SA4x4’s Giant All-Terrain Tyre Test


You want tyres fit for the bush, which are also comfortable on tar? Yup, you have entered the realm of All-Terrain Rubber which must grip and grind its way over a variety of surfaces. But which brand is best? The SA4x4 team amassed 17 sets of AT tyres for the biggest local tyre-showdown ever…

With a contact patch that’s not much bigger than a big human hand to provide grip, stability and ride comfort, tyres nowadays are marvels of modern technology. Since the first pneumatic tyre was made 130 years ago by John Boyd Dunlop (actually patented 40 years earlier by fellow Scotsman Robert William Thomson), the only feature that has remained unchanged since 1888 is the round shape. Many innovations have followed over the years. Besides synthetic rubber, the most prominent has been the development of radial tyre construction by Michelin exactly 70 years ago (though was patented by Arthur Savage in 1915). 

Radial construction, better compounds and computer-aided tread designs have allowed for even more specialised tyre applications, and led to three main tyre options in the world of 4x4s and all-wheeldrive SUVs: mud-terrain (MT), all-terrain (AT) and highway-terrain (HT). MTs are the preferred option for tough off-road conditions, where maximum grip in mud and sand is required, with suitable sidewall protection against punctures at low pressures. But the aggressive tread patterns of MT tyres are less than ideal on tar because of unacceptable noise and vibration levels, making long-distance trips harsh and uncomfortable.

On the other side of the spectrum, highway-terrain tyres offer higher speed ratings, better grip on tar, but less traction in off-road conditions, and they are moreprone to damage off road because of their softer sidewalls. In theory, all terrain tyres are developed to find the middle ground between MT and HT tyres – that balance between offroad prowess and asphalt performance. They represent a compromise, and as such a multitude of options exists within the segment – from more off-road-biased choices to more on-road-inclined versions. But which tyre brand makes the best allrounder? That is the question we wanted answered; your choice of tyres, just like the nameplate on your 4x4, can lead to heated campfire debates…For this tyre-showdown, we assembled 17 sets of tyres from 16 different brands – 85 tyres in total (including spares) – and subjected them to an exhaustive set of tests to find the best all-rounder in the game.

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