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Nitto’s New Exo Grappler Blurs Lines

Posted in Product Reviews on April 20, 2015
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The Nitto Exo Grappler is one of those tires we’ve been talking about recently that blurs the line between a mud tire and an all-terrain. Built on the heavy-duty Trail Grappler carcass, the Exo Grappler has a more street-friendly tread than its burly big brother. That’s not to say it’s a pavement-pounding tire only; actually, as we’ve found out, it is far from that.

We started out our abuse testing by strapping the tires on a set of Gunmetal XHD aluminum wheels from Rugged Ridge. We then bolted them up to our ’98 5.9L Limited Grand Cherokee and racked up a couple thousand road miles to break them in. In that time, we got on-road information about dry and wet pavement, puddles, and how the tires wear when thrown way too hard into country mountain roads.

There really aren’t straight circumferential grooves, as such, and we think it would have done better on-road in puddles if there were. However, we could always just not drive like bozos too. The void on the shoulders and between the shoulders and center tread was easy to clear of mud.

Then, we left our cush SoCal offices by the beach and headed up into the mountains for some good old-fashioned snow testing. As we were heading up to our mountainous base of operations with up to 2 inches of snow on the twisty cliff-bordered roads, we had a bunch of fun weaving in and out of all the other people who couldn’t make any more forward progress.

After a few days playing, ahem, snow testing the Exo Grapplers in weather that hardly got up over 20 degrees, we came back down from our aerie and ran a few more road miles on them until the next rainstorm. Then it was time for some mud. Granted, we didn’t get into any thick clay-like mud, but it is was still enough to see how the tires did in a variety of situations. From deep muddy puddles, both with and without hard bottoms, to slick “fields” of mud they did fairly well.

In the snow, we were very happy with the tires both on- and off-road. The combination of siping and silica-laced compound worked as advertised, and whether trails, streets around town, or snow-covered highways, we were happy with the way they stuck. We didn’t have to pay particular attention to rolling into the gas slow, and we could still move from a standing start.

Then, we threw them into the rocks. While the ZJ isn’t locked, some fancy brake/throttle modulation got us close, and we were able to churn the granite. Because they are built on the Trail Grappler carcass and have some improvements to the compound to for durability, we weren’t worried about them—we’ve beaten several sets of Trail Grapplers with favorable results. So, we expected the Exo Grapplers to perform similarly, and we weren’t disappointed. We did pull a few chunks out of the sides of the shoulder lugs, but overall, the tread is holding together very well so far, even though the tires have done some modification of our ZJ’s fenders.

Trasborg has been running this canyon for years, and the speed limit is, shall we say, ambitious. Not many lifted Jeeps can run through the canyon at or near the speed limit. We did. The tires stuck great, even in the rain. However, after 5,000 miles of that, the shoulders start to show their impatience. The speed limit is 55 mph. Most normal people do 35. Not us.

Tire Specifications
Make/Model: Nitto Exo Grappler
Country of Origin: Japan
Size Tested: 265/70/17
Type: Radial
Load-Range: E
Max Load (lbs): 3,195
Sidewall Construction: 3-ply polyester
Tread Construction: 2-ply steel; 3-ply polyester; 2-ply nylon
Approved Rim Width (in): 7.5-9.5
Tread Depth (in): 18⁄32
Tread Width (in): 8.875
Overall Diameter (in): 30.875

The only piece left to this puzzle was how to get the wheels bolted to the Jeep. The XHD wheels are currently only available in a 5-on-5.5-inch bolt pattern, and the ZJ is still running the factory 5-on-4.5-inch bolt pattern. Problem solved with these 11⁄4-inch-wide spacer/adapters from Spidertrax. Not only do they allow us to put the JK-spec wheels on the ZJ, but they help bring the overall backspacing to something closer to what we were looking for in the first place. The only piece left to this puzzle was how to get the wheels bolted to the Jeep. The XHD wheels are currently only available in a 5-on-5.5-inch bolt pattern, and the ZJ is still running the factory 5-on-4.5-inch bolt pattern. Problem solved with these 11⁄4-inch-wide spacer/adapters from Spidertrax. Not only do they allow us to put the JK-spec wheels on the ZJ, but they help bring the overall backspacing to something closer to what we were looking for in the first place.
We did manage to get some minor damage to the sidewall and shoulders, but we just ran these like we didn’t care. We were confident we wouldn’t pop them. The two minor slices are from sliding off a rock with most of the weight of the Jeep on that tire, and the shoulder chunk is from holeshotting it out of the end of a rock field to catch up to the pack. That big V-8 does some epic holeshots. You should have seen what we kicked up. We did manage to get some minor damage to the sidewall and shoulders, but we just ran these like we didn’t care. We were confident we wouldn’t pop them. The two minor slices are from sliding off a rock with most of the weight of the Jeep on that tire, and the shoulder chunk is from holeshotting it out of the end of a rock field to catch up to the pack. That big V-8 does some epic holeshots. You should have seen what we kicked up.
We did manage to get some minor damage to the sidewall and shoulders, but we just ran these like we didn’t care. We were confident we wouldn’t pop them. The two minor slices are from sliding off a rock with most of the weight of the Jeep on that tire, and the shoulder chunk is from holeshotting it out of the end of a rock field to catch up to the pack. That big V-8 does some epic holeshots. You should have seen what we kicked up. We did manage to get some minor damage to the sidewall and shoulders, but we just ran these like we didn’t care. We were confident we wouldn’t pop them. The two minor slices are from sliding off a rock with most of the weight of the Jeep on that tire, and the shoulder chunk is from holeshotting it out of the end of a rock field to catch up to the pack. That big V-8 does some epic holeshots. You should have seen what we kicked up.
We mounted the Exos on a set of 17x9 Rugged Ridge XHD wheels. Backspacing is 4.53 inches. We liked the way the Gunmetal hue worked with the silver paint on the Grand, but as you can see with this setup, the tires didn’t provide much protection for the edge of the wheel, so we added these trim rings from Rugged Ridge so that when (not if) we end up beating these tires in the rocks, the wheels have some protection. We mounted the Exos on a set of 17x9 Rugged Ridge XHD wheels. Backspacing is 4.53 inches. We liked the way the Gunmetal hue worked with the silver paint on the Grand, but as you can see with this setup, the tires didn’t provide much protection for the edge of the wheel, so we added these trim rings from Rugged Ridge so that when (not if) we end up beating these tires in the rocks, the wheels have some protection.

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
Rugged Ridge
www.ruggedridge.com
Spidertrax Off-Road
Longmont, CO 80503
800-286-0898
www.spidertrax.com

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