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Tyres to the test

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General Tire puts its philosophy of Anywhere is Possible to the off-road test, using a convoy of Jeep Wranglers to traverse some challenging terrain in the Eastern Cape. Wynter Murdoch reports

There’s an earth bank on a trail that crosses a remote corner of the Wild Coast that bears some brutal scars – the result of being attacked by a shovel.

Without some hard digging, however, I doubt that even the hardy Jeep Wranglers that formed the convoy in General Tire’s Anywhere is Possible Expedition would have successfully traversed the deep donga which had halted progress.

The Jeep is a capable vehicle. It crawls like a spider up cliff-like hillsides. It moves as stealthily as a crocodile across rivers. It is as sure-footed as a klipspringer along rocky outcrops and it is as comfortable as a hippo in mud. But when there’s a mammoth drop from one section of donga to another, it stops in its tracks like a wild dog at a precipice.accommodate the Jeep’s right front wheel for a couple of rotations.

Since the tyres it is wearing are General’s newly launched Grabber ATs – size LT265/65R 17 – which have been deflated to 1,6 bar to increase their footprint, that means plenty of digging, and much cursing, before the ledge is deemed to be acceptable for use.

The first attempt at a crossing reveals another problem. The Wrangler’s nose snags the lip of the bank before the wheel reaches the ledge, so another section of earth requires removal. More digging – and much more cursing – follows before the solution is put to the test.

Will the ledge support the vehicle’s weight? Will it be wide enough to take the wheel, or will it crumble at the edges, tipping the 4×4 like a dead duck into the donga?

Centimetre by centimetre the lead Wrangler idles forward to straddle the chasm and plant its wheel firmly on the ledge. Now the correct trajectory needs to be followed so that the wheel stays true to the crudely carved path.

It’s agonising to watch as steering is corrected millimetre by millimetre. The vehicle creaks and rocks. Brakes groan. Suddenly, suspension stretches to its limits at the left front as the wheel it supports drops into a deep hollow, leaving most of the weight on the right.

More earth disappears from the edge of the ledge. The path is narrow now, leaving some of the tyre to float free in space – and the back wheel is yet to gain purchase. Eventually it does and, as slowly and deliberately as a tortoise the vehicle noses across the yawning crevice, its weight now evenly balanced. One by one the other vehicles in the convoy follow until all are safely beyond the obstacle.

This is just one of many challenges the Wranglers – and the Grabber ATs – are put through during two days of testing off-road driving, the aim being to showcase the abilities of the tyres and also to embody the adventurous spirit of the US-based manufacturer, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

In his welcome address, Niel Langner, marketing manager for Continental Tyre SA – which manufactures General Tire products at its Port Elizabeth plant and distributes them across South Africa and the sub-Saharan Africa region – emphasises the fact that Anywhere is Possible is more than just a pay-off line.

“It’s a proof-point for the General Tire brand, built on a tried and tested reputation for class-leading performance, reliability and value, which makes it an extremely popular contender in the replacement 4×4 tyre market,” he says.

The AT versions of the Grabbers certainly appear impressive. Even when under duress in the most extreme conditions – wet rocks, thick mud, slippery grass – grip levels remain high. And no tyre suffers a puncture on the route despite traversing terrain littered with sharp rock, thorn and tree stump. On tar, too, the product impresses for its good levels of grip, quietness and comfort.

According to Langner, the secret of the tyre’s success lies in its tread pattern. “The all-terrain aspect features a large number of robust blocks that are designed to lock with the ground, helping the vehicle to maintain traction, steer precisely and achieve short braking distances.

“Deep tread grooves provide additional grip when travelling over mud or grassland, while aggressive shoulder blocks that reach into the sidewall help to prevent punctures or damage, even when the tyre is deflated to increase its footprint.”

An even hardier version, the Grabber MT, is available too; its off-road bias increased from the AT’s 50:50 ratio to an 80:20 equivalent. “The MT features self-cleaning tread and solid blocks that lock even with very loose surfaces or sludge to ensure ultra-high traction,” says Langner.

So, three days after the expedition began in East London, the convoy finds itself back at the airport; all vehicles intact and all tyres ready to again go the distance as a new group arrives to put them to the Anywhere is Possible test…

 

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