Mud Hog meets Mamba
Greenball who? Don’t they just make trailer tires? Apparently not.
Not too long ago Kanati, a division of Greenball, made entry into one of the most lucrative segments of the tire industry—the off-road market. Introduced as the Kanati Mud Hog M/T, the tread design is without question derivative of the old Goodyear MT/R. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And the old Goodyear MT/R was one helluva good on- and off-road tire. But although it seems that similarities to the MT/R abound, when you look closely, so do the differences.
Our test vehicle was Jp’s well-worn ’07 Wrangler Rubicon with a 2-inch budget boost lift, so we ordered up a set of five Kanati Mud Hogs in 35x12.50R17 size. We appreciate the fact that Kanati addresses the needs of the off-roader with a true 35x12.50R17 rather than the more industry-common LT-metric offering of 315/70R17. It’s a bit deeper than just the lettering on the sidewalls, with the LT-metric tires normally sporting a slightly higher load range that sometimes translates into a less pliable carcass and a harsher ride. That said, our D-load-range 35x12.50R15s carry a 3,000 pound weight rating at 50 psi, so they’re more than up to the task for just about any Jeep.
For wheels we selected a quintet of Mamba Off Road Alloys. The Type M13 in with matte-black finish is offered in a variety of sizes, bolt patterns, and backspacing, but we selected the JK-friendly PN M137973N12B, which equates to a 17x9 with a 5x5 bolt pattern and 4.5 inches of backspacing. The backspacing placed the tires almost perfectly within the wheelwells, allowing the treads to just barely kiss the front flare under full compression with the wheels turned. The Mambas feature durable cast aluminum construction and utilize bolt-on centercaps, so barring rock damage, you shouldn’t ever lose one during harsh off-roading.
We took our wheels and tires down to our local Discount Tire to have them mounted and balanced. The Discount team got us in and out in no time and we took our new rolling stock home and promptly torqued the lugs down and began racking up the miles.
We adjusted our pressure to get a proper contact patch, which for our moderately armored JK wound up being 28 psi front and rear. Quickly into our first drive we noticed the tread felt squirmy. We wouldn’t exactly call the sensation unnerving, but it was pretty evident at slower speeds. Although we didn’t have a durometer handy to get an exact measurement, the tread blocks are really soft. The softness coupled with the full side-to-side tread block siping was no doubt the cause of the sensation. We’re not sure if we just got used to it or the squirm went away, but after a couple months it was almost unnoticeable.
The soft tread blocks didn’t really like to be railed around corners. Spirited driving through the mountains or on highway on/off ramps resulted in some barking, squealing, and sliding depending on how aggressively we were pushing our JK. But most people buying a mud terrain aren’t going to drive on it like a magazine editor searching for the limits of adhesion, so keeping things in perspective, the on-road grip is not much worse than other aggressive mud tires out there.
While our SoCal testing locale stymied attempts at snow testing, we did get a couple rainstorms during which we quickly hit the roads in search of standing water. Naturally, with their 20⁄32-inch-deep tread depth the Mud Hogs blasted right through with no inkling of hydroplaning. Furthermore, the tread block siping that hampered our attempts at driving like a Hollywood stunt driver aided wet-weather traction, especially during aggressive starts and moderately hard cornering. These tires still don’t like to be manhandled on-road, but you don’t have to worry about spinning off into the bushes during a light sprinkle either.
The big question on most mud terrain buyer’s minds is how loud are they? We wouldn’t exactly call the Mud Hog a quiet tire street tire, but they’re not obnoxious by any means. We don’t even think we’d call them loud. You do notice the tread hum when driving at slower speeds, but on the highway the wind noise quickly matches or drowns out the tires. Bottom line is you won’t be reaching for the earplugs or screaming to the person sitting in the passenger seat. They’re very livable.
Our initial off-road outings consisted of mostly of hard-packed dirt with a sandy overcoat, small rocks, and many steep climbs. We purposefully didn’t air down to check the limits of the tread’s adhesion. With our full 28 psi street pressure, we were very pleased to see the sidewalls bulging and the treads conforming to rocks and trail irregularities. The carcass is definitely flexible. Grip when climbing was better-than-average at this pressure, with the tread block siping no doubt opening up to provide additional gripping edges.
On subsequent outings we dropped the off-road pressure, eventually finding our sweet spot at 10 psi. Any less than that and the sidewalls wanted to fold and pinch in heavy rock when turning or climbing on the sidewall tread. Most Kanati Mud Hogs feature three-ply sidewalls, but our 35x12.50R17 size featured only two-ply sidewalls. The Kanatis employ a reinforcement casing on the tread to help resist punctures and the tread held up beautifully to sharp, cut rocks, but the sidewalls felt more vulnerable to us so we played it on the safe side and upped the pressure until the folding was minimized.
Forward grip in rocks, sand, and hard pack was all equally good. These tires climb and offer bite without much coaxing from the throttle. The one area in which they could use a little work is in lateral grip. We noticed a slight, but not overwhelming, propensity for them to allow the vehicle to slide downward when sidehilling. We don’t have a siping tool to test the theory, but we’re betting some circumferential cuts in every other set of outer tread blocks would help mitigate what wound up being one of our only traction-based gripes on this tire. Especially for the price, we were otherwise very pleased with the Mud Hog’s off-road performance.
Given some of the crazy designs wheel manufacturers come up with nowadays it’s nice to see a company forgo computer-controlled CNC-cut overkill and deliver a clean, classic design. We’ve always been a fan of the five-spoke alloy look and while the Mamba Type M13s are admittedly a tad on the showy side of a classic Rubicon five-spoke, they’re still in the ballpark. And since you need a 4.75- to 4.5-inch backspacing to run larger-than-stock tires on a JK without wheel spacers, a factory wheel isn’t an option.
Like many aluminum wheels manufactured today, the Mambas sink the lug nuts deep inside the cast wheel center. You’ll need a thin-wall socket to retain your factory lugnuts. The matte-black finish is exceptionally durable and despite lacking a glossy finish allowed easy cleanup of brake dust, mud, and dirt. If we had to offer any gripe (and we do – it’s our job), it would be the shallow dish of the wheel spokes. Ideally we’d like the wheel center and spokes run a more severe dish to both uncover the lugnuts (easier access if a stud strips in the hub) and pull the centercap and spokes inside the wheel lip and away from trail obstacles. As is, they look blingy but the edges of the wheel spokes hang out in harm’s way. Otherwise, it’s a high-quality wheel from a manufacturer you can trust.
If you’re the type who can’t always be bothered to air down, the Kanati Mud Hog will deliver a pretty smooth ride and decent off-road bite even at street pressure. And when you do bother to air down, they’ll take you just as far down the trail as some of the more expensive options out there. We don’t think we’d categorize the sidewalls as indestructible, but with some careful tire placement and attention to proper pressure, we were able to run them in some pretty jagged terrain without failure. The Kanati Mud Hog definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Tire: Kanati Mud Hog M/T
Size Tested: 35x12.50R17
Tread: Two-ply nylon; two-ply steel
Sidewall: Two-ply nylon
Load Range: D; 3,000 lbs @ 50 psi
Test Pressure: 28 psi
Actual Diameter: 33 5⁄8 inches
Static Load Radius: 33 inches
Wheel: Mamba Type M13
Backspacing: 4.5 inches
Wheel/Tire Weight: 100 pounds