It’s no secret that UTVs are just plain fun. Here at Off Road Xtreme, we take every opportunity to check them out in person and get a sense for how they perform. Our latest came in the form of Toyo Tires sending us a set of their brand-new Open Country SxS, designed specifically for UTVs to deliver off-road grip and enduring performance.
The Open Country SxS borrows elements seen on other Toyo tire models, most notably the racing version of the Open Country M/T, the M/T-R. Given this information, we had some high expectations for the tire and seeing how it performed in the dusty terrain of Southern California.
We used a 2020 Polaris RZR Turbo S as our test bed. Its owner, Tommy Harper, was as stoked as we were to see what the SxSs had in store. But before we got into off-road testing, we spoke with Cameron Parsons, Product Manager of Competition and Specialty Tires at Toyo Tires.
What Went Into The Open Country SxS
We asked Parsons about the vision behind the SxS and its links to the M/T-R. “The Open Country M/T-R proved itself to outlast and outrun competitors in some of the most punishing and highly regarded off-road race events,” he said. “These include races like the Baja 500. Our goal was to carry that spirit over to the side-by-side market in the form of the Open Country SxS.”
“While the Open Country SxS construction is made specific for side-by-side applications, you can see that it leans on the Open Country M/T-R for the tread design,” he continued. “Like the M/T-R, it utilizes aggressive hook-shaped tread blocks and does away with any siping, helping the tire grab onto loose surfaces while maintaining strength and durability.”
This decision made sense, as UTVs typically run only in off-road terrain. By prioritizing off-road handling characteristics, the SxS embraces only the most sensible features geared toward improving traction – aggressive tread design, wide voids for clearing out mud, stone ejectors to prevent rocks from embedding, and scalloped shoulder blocks for better cornering.
Another interesting facet of the SxS is its availability in only one size: 32×9.50R15. “We introduced the Open Country SxS like this because this size is favored for side-by-side motorsports applications,” explained Parsons. “Even outside of motorsports, enthusiasts are upgrading their side-by-side tires up to 32 inches, so it seemed natural to start in this higher tier.”
As always, Toyo upheld its stellar reputation by testing the Open Country SxS before bringing it to the market. “We expected most buyers of the Open Country SxS to use it either in motorsports environments or on off-road trails, so early releases of this tire were used heavily in both,” commented Parsons. “We received very positive feedback from the drivers in regards to the tire’s handling response and its long-lasting tread.”
For this install, we opted to let experts handle the mounting and balancing of the tires. Our search brought us to Ultimate Performance Powersports in Lake Elsinore, California. Owner Jeff Rivers was on hand to oversee the install and make sure it went smoothly, and his expertise in UTVs was apparent right away.
“Ultimate Performance Powersports is our customer-facing branch of ATV Corporation, which is our main business,” he explained. “Since 2012, we’ve been helping customers do custom fabrication, maintenance, repairs, and parts and accessories.”
Using a forklift, the UPP technician, Josh, raised the RZR like it weighed next to nothing. It afforded him easy access to the lugnuts, and before we knew it, the tires came off and got de-beaded.
Josh used a special pressurized air discharger to get the tires to mount onto the RZR’s wheels. Afterwards, he poured in balancing beads through the tire stem. These were tiny plastic beads, smaller than BBs, that would balance the tires while in motion by way of centrifugal force. “As the tire spins, centrifugal force will cause the beads to fan out and balance the tire,” explained Josh.
In no time, the RZR now had the SxS tires installed and we were ready to get out and test it out. We followed Tommy back to his hometown of San Bernardino, grabbed a spare helmet, and then headed over to our testing grounds: Cleghorn Trail.
Testing The Open Country SxS
Cleghorn Trail spans about 15 miles from start to finish. It contains several fun obstacle courses and winding pathways as it courses around the mountains. On a weekday, it’s less populated, so it’s fun to let loose on the longer sections and visible corners where you can see far ahead.
Tommy took the first go in the RZR, driving us up the trail. He stayed in two-wheel-drive for most of it, giving the SxS tires an opportunity to prove their merit. And prove it they did, as we had excellent traction coming out of corners and blazing across straight sections.
Near one summit, there’s a small hill with some ravines that make for fun climbing obstacles. Tommy put the RZR in four-wheel-drive and made quick work of these ravines. All the while, the tires did their job admirably.
We headed further up the mountain and came across another spot. It featured a decently long straightaway and a small figure-eight-like clearing. Back in two-wheel-drive, Tommy put the RZR through its paces, keeping the machine in control as he ambled up and over, swung the back around, and sped off. He let us take a spin behind the wheel, and it was clear that the tires were performing as expected.
In two-wheel-drive, the RZR felt like a real speed demon. It kicked the rear out with excess throttle and came back in control once the tires straightened out. In four-wheel-drive, it still had the speed, but with better control to boot. No matter the terrain or drivetrain setting, the Open Country SxS tires never slipped too much.
Toyo’s latest off-road tire definitely satisfies. We recommend it for any UTV owner that wants control and peak performance out of their side-by-side. Be sure to check out more about the Open Country SxS on Toyo’s website. Also, don’t forget to follow Toyo on Facebook and Instagram.