Testing the Falken A/T3W and AEV Ram Katla wheelsPosted in Product Reviews on December 27, 2015
First came the old Falken Wildpeak A/T. It looked like something you’d see on a factory pickup truck on a dealership lot, but it came in sizes up to 37 inches in diameter and flat-out kicked ass in the dirt. In our testing, it actually out-performed many more-aggressive-looking all-terrain tires and, in many environments, mud-terrain tires. Clearly, Falken did its homework. Then came the much-anticipated Falken Wildpeak M/T. It had a high-void tread design, burly sidewalls, and picked up the ball where the Wildpeak A/T went to its muddy knees and ran it through the goal posts. Now, there’s the Wildpeak A/T3W. A tweener tread—if we’re honest—blurring the lines between the A/T and M/T offerings. But the problem with being a tweener is potential for being outshined on either end. So the Wildpeak A/T3W enters the game with one sibling an all-star athlete and the other an honor-roll genius. Can it walk the walk, or is it all Jan Brady? Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!
To find out, we received a set of fresh, out-of-the-mold 35x12/50R17LTs from Falken and then took stock of our available test rigs in the stable. Our Project Con Artist JK Wrangler is currently down, so we put in a call to AEV for a set of absurdly nice Ram Katla wheels so we could conduct our testing with Four Wheeler’s ’15 Ram Power Wagon. The Ram Katla wheels measure 17x8.5 and feature a Ram-specific 6-inch backspacing to perfectly place a tire of up to 37-inch-diameter inside the factory fender flare. They’re made from high-quality cast T6 aluminum and feature a 3,650-pound load rating that was earned with a 40-inch tire. Most wheel companies earn their load ratings with much smaller tires, so consider that when only comparing numbers in a spec chart. These wheels are the real deal if you’re looking to really thrash your Ram off road. We brought the wheels and tires down to our local Discount Tire and had the whole thing put together into one drivable package and then put 1,000 miles of dirt, desert, trail, and road under the framerails.
On the road, the tires were actually much, much quieter than the Goodyear Duratracs the Power Wagon come from the factory wearing. You can hear the tread but just barely. And with a 55,000-mile tread life, you will barely be hearing them for a long time. Naturally, with super-deep, highly siped tread blocks the tires performed very well when SoCal was treated to some heavy rains. Standing water was child’s play and grip from a stop resulted in only moderate tire slippage under heavy throttle. That’s how the wet-weather game is played on asphalt. In the dry, we turned to our favorite twisty switchback mountain road, a private stretch that’s open to us, yet closed to the public, to see where the limits of lateral adhesion resided. Granted, pitching an 8,000-something-pound off-road–oriented pickup truck into hairpin corners will make any tire slip, but at the maximum sidewall inflation pressure of 65 psi, the Load Range E test tires we had exhibited some noticeable sidewall flex and a definite lack of high-pitched squealing in the corners. You heard a low-frequency buzzing as the treads chewed and clawed for grip, sliding along the pavement. Canyon carvers these tires ‘aint, but they also kept us out of the guardrails, and a normal person won’t be driving like an idiotic tire-testing automotive journalist, so mission accomplished.
In sandy washes with hard acceleration in 2WD, you can hear the tire tread urgently trying for purchase at street pressure but not a lot of bite coming as quickly as it does with even the Wildpeak A/T. After dropping the pressure to a modest 25 psi, things improved greatly, and we could get the big pig of a truck to hook even with the 6.4L Hemi’s throttle mashed to the floorboard. Once up and running, however, we were quickly lulled out of our smugness at the first turn in the wash we encountered. Rather than carve and follow our steering input, the big truck just kinda slid along with inertia toward the outside of the line, which just happened to be a 3-foot berm wall. We stopped and made a quick switch from 2x4 to 4x4 and found we could zap the throttle to get the front tires to help pull the truck towards the line we were steering it at, but overall we found lateral traction in the dirt and sand somewhat disappointing. Again, part of this comes from the simple fact that there’s a whole crapload of mass to control, but truth be told, the Falkens didn’t out-perform the factory tires this truck came with. Perhaps things would be different here had we used a lighter Jeep.
We further dropped the tire pressure down to about 20 psi out back but left the fronts at 25 psi and then hit 4-Lo and engaged the lockers to see how well these tires climbed. In the semi-loose dirt they were good. Not fabulous or stellar, but good. There’s some chewing and clawing that goes on before you begin moving forward, so don’t expect them to claw up dirt hills like a big cat up a tree. When the terrain got into the tighter hard-pack and rock, however, is where these treads really came into their own. It’s been our experience that blocky, siped treads like this really excel in rock, and these were no exception. Any tire can work at low air pressures, but it takes a really sophisticated design to grab and claw at street pressures. We found a little rocky loop as gnarly as we dared without risking the Power Wagon’s rocker panels and made a succession of passes through, increasing tire pressure 5 psi from 25 psi/20 psi front and rear, respectively. It wasn’t until we got to 40 psi front and 35 psi rear that the tires started giving up any hint of slipping. By 55 psi front, 50 psi rear, they were slipping a lot more, but still clawing. From that point, all the way up to our street pressure of 60 psi front and 65 psi rear performance remained constant. Honestly, if you’re hitting hard-pack, granite, shale, or especially slickrock, it’ll be hard to do better than this tire. Just be forewarned that tight shoulder lug pattern that’ll get you to 55,000 street miles or those nice lugs that plow straight through standing water on the street will cost you a little in the sand and dirt.
The 17x8.5 AEV Katla wheels are specifically designed for Ram applications. The centercap is actually cast into the wheel in the same style as new Ram alloy wheels, but an extra-thick lip and bead, recessed valve stem location, and a new, revised open lug design that allows you to actually get a tire iron on the lug nuts are just a few of the off-road-specific niceties built into these superb wheels.
AEV builds its Ram wheels with a 6-inch backspacing, which tucks the tires inside the fender flares, yet provides enough clearance around control arms and other undercarriage components for up to a 37-inch tire. They’re built of tough T6 cast aluminum and are rated for 3,650 pounds with a 40-inch tire!
The blocky treads of the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W excelled in rock, hard pack, and on the street, but they struggled a bit in soft sand and loose dirt. Check the siped packed full of sand, which cleared pretty easily as soon as they got back on hard soil.
The Wildpeak A/T3W features nice, durable two-ply sidewalls and extra lugs that extend down for additional scrub protection. They’re a good-looking tire that come with up to a 55,000-mile tread-life warranty.
SPECIFICATIONS (as tested)
Tire: Falken Wildpeak A/T3W
Load range: E
Max load (lb): 3,195
Approved rim width (in): 8.0-11.0
Tread depth (in): 5/8
Tread width (in): 10
Section width (in): 12
Overall diameter (in): 34.2
Maximum psi: 65
Weight (lb): 69