If you ever came across some article about off-road capable tires, you must have read about the various types. Like with passenger tires, there are multiple types depending on the conditions. While some are more inclined towards on-road performance, others are better at off-roading.
For a long time, the two options in the off-road segment you should find on the market were all-terrain and mud-terrain tires. The all-terrain options are more focused towards road performance with some off-roading capabilities. On the other hand, mud-terrain tires are the most hard-core off-road options that have acceptable performance on the road.
In recent years, we began to see a new type of hybrid off-road tires, sometimes called rough-terrain, which are a blend of all-terrain and mud-terrain tires. Theoretically, you should get excellent off-road capabilities without too many compromises like with mud-terrain tires. To test this claim, today, I’ll be comparing a mud-terrain tire with a hybrid one.
Nitto is a subsidiary of Toyo and is positioned as a budget-minded brand. At the moment, the company is more focused on off-road tires, and the ones I’ll be testing and comparing today are the Trail Grappler and the Ridge Grappler.
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Nitto Trail Grappler
Even though the Trail Grappler isn’t the most hard-core off-road tire in Nitto’s lineup, it comes pretty close. As a result, there are plenty of features that enable it to deliver the off-road performance you’d need.
One thing that mud-terrain suffer from is noise, something that Nitto tried to eliminate or at least minimize. To achieve this, the company went with a computer simulation to shape, resize and position the block to reduce the noise the tire produces. As a result, the company claims that it’s over 30% quieter than its bigger brother, the Mud Grappler.
Off-road tires need some reinforcement to survive being driven in those conditions, and Nitto worked on that with the Trail Grappler. The 3-ply sidewall is constructed with a high turn-up, with the goal of providing additional protection against shaper rocks meaning that it shouldn’t be too easy for the tire to puncture.
As part of the tread design, Nitto aimed to reinforce the shoulder blocks with several goals in mind. On the one hand, they shouldn’t have any issues with rock crawling even then the tire pressure is lowered. On the other hand, it features a stone ejecting pattern to ensure that the tire doesn’t get damaged from stones, keeping the grooves clean.
The tread pattern featuring a balanced void ratio is responsible for eliminating mud and providing consistent off-road performance. In combination with that, the sipes throughout the tire are designed to evacuate water, resulting in a decent aquaplaning resistance.
Nitto Ridge Grappler
The Ridge Grappler is a hybrid tire, meaning that it should have the best of both worlds – great comfort without a massive compromise in terms of off-roading performance.
On the off-road side of things, the Ridge Grappler has several features that should work in its favor, most of which are in terms of the tread design. The alternating shoulder grooves are designed with different dimensions, which should result in the tire’s ability to clean the voids from mud. This, combined with the zig-zag design, should help it with traction on softer and hard-packed surfaces.
Like most off-road tires, the Ridge Grappler is designed to eject stones and prevent the tire from uneven wear. This is achieved by the textured ribs intended to avoid the stones from getting stuck and making a puncture.
Additional off-road performance improvement can be seen in the shoulder lugs. The staggered design ensures that the tire’s traction remains high, regardless of whether you’re rock-crawling or driving in mud or sand.
In terms of road performance, the main thing to note is Nitto’s goal of reducing tire noise. By utilizing a piece of special equipment, the Ridge Grappler is designed with a variable pitch pattern, with the goal of making it quieter on the road.
The Trail Grappler and Ridge Grappler are technically in different tire types, so it would be interesting to see how they compare and how big of a difference you should expect.
How do they perform in dry conditions?
During testing, I found that both the Trail Grappler and Ridge Grappler performed more or less as I was expecting. Usable performance in dry conditions, but nothing extraordinary for these types of tires, especially considering that they aren’t a premium option.
Like most of its mud-terrain counterparts, the Trail Grappler manages to deliver usable performance in dry conditions. Even though the grip and traction levels are usable for daily driving, it’s not a tire that you should push hard. One thing to praise is stability, which is excellent. The tire will remain very stable at higher speeds, something that not many competitors in this price range can brag with.
Unfortunately, the performance of the Ridge Grappler isn’t better, which isn’t a positive thing considering that it’s technically an all-terrain tire. The traction is decent, and the tire can handle a bit more aggressive acceleration. Grip levels, on the other hand, are more or less similar to the Trail Grappler, meaning that you won’t be going into a corner too hot. Stability is also excellent as the previous tire, so in this regard, both feel evenly matched.
As far as safety is concerned, both tires have decent braking distances when compared to their rivals. You won’t be getting the shortest ones in the world, but they aren’t terribly long either.
How do they perform on wet roads?
I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of the wet performance and still ended up a bit disappointed. To be fair, I may have set the bar a bit high, but both tires didn’t do particularly well in wet conditions.
The Trail Grappler is a tire that wouldn’t be my first choice when it comes to driving in rainy conditions. While this is true for most mud-terrain tires, Nitto’s models seem to do a bit worse than some of its competitors. Wheel slip can be noticed even in lighter acceleration while cornering at a slightly higher speed leads to tons of understeer. In addition to that, the braking distances are below average, meaning that it’s far from the best performer in this regard.
Moving over to the Ridge Grappler, we see the same thing as with the dry tests. The performance is more or less similar, meaning that even the hybrid tire doesn’t do very well in the rain. Grip and traction are usable but not very dependable if you’re a spirited driver. Weight manages to remedy the lack of performance a bit, but despite that, the tire still falls behind most of the all-terrain tires.
One area where both tires deliver excellent performance is the aquaplaning resistance. Thanks to the large voids and pattern, the Ridge Grappler and Trail Grappler managed to evacuate water very efficiently.
Can they be used on snow?
Up until this point, the tires were more or less similar in performance. When it comes to winter driving, there is some difference.
The Trail Grappler is the tire with the wider and deeper grooves, so it utilizes them to provide excellent performance in snowy conditions. As long as the snow is unpacked, it can offer very high levels of traction, which isn’t something that some of its competitors can brag with. Unpacked snow poses a bigger challenge, as the tire cannot bite into the snow and offer more usable traction.
Surprisingly, the Ridge Grappler is a tire that seems to do better in snowy conditions. While it won’t be able to handle very deep snow, it will have no problem with shallower patches. Also, unpacked snow also won’t be a problem, as the tire’s sipes can deliver traction. This comes in combination with shorter braking distances than the Trail Grappler, which is a positive thing.
As far as ice is concerned, neither of them are winter tires, so don’t expect any usable performance.
Will they deliver good off-road performance?
We reach the section where the tires will receive some praises, and based on what I’ve experienced, they are pretty high.
Starting off with the Trail Grappler, the performance is superb. As a mud-terrain tire, there’s hardly something that the tire cannot do or places it cannot perform. Hardpacked surfaces are no problem, as the traction and handling are excellent. Kicking it up a notch, the tire continues to deliver outstanding performance in mud or sand conditions. I have to admit that the sand performance isn’t the absolute best, and you may get a bit more from the premium competitors. Finally, for rock crawling, just deflate it, and the tire will take you over any rock anywhere.
Even though the Ridge Grappler is an all-terrain hybrid tire, the off-road performance is very impressive. Like the Trail Grappler, dirt roads pose no problems as the tire will deliver better performance than most of its competitors. In moderately extreme conditions, things are similar, and the level of performance in mud and sand is excellent. The performance is a bit behind the bigger mud-terrain option, which is to be expected. Rock crawling was something I wasn’t expecting the tire to be this good at. It managed to deliver almost the same performance as the dedicated off-road tire, which is an excellent sign.
Are they good in the handling department?
This will be a short section, and the answer is no. Both tires are designed for other driving conditions, so it’s not something that you should expect of them.
The Ridge Grappler and Trail Grappler aren’t the most responsive tires on the market, and considering the high sidewall, this shouldn’t be a surprise. This also means that you won’t be getting too much feedback through the steering wheel.
How well-refined are the tires for everyday driving?
Let’s be honest, you won’t be getting these tires for the refinement, so it’s not something you’ll be expecting. To your and mine surprise, things aren’t too bad in this department.
Despite being a mud-terrain tire, notorious for the lack of refinement, I have to admit that the Trail Grappler isn’t the worst choice. The comfort levels are acceptable, and the tire does a decent job at dampening holes and road imperfections. You can soften things up a bit more if you deflate it a bit. Noise levels are also good, as far as a mud-terrain tire goes. While some noise is coming from the tire, it’s not as bad as some of its rivals. One thing to mention is that the noise levels will increase a bit as the tire wears down.
Surprisingly, the Ridge Grappler didn’t perform better than the Trail Grappler. On the comfort side of things, the tire is decent at softening things up, and like with the previous one, you can improve that a bit by deflating it. One thing to note is that the vibrations seem a bit more pronounced here than with the other Nitto tire. Noise levels are pretty good when compared with other all-terrain tires. Even though it isn’t as quiet as highway tires, it’s quieter than its rivals, including the Trail Grappler.
Do any of them offer a warranty?
Off-road capable tires often come without a warranty, which isn’t a surprise. These tires are intended to be driven in some extreme conditions, so manufacturers cannot guarantee how much they’ll last.
Nitto isn’t too different than most of its rivals, so it offers the Trail Grappler and Ridge Grappler without a treadwear warranty.
How do they compare in terms of price?
Well, a price comparison isn’t exactly fair, mainly because we are talking about tires from two different categories. Naturally, the Trail Grappler is more expensive than the Ridge Grappler. Similarly sized tires can differ in as little as $50, with some reaching triple digits. The load ratings of the Trail Grappler are higher, so it’s natural for the tires to be more expensive.
Nitto Trail Grappler Pros and Cons
- Excellent off-road performance for the most extreme conditions
- Decent levels of comfort and noise
- Very good aquaplaning resistance
- Wet performance is poor
- Noise levels increase as the tire wears down
Nitto Ridge Grappler Pros and Cons
- Very capable in snowy conditions
- Impressive off-road capabilities
- Plenty of size options
- Not the best bang for the buck option
- Dry and wet performance is average
Which of the two is a better option?
I have to say, choosing between these two is difficult, but I’m leaning a bit towards the Ridge Grappler.
While the performance in dry and wet is more or less the same, the tire seems to do a better job in snowy conditions and is decently well refined. You get all of this at a lower cost when compared to the Trail Grappler, with almost the same off-road capabilities.
With that said, if you need that little extra performance for off-roading, then the Trail Grappler is the one to go for. Even though the road performance isn’t any better than the Ridge Grappler, in off-road scenarios, there are cases where it can outperform it.