about the wheels. They're 20x8.5-inch EVO Cheyenne 6 chrome-forged alloys that, in our opinion, are some of the best-looking wheels available today. No, we wouldn't pick a chromed wheel for our hard-core off-road rig, but for mainly street use, the chrome looks great and is easy to clean. EVO, a division of Weld Racing, began in 1999 to manufacture advanced forged one-piece wheels for vehicles that demand the high performance only forging can offer.
Forged wheels start as a solid piece of aluminum alloy and under extreme pressure are formed into a strong, lightweight-yet-dense wheel. In contrast, typical cast wheels begin their production cycle as a liquid, and as such, contain some level of porosity (air pockets) that keep them from achieving the same strength, finish quality, and weight efficiency of forged wheels.
Every phase of the manufacturing process is completed in-house at EVO. It begins with a billet of aircraft-grade high-strength 6061 aluminum alloy. Prior to the forging process, billets are heated to 800 degrees F, then 8 million pounds of pressure force the alloy into the wheel die. The tremendous pressure creates outstanding density and eliminates porosity in the wheel for a strong, lightweight wheel.
The blank forging (the wheel prior to being sized to the proper width and without any styling details added) is then spun in one of three Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) spinning machines to its full width. It is also CNC-lathed in a dual-head, vertical-turning center that transforms the blank forging into a 100 percent CNC-machined wheel.
The wheel is then milled to add the cosmetics and bolt circle. The completed wheel is robot polished, inspected, and color-buffed by hand. Finally, a six-layer chrome finish is applied in a 36-tank chrome line that's more than 125-feet long. While most cast wheels are accompanied by a one-year finish warranty and other forged wheels carry a two-year finish warranty, Weld Racing's chrome finish is backed by a five-year limited warranty. EVO wheels have a lifetime structural warranty. This structural warranty is good, no matter what size tires you run on the wheels. If you read the fine print in the warranty of most alloy wheels, the warranty is void if you mount tires larger than 31 inches on the rim.
As you can see, these wheels don't just have a pretty face. They're super strong, carry a load rating that's at least double that of lesser wheels, and can be used in any situation we might need them in. Heavy-duty towing is no problem, and if we were going to mount 44s (or 49s) on them, we wouldn't worry.
We didn't mount 44s, though. We chose P275/55R20 Goodyear Eagle LS-2s, which are actually optional equipment on the Denali from the factory. Even though the wheels are 20 inches in diameter, the tires aren't such a low profile that they lose all their ride characteristics. In other words, they still have enough sidewall to provide some flotation.
Goodyear Eagle LS-2 (Luxury Sport) tires are premium, speed-rated performance radials with a heavy design emphasis on a smooth, quiet, disturbance-free ride. On the outside, Eagle LS tires feature a symmetric, independent tread-block design, with wide circumferential channels that help evacuate water from beneath the contact patch to enhance wet traction and reduce the possibility of hydroplaning. The tread design features different-size independent blocks (with the largest on the tire's shoulders) to improve handling, and the tread-block sizes are computer-optimized to minimize tread noise for a quiet ride. On the inside, twin steel belts are further supported by nylon reinforcement to provide high-speed durability.
The Eagle LS-2 tires worked great on the street, as expected. They were quiet and responsive, providing a comfortable ride while still affording great handling. Cornering was great with the Eagles. The tires didn't hydroplane through large puddles - a bit surprising considering their wide footprint. Off-road, the tires worked well on graded dirt roads, but didn't work as well where additional traction was needed. As mentioned earlier, these tires weren't as low profile as some, but still have shorter sidewalls than what most of us are used to with our 15- to 17-inch wheels. We don't suggest airing these tires down much for better traction, unless you find yourself in an emergency.
The Weld EVO Cheyenne 6 wheels and Goodyear Eagle LS-2 tires make a great combination for the street and light dirt use. For heavier dirt use, the Weld wheels will work for anything you want to throw at them, but we'd suggest going with a Goodyear tire more suited to heavier off-road use. By the way, the Tire Rack offers these products and will mount and balance them before they arrive at your door. This shop offers an easy solution if you're looking for wheels and tires that might be hard to find locally.
Goodyear's Fortera HLThe Fortera HL features a long-wearing tread compound molded into a tread design that enhances traction and ride comfort while reducing noise levels. Staggered circumferential grooves and curvilinear sipes and grooves are integrated into the tread design to provide the biting edges that enhance year-round traction, even in light snow. The tire's shoulder design and sidewall appearance offer rugged good looks to complement the vehicle's image. Internally, the Fortera HL uses a computer-optimized tire shape to reduce footprint sensitivity to load to provide an excellent balance of performance properties for lightly loaded to fully loaded sport-utility vehicles and light trucks (when properly inflated and within the vehicle's approved load limits). Its twin steel belts and two-ply polyester-cord body help provide predictable handling while enhancing ride comfort.