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Falken WildPeak M/T Tire Test

Posted in Product Reviews on April 2, 2015
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You know that feeling you get when something really outstanding happens in your life? You know what we’re talking about: things like a past-due promotion, inheriting your grandfather’s cool old truck, or being witness to your newborn child coming into the world? OK, well, we might be overstating this a tad, but that’s kind of the same type of “happy” we get when a manufacturer gives birth to a new mud-terrain tire. Maybe it’s the possibility that these new sneakers will be the end-all, no-compromise answer to our off-road-rubber needs, or maybe it’s that we just don’t care. It’s another mud-terrain option to choose from, and that’s never a bad thing.

As a direct result of our magnetized draw to the backcountry, we just happen to be addicted to mud tires, and soon after writing this, we’ll all have a brand-new and highly legitimate option to feed the addiction with: the WildPeak M/T from Falken. A few years back, Falken garnered some serious street-cred among off-road enthusiasts with its popular off-highway-performance-oriented WildPeak A/T tire. This tire touted better-than-average offroad traction among its all-terrain peers and matched it with an equal amount of positive on-road attributes. Where the rubber met the road (and trail), this tire lived up to its claims, and Falken hit the all-terrain scene rolling strong. With a win under its belt, Falken set course to create a more-serious offroad tire—one that’s not afraid to mix it up in the slop, instead of just dip its toes in and then skirt around it. Mud has always been an all-terrain’s kryptonite, and in an effort to effectively address the glaring omission in their lineup, Falken gave birth to the prototype mud-terrain tire seen here. Falken is currently in the process of final refinements for the production versions, which should be available soon.

When testing off-road tires, sometimes it can be tough to get a handle on a particular tire’s capabilities compared to others, but with time logged on other brands of mud-terrains mounted on this same truck, we had a couple of good baseline comparisons to work with. When mud was on the menu, the tires depended heavily on velocity to clean out the voids, but once spinning, they always seemed to get the job done.

As soon as we got word of the new Falken M/Ts, we were chomping at the bit to get our hands on a set of the available 37x12.50R17 competition prototypes floating around. Being short a full-on race rig, we mounted them up on our buddy’s second-generation Ram for testing, figuring that if they’d survive a thrashing on this heavy truck powered by a warmed-over Cummins 6BT diesel, they’d stand a pretty good chance of living a healthy life on anything less substantial. With a D-load rating of 3,525 pounds and a stout three-ply sidewall, as far as specifications were concerned, they were a good all-around match for our 3⁄4-ton truck. Falken employs what looks like a fairly basic tread-block design on this new M/T, with stepped, L-shaped lugs running down the center and angled and staggered blocks on the edges, all siped for better ice and rock/hard-packed traction. No gimmicky-looking, superfluous tread patterns here. Atop and in-between the outer tread you find grooves and raised-ribs, respectively, that both work toward the goal of releasing suction when mud tries to occupy the voids. These tread blocks extend down approximately a third of the sidewall and turn into some of the more useful looking sidewall tread we’ve seen in a while. The tread blocks on the production version are reported to look virtually the same, with very slight design changes.

Our initial impressions of the WildPeaks came while rolling down the road after being mounted. Qualities that brought themselves to light immediately were no “lug slap,” no vibration, no squirmy sensation when sawing the steering wheel back and forth, and no real tire-noise to speak of (regardless of speed). For a high-void tread layout, these things are quiet—really quiet. With what have proven outstanding road manners, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these for the daily commute. In lieu of standard, rim-mounted balancing weights, we used 10-ounces of “previously-tumbled” balancing beads in each tire to help them roll smooth and vibe free. They did the trick, but we can’t help but think this had more to do with the mold-quality of the Falken’s carcass than the balancing beads bouncing around inside them.

Bite in loose stuff was excellent. The WildPeak M/Ts had a knack for harnessing the torque of the Cummins diesel and turning it into traction on loose soil and sand. Hard-packed dirt also served up good results, with predictable slide and braking characteristics.

So if they’re good on-road, they must be fairly unimpressive off-road, right? No! Honestly, there are few tires that can combine high levels of on-road civility with aggressive off-road performance, but the WildPeak M/T’s can be counted among them. Off-road testing was carried out over a three-month stretch, over multiple outings and on top of about every ground condition you could hope to encounter in the Northeast. True to their classification, these tires didn’t disappoint in the slop. We ran the Falkens through sticky, clay-filled mud and soft-bottomed water holes, and so long as you kept the throttle set on “kill,” the tread voids cleaned themselves out well. While not in the same goo-slinging class as a Super Swamper Bogger, we’d rank the Falken’s mud-performance right up there with other top, “road-friendly” radial mud tires.

On hard-packed surfaces, the WildPeak M/T’s were planted and predictable, and the tread compound gripped pretty well to rocks, roots, downed trees, and the like. Due to the weight of the truck and the non-beadlock wheels, we stayed pretty conservative with air pressure off-road. Aired down further, we can see the Falkens flexing and conforming quite well to whatever they rolled over. So far, we haven’t noticed any substantial chunking of the tread.

If every now and then you don’t get out and enjoy what winter forces upon you, you might find yourself with a touch of cabin fever. To avoid starring at the dog like he’s food, we took a day to get out and romp around in the snow with our buddy’s Ram. What we found is that the Falken M/Ts are excellent performers in the snow, with great traction-finding and side-hilling capabilities in wet and heavy snow. On glare-ice they’re probably not the best option, but then again, no mud tire is.

Our last outing with the Falkens before writing this involved 10-12 inches of fresh heavy and wet snow sitting on a frozen base—a prime scenario for copious amounts of wheelspin and painfully slow forward progress. Against odds, the Falken M/Ts really shined in these conditions and seemed to find traction where we didn’t think they stood a chance. While we’re on the topic of white stuff—If there was ever a good test for a tire’s lateral traction, its sidehilling in the snow. With a big truck running on tightly wooded and snow-covered Northeast trails, you have yourself a surefire recipe for sheetmetal damage in off-camber situations. But, so long as we applied smooth and steady throttle to avoid tire spin, the hook-shaped tread blocks did their job and kept the truck tracking straight and outside of the tree line. Where ground conditions were more ice than snow, the Falkens had a difficult time grabbing traction, but this is typical with any mud-terrain tire, especially with a high-torque diesel spinning them.

To sum it up, the new Falken M/T definitely passes muster on both street and trail and gives its established mud-terrain competitors a new reason to worry. Using similar tires with a similar mission as a comparison, we found that they rolled down the road better than most and paralleled the offroad-traction levels of some of the best tires out there. Long-term durability and tread wear have yet to be determined, but if the production versions measure up to the prototypes everywhere else, we see good things in Falken’s future.

It’s tough for us not to get excited when a new mud-terrain tire hits the market, especially when it’s on the heels of a successful all-terrain tread from the same company. While the WildPeak M/T’s tread layout looks fairly basic by today’s standards, sometimes simplicity can be the best approach. In this case, logical tread shapes and substantial sidewall tread proved a recipe for success. Although these are prototypes, standard-production versions are reported to look extremely similar.

Specifications
Tire: Falken WildPeak M/T
Size: 37x12.50R17
Type: Radial
Load range: D
Max load (lbs): 3,525
Sidewall construction: Three-ply polyester
Tread construction: Three-ply polyester, two-ply steel
Approved rim width (in): 8-10
Tread depth (in): 0.475
Tread width (in): 10
Section width (in): 12
Overall diameter (in): 36
Maximum psi: N/A
Weight (lbs): N/A

PhotosView Slideshow

Sources

Falken Tire
Fontana, CA 92335
800-723-2553
http://www.falkentire.com

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