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40-inch Nitto Trail Grappler Review - Built For A King

Posted in Product Reviews on February 20, 2015
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The King of the Hammers (KOH) race has changed the off-road landscape over the past few years. Reminiscent of the rockcrawler craze, KOH has pumped new life into the competition side of the hobby and launched a bevy of new products. One of those race-derived products we were especially excited to see sprouted out was the 40-inch Nitto Trail Grappler. While the Trail Grappler has been part of the Nitto lineup for a few years, a 40-inch-tall version was not part of the roster until recently.

Initially, only a non-DOT K-Spec version of the 40-inch Trail Grappler was offered. This lead to Nitto tire enthusiasts from across the board to bang on Nitto’s doors for a DOT-version of the race-inspired knobby. Well, Nitto listened and is now offering the 40x13.50 tire for 17 and 20-inch wheel sizes. Of course, we were just as excited to get our hands on the oversized mud-terrain radial.

There’s no shortage of tread depth or stagger over the 13.50-inch-wide tread cap. While the rubber compound on the DOT version of the 40 isn’t as sticky as its K-spec brother, we didn’t find grip to be lacking or the compound to be overly stiff.

Strapping the tires under our heavily modified, V-8–powered Wrangler, we sought to beat these tires as hard (if not harder) than we would any other rubber of this magnitude. Pitting the 40x13.50R17 Trail Grapplers against some of the toughest terrain the Southeast has to offer was not only good fun, but very informative. Unlike most 17 and 20-inch large tire offerings, the 40-inch Nitto is actually marked as a load-range C tire. This rating equates to a 3,195 pound max-load, which is still way more than we need for our relatively light Wrangler TJ.

We spent the first 1,000-plus miles breaking in the tires on the street. In our case, this meant chewing up some of the leading edges on the rear tires thanks to a Detroit Locker. Around town, we kept the air pressure in the high teens. On the highway, we pumped them up to the low 20s to negate some of the rolling resistance from the massive tire. Our TJ is far from a suitable daily driver, but the more time we spend with the tires on the road, the more we enjoyed them.

Unlike Nitto’s Mud Grappler, which we lovingly refer to as the noise grappler, the Trail Grappler gets you the size and large tread stagger without the annoying hum. Grip on-road is on-par with other mud-terrain radials we’ve tested, and there wasn’t any excessive shifting felt, which we have noticed in similar offerings from other tire manufacturers. The only street-related complaint we have is rain-related. The lack of fine sipes made the tire feel shifty and sometimes loose over wet tarmac. We’ve experienced this before with the smaller versions of the Trail Grappler as well.

Running single-digit air pressure is needed to get the most performance out of the Nitto 40. We’ve used our 17x9 ATX Slab beadlocks to clamp down an assortment of tires. As you can see, the clamping ring has taken a beating, but the wheels continue to hold air and take the abuse.

In the dirt, we were pretty abusive to the tires. Trails in the Southeast have plenty of jagged rocks ready to shred your sidewall at a moment’s notice. We kept between 5-9 psi in the tires, depending on what we were doing and where we were ’wheeling. Obviously, this low of tire pressure put our ATX Slab beadlocks to the test as well. Speaking of which, unless you are building a mall crawler, having 40’s without a beadlock off-road is like trying to pull the performance potential out of a Ferrari on wooden wheels—it isn’t going to happen.

The large voids and sheer footprint of the 40 is terrain commanding. Since going fast off-road is what these tires were meant to do, we did plenty of that. No, our TJ is no Ultra4 racer, but we do have plenty of suspension and engine to kick up dust. Overall, the tires work great to keep you planted at speed in the corners and going straight. We did find that going fast required us to keep the air pressure a touch higher than we’d normally set for just ’crawling around the trail, but that’s normal.

The 40-inch-tall Trail Grappler is essentially an overgrown mud-terrain radial, which makes it one of the more versatile and street-friendly tires in its category. Of course, mud is a huge part of ’wheeling in the Southeast, and we found the 40s had no trouble biting down through the slop.

In terms of where the tire shines, we found that it does most everything rather well. In fact, it doesn’t really disappoint anywhere. In that same breath, we were not overly blown away by the tire in any one particular area. In the mud, the large voids chucked even thick clay. In the rocks and hillclimbs, the tires conformed and gripped without drama. While it may not appear overly dynamic, it’s a pretty universal wheeling tool. In fact, for a tire of its size, we found it to be one of the most competent and street friendly, which is actually quite a feat.

Let’s face it: Tires are not cheap, and dropping coin on a 40 is a significant investment in more ways than one. We have a hard time contemplating anyone daily driving on 40s anymore (we’ve done it and can’t afford to anymore!). But if one were to look for a 40 for more than just one niche performance category, the Nitto Trail Grappler is definitely a top contender.

The tire’s load-range C sidewall took plenty of abuse, and to date, we have no tire failures to report. The tires live at single-digit pressures off-road, which is what was needed to get the best bite.

Tire Specifications
Make/Model: Nitto Trail Grappler
Country of Origin: Japan
Size Tested: 40x13.50R17
Type: Radial
Load-Range: C
Max Load (lbs): 3,195
Sidewall Construction: 3-ply polyester
Tread Construction: 2-ply nylon, 2-ply steel, 3-ply polyester
Approved Rim Width (in): 8.5-11
Tread Depth (in): 21⁄32
Tread Width (in): 13.58
Overall Diameter (in): 39.76
Weight on Wheel (lbs): 196

More and More Tires
Here at Jp, we have been putting tires to the test for years now. If you have a question about a certain tire, we may have already answered it in our huge online tire review known as “The Burning Ring of Tire.” If the tire you want to see is not on The Ring, keep your eyes peeled—we are going to review a new tire in every upcoming issue of Jp magazine.

Sources

Nitto Tire
Cypress, CA 90630
877-565-8448
www.nittotire.com
ATX Series Wheels
www.atxwheels.com

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