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Nitto’s New Exo Grappler Blurs Lines

Wolf-Sheep Crossbreed

Pete TrasborgPhotographer, Writer

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.

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.

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.

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

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.