Long viewed as a niche segment player in the UHP and light truck/SUV markets, Nitto Tire USA Corp.’s focus on those segments has brought the company a lot of notoriety among enthusiasts. In more recent times, Nitto has made strides in broadening its product screen, giving its dealers more products to address a wider range of drivers.
Nitto continues on that path with two recent additions – the Terra Grappler G2 and the Exo Grappler AWT. The Terra Grappler G2 is the next gen version of the popular Terra Grappler light truck/SUV line, which made its debut in 2001. All new is the Exo Grappler AWT, positioned as an everyday tire for owners whose work truck and personal truck are one and the same.
Both tires took their bow at a mid-September media launch at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, Calif. The 120-acre ranch and conference center, located off Mulholland Highway, is adjacent to shooting site for TV’s “The Biggest Loser” and near a popular celebrity rehab resort.
No one was losing or rehabbing anything at the launch event, which drew some 20 print and online media people to learn about and experience the two new tires, both on-road and off.
The Grappler line has been a workhorse of Nitto’s product offering since the Terra Grappler was launched in 2001. From that beginning, the Grappler line today includes the Mud Grappler, the Trail Grappler M/T, the Dune Grappler, and the Dura Grappler. The first generation Terra Grappler is now being replaced by the G2 model, and the new Exo Grappler AWT fills consumer/commercial applications.
In introducing the program and new products, Nitto’s assistant manager of brand publishing Stephen Leu gave attendees a brief walk through the brand’s history, which started in the late 1940s as a bicycle tire producer. The Nitto brand landed in the U.S. in the 1970s through a sales subsidiary, and today the brand is produced in Georgia at the Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing Inc. plant.
After the formal presentation, media types had the opportunity to test the tires on a rugged, hilly run on ranch property. Both new tires were mounted to a stable of Jeep Wrangler Limiteds for this exercise. Media rode in Ford F-250 pickups on public streets to get a feel for the tires’ road manners and quiet ride.
Alan Ngo, senior staff engineer, explained that the symmetrical non-directional treaded Terra Grappler G2 is a straight replacement for the original model (though Nitto said a few Terra Grappler sizes will remain in line for the time being).
The tire targets owners of larger SUVs, half-ton to full one-ton pickup trucks, and leveled and lifted trucks, Ngo said.
The Terra Grappler G2 features an all-new tread compound to deliver longer tread life while improving all-terrain traction, full depth siping for all-season traction and handling, variable pitch tread blocks for reduced road noise, and staggered “hill and valley” shoulder lugs for more biting edges for off-road traction.
Those same shoulder lugs are part of a unique dual sidewall design, giving the driver the right to choose their look. One sidewall has an aggressive look with “blade shape,” while the other was described as “more classic,” with a “thunderbolt pattern” that pays homage to its predecessor.
“The Terra Grappler G2 takes our flagship truck/SUV tire and gives our customers even more of what they want,” said Ngo. “The new rubber compound improves treadwear, the tread pattern was re-engineered to retain on-road ride quality and off-road traction and the dual-design sidewalls continue the bold appearance Nitto customers expect.”
First group of 20 sizes – with Q, R, S, T and H speed ratings – of the Terra Grappler G2 were to be available to dealers as of Oct. 1, with another 35 sizes coming in January 2015. The initial size range has seven 17-inch sizes, nine 18-inch sizes, and four 20-inch sizes. In January, Nitto will add eight 17-inch sizes, eleven 18-inch sizes, eleven 20-inch sizes, and five 22-inch sizes to round out the offering. In all, the line will have 55 Euro-metric, LT-metric and flotation sizes.
LT-metric and flotation sizes of the tire come with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, while the Euro-metric sizes carry a 65,000-mile warranty. The tire’s 600AB UTQG applies only to the Euro-metric sizes, Nitto said.
The new Exo Grappler AWT is a different bird altogether, being designed primarily to handle off-road assignments while being more than capable on highway.
Nitto described the tire as “designed specifically to deliver consistent traction on dirt trails, gravel and farmland, while providing driving comfort when cruising at highway speeds.”
“The Exo Grappler AWT brings together the designs and technologies that we’ve developed throughout the extensive testing of all of our Grappler tires and combines them into the new tire,” said Ngo. “We’ve designed a tire that is not only competent on dirt, gravel and pavement, but also has excellent capabilities in snow and ice.”
With a non-directional asymmetrical tread that is prepped for studs (TSMI #15), the Exo Grappler AWT targets recreational off-road trucks and SUVs, and work trucks for utilities, oil fields, mines, construction sites, farms and ranches – applications where there is a lot of off-road driving on dirt trails, gravel and rocks as well as regular pavement.
AWT stands for “all-weather traction,” which comes in part from a blend of natural and synthetic rubber into a chip/cut and wear resistant tread compound that also delivers reliable traction on all surfaces and weather conditions. With large lateral grooves and siping, the tire carries the mountain peak/snowflake symbol for winter service, while its gear-shaped tread edges promote a stable contact patch and smooth even wear, Nitto said.
Spiral stone ejectors help protect the tire from stone drilling and retention. The steel-belted radial also has three sidewall plies – including a high turn-up ply that wraps around the bead bundle – for added off-road durability.
As for on-road performance, the Exo Grappler AWT tread features variable pitch tread blocks to reduce road noise. During on-road drives in F-250s, the Exo Grappler AWT exhibited surprisingly low road noise, despite its aggressive-looking tread, according to some of the media at the event.
The tire’s staggered should blocks provide additional biting edges for off-road traction, and its dual sidewall design has one side featuring “chisel-shaped” sidewall lugs, and the other carrying a “Y-shaped” lugs.
The Load Range E line is Q speed rated, and is now available in eight LT-metric sizes, covering 17- through 20-inch wheel diameters. Three flotation sizes – also Load Range E – were set for an October release, Nitto said.