Like the majority of the tires tested this time around, the Nitto Dura Grappler is intended for your tow vehicle and/or daily driver more so than for trail use, and there's nothing wrong with that since a large number of four-wheelers bring their four-bys to camp on a trailer these days. With a very street-oriented tread, this latest addition to the Grappler line is by far the best suited in that group for towing duty.
True to form, Nitto again attempted a record in the most-letters-on-the-sidewall category, and with a total of 31 managed beating out the Dune Grappler by one. Also, there's again a choice between sidewall designs: One quite businesslike, the other with fake (duh!) bead-lock bolts by the bead area.
Nitto tires are usually very true and well made, but somehow we ended up with two that made the Hunter GSP 9700 ask for more of 3M's excellent Wheel Weight System weights than we cared for. Not that a total of 7 ounces is a lot on a 33-inch tire, it's just that we expected perfection from the 12-segment molds. Also, two were a bit wobbly-it's nothing you'd ever notice, except on the balancer, and the Dura tires ran perfectly fine down the road. Chances are that these were not regular production tires.
With the reduced tread flex built into the Dura to help with handling and longevity, the ride quality ends up somewhere between a regular LT and a commercial tire-smooth and quiet but harsher than, say, a Toyo H/T. Far more suitable for wet roads than the Dune Grappler, the Dura has three wide circumferential grooves for water dispersion and a fair amount of siping in the tread. Low rolling resistance (read "better mileage") is one advantage of the Dura's mild tread design, and the noiseless ride, predictable handling, and excellent tracking qualities are a natural part of the package and its practically solid shoulders.
In case you hadn't noticed, this is not a Mud Grappler tread, so don't even try mud bogging, and the stiff tread area that works so well on the pavement makes for less-than-ideal trail prowess in general. Comparing again to a Toyo H/T, which has a very similar construction, the Dura's tread just can't conform enough to excel in the dirt. So, that's the price you pay for its road manners and towing ability. A heavier vehicle (which a towing vehicle would tend to be) helps the tire work better-and there is always the old fail-safe method of airing down when more traction is needed. Keep in mind that at its maximum of 80 psi, a set of four 285/75R16s will support a whopping 15,000 pounds. Does your tow vehicle really carry that much weight? We didn't think so, which means you can likely air down quite a bit even for street use and vastly improve the dirt performance of the Dura Grappler without even airing down below the correct street pressure for your setup.
We'll assume that you don't rockcrawl your tow vehicle, although the Dura Grappler is pretty good on granite. In deep sand, you're definitely better off with the Dune Grappler, but shallower sections were well within the Dura's grasp. Loose dirt atop hard produced more slippage than a Toyo H/T, for example, but plenty enough bite to get you into most any campsite.
"Dura" may turn out to be a well-chosen name as it took more than 350 miles (much of which was on twisty canyon roads) just to wear most of the little "nubs" off the outside shoulders of the tread. This, despite a relatively low durometer of 66, is an indication that this Grappler apparently is made to last, and some sizes do come with a 45,000-mile warranty. This Nitto should appeal to all the tow vehicle owners, especially, and those who have gotten over the "need" for a trail tread on the street.
Tire: Nitto Dura Grappler Highway Terrain
Load range: E
Max load (lb @ psi): 3,750 @ 80
Sidewall plies: 2-ply polyester
Tread plies: 2-ply steel, 2-ply polyester, 2-ply nylon
Approved rim width (in): 7-9 (8)
Tread depth (in): 17.9/32
Tread width (in): 9.1 (measured)
Section width (in): 11.5
Overall diameter: 32.9
Static loaded radius (lb): N/A
Revolutions per mile: 632
Weight (lb): N/A
Test vehicle: K-5 Blazer, 6,300 pounds
6261 Katella Ave.