A lift kit, wheels, and tires go hand-in-hand with off-road builds. Installing a lift without tires doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. We addressed this issue with Project XtremeJ, our 2001 Jeep Cherokee.
We recently installed a Skyjacker six-inch lift kit on the Jeep, but it came time to pick out a wheel and tire combination. We turned to Toyo Tires to help us select the right tire for the direction of the build.
With the company’s help, we decided on the Open Country M/T. This tire would give us plenty of traction on and off the road while we turn this Cherokee into a daily-driven rockcrawling rig. To fill the wheelwell we went with a LT305/70R16 and Mammoth Wrangler wheels we obtained from Extreme Terrain.
These Mammoth wheels feature an aggressive eight spoke design that doesn’t sacrifice on great looks. They are available in a 16×8 or 17×9 wheel, and are made exclusively for Jeeps.
We chose these wheels for the Jeep because they will fit larger brakes in the future. The style is also a great option when you want your setup to look right at home on the street or the trail. Ultimately, we paired them with the Toyo tires to give us an overall aggressive yet stylish look for XtremeJ.
The install went smooth and in no time at all, the Jeep was on all fours ready to play. But before we hit the dirt, we wanted to find out more about what makes these tires such a staple in the off-road market.
We had the chance to speak with Toyo’s Conrad Galamgam, senior director of product planning and technical services and Todd Bergeson, product manager for light truck tires. With their input, learning about the Open Country M/T filled in a lot of the blanks.
What was the vision behind these tires? How did the idea start?
Toyo: When the Toyo Tires New Product development team began to study the market in preparation for the Open Country M/T, they paid close attention to how customers really use their vehicles. They looked, not only, at the capabilities required for the diverse off-road terrains but also talked to owners of Jeeps, Toyotas, and emerging diesel pickups. Some of the pitfalls of other mud-terrain tires at the time included: loud obnoxious pattern noise from the aggressive open-lug tread patterns, as well as improper load and speed rating, which if ignored could lead to a variety of bad situations.
Having a clean slate to work with, the engineers at Toyo Tires created a radial tire with proper load ratings, plus a durable three-ply polyester casing and a spiral-wound nylon cap ply like an ultra-high performance passenger car tire. The construction and design elements helped provide a tire with exceptional uniformity and durability, while providing a surprisingly quiet pattern for a mud-terrain tire.
Where do these tires fit into the Open Country lineup?
Toyo: The Open Country M/T provides maximum traction off-the-road. It is our most aggressive tire in the Open Country family.
What are some defining features about the tire that off-roaders will like (outer voids, inner voids, tread pattern, etc.)?
Toyo: Traction and durability off-the-road were of course very essential. The hook-shaped center blocks deliver excellent off-road traction and the over-the-shoulder tread design adds extra bite in mud, sand and snow. The sidewall is also designed to help reduce cuts and punctures.
Open, scalloped shoulder blocks also produce traction off-road while helping to evacuate build-up of mud and snow.
Off-roaders will also appreciate the durability. These tires have survived with the toughest drivers in the toughest conditions, including off-road champion Robby Gordon at the legendary Dakar Rally.
How many plies are used in the sidewall?
Toyo: The Open Country M/T is available in a three-ply design for the majority of sizes offered.
How was testing performed on the tire?
Toyo: The testing, both in Japan and in the USA is extensive. A combination of computer modeling and simulations were performed prior to selecting the initial prototype. The resulting pattern is optimized for both off-highway traction and low noise on the highway. Pre-production test tires were tested throughout the USA for a broad range of testing and evaluation. Tires were installed on a wide variety of off-highway vehicles and used for rock crawling in Moab, Utah, testing in the red clay of Georgia’s back woods, off-the-road in sand and rocks, and more.
Since Toyo Tires believed many people would put these tires on their daily drivers, they also tested the Open Country M/T for on-road noise and tread life.
Each is tested for balance and uniformity before it ever leaves the plant. Ask anyone who has installed a set of these tires and they will tell you how remarkable the balance and uniformity is for such large, aggressive tires.
Off-road racing is also another form of testing these tires to evaluate their durability off-the-road, and proved their worth against some of the toughest terrain in the world, surviving punishment by some of the best off-road drivers in the world.
The reality is that testing never stops. It is an ongoing process as we constantly evaluate and consider how we could improve this legendary tire.
What is the expected tread life of the tire?
Toyo: That will depend on the end user and usage environment. For its segment, the Open Country M/T is considered to have exceptional tread life.
How should the tire perform on-road with regard to road noise and grip?
Toyo: Toyo’s Open Country M/T is considered to have minimal road noise when compared with other tires in its segment. Due to its tread block arrangement, it also provides stable handling and a comfortable ride on the highway.
Are there any sizes planned for future release?
Toyo: Toyo constantly watches the trends in the market, whether for new OE replacements sizes or new flotation applications. New sizes are added whenever there is a need. Currently, there are 55 SKUs fitting wheels from 15- to 24-inches in diameter with flotation sizes up to 40-inches in diameter.
With Project XtremeJ just receiving its lift kit, along with new wheels and Open Country M/T tires, it was time to stretch its legs out in Ocotillo Wells, California. This part of Southern California’s desert has a wide range of terrain, from sand to rocks.
The Open Country M/T’s were not the quietest off-road tire we have tested recently, but with its aggressive tread design we did not think they would be. After the drive to the desert, it was finally time to go out and get them dirty.
The washes in Ocotillo Wells allow for the easiest, most direct way to all the areas of the desert. They are made up of some hard pack, as well as soft sand. The tire had no problem cutting through the different terrain types.
We did have a problem with our four-wheel-drive not engaging while we were out there, so everything we did was in two-wheel drive, essentially doing everything that the stock Wrangler guys had to do in four-wheel-drive, but in two-wheel drive.
This tire really impressed us with the things we were able to do in the desert. Losing four-wheel-drive on the trail is never a good thing, but the way these tires were performing, made us breathe a little easier.
On the way back from the desert, we did experience some rare Southern California rain. The tires handled just as good in the wet conditions as they did in the sand. In one day alone these tires saw sand, mud, dry pavement, wet pavement and excelled in all areas, giving us great traction in all conditions.
Overall, the tire preformed exceptionally well off-road. The tire allowed us to go play around all over the desert. It does have some road noise, but for an aggressive tire this is something that is usually a given.
The tire has been tested in all forms of off-road racing, from Baja to Dakar, and if it performs to the level that professional drivers need, it will be perfect for our daily driver. The Open Country M/T is a tire that will fit a multitude of off-road vehicles such as prerunners, rockcrawlers, and tow vehicles. We are glad to have chosen them for Project XtremeJ.