Riding Impression: The All-New BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A Tire
As the company that launched the all-terrain tire market 35 years ago with the All-Terrain T/A (click image on right for more), BFGoodrich feels it has done a great job of listening to its customers over the years. The reality is, however, that no matter how great a company listens to its customers, it will still need to evaluate and anticipate changes in buyer’s wants and needs. For BFG’s newest light truck and SUV tire, the Rugged Terrain T/A, the company actually paid a little more attention to what people weren’t saying.
With the all-new Rugged Terrain T/A, BFGoodrich expects great things. The tire, which spent four years in development, is a blend of what BFGoodrich believes most truck and SUV owners truly want even if they may not exactly say it: An aggressive-looking tire capable of going off-road while not sacrificing a quiet ride and great on-road performance. BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain addresses this evolution of light truck and SUV tire buyers, noting there might even be a growth spurt in this area that will account for about 2 million more tires.
The Rugged Terrain T/A will be available on May 1st, 2011. It will be offered in 36 sizes, which will widen BFG’s light truck market coverage considerably. What that means for you and me is that tire will be available in a size to fit almost any light truck or SUV.
The Rugged Terrain T/A is situated in BFGoodrich’s lineup smack between the on-road Long Trail T/A Tour and the more off-road-ready All-Terrain T/A KO. The tire that previously bridged this gap between on- and off-road is the Rugged Trail T/A, which BFG will still offer in a handful of OE (original equipment) applications. Whether the Rugged Terrain T/A will eventually replace the Rugged Trail T/A as an OE tire remains to be seen but it sure seems like a realistic possibility.
Although producing a stylish new tire was important, BFGoodrich didn’t spend years simply making the Rugged Terrain T/A tire better looking. The Rugged Terrain is designed to improve upon its predecessor, the Rugged Trail, in both looks and performance. This might be best exemplified by the aggressive tread that hugs deep down the sidewalls to aid in off-road traction and add to its rugged appearance. The Rugged Terrain T/A, although not as aggressive as the All-Terrain T/A KO, still offers a good amount of off-road traction with its semi-aggressive tread. BFG also designed tread-clearing elements in the siping to prevent stone retention on the trail.
For on-road performance, BFG engineers worked to incorporate noise-reducing elements into the tread design by literally damning (or closing off) certain sipes to eliminate road noise. BFGoodrich also reports that the Rugged Terrain T/A has 30 percent better wet traction than the Rugged Trail, much of which engineers attribute to the two large center grooves in the tire’s tread that help evacuate water from the front of the tire when on wet surfaces to prevent hydroplaning.
To check out this new tire first-hand, BFGoodrich invited Off-Road.com and other media outlets out to Carefree, Arizona, to get some time on the new tires. After getting a breakdown from the BFGoodrich team of designers and engineers, we got the chance to get on the road. It was quickly apparent the Rugged Terrain T/A is notably quieter than a traditional all-terrain tire. This reinforced our initial opinion of the tire, as we actually got our hands on a set just before our trip and replaced our traditional all-terrain tires with the new Rugged Terrain T/A and noticed they definitely quieter on pavement.
We traveled from our hotel in Carefree to the Tonto National Forrest, moving from pavement to dirt roads and rocky trails once we arrived in the park. We weren’t traveling on any really challenging terrain initially, but being the group of automotive-loving journalists that we are, a few trucks were a little heavy on the gas while cornering around the dirt roads. The Rugged Terrain T/A held its own on the non-paved roads, even if we went a few mph over the speed limit.
Although we just missed a rain and snow storm, we did find some muddy, rocky sections of trail, and the Rugged Terrain T/A showed us that in spite of its good on-road characteristics it still has some off-road chops. It pulled just fine through the muddy section and didn’t slip up on rocky slopes. The Rugged Terrain T/A is not intended as a hard-core off-road tire, but it certainly isn’t out of its element either.
It’s a simple fact for off-roaders: The more aggressive your tire, the louder it is on pavement. The Rugged Terrain is designed to look and feel tough, and although it can tackle it fair share of trails, it was designed primarily as an on-road tire with off-road capability. BFG representatives were quick to note that if a person is looking for something really aggressive then they might be better suited with the BFGoodirch All-Terrain T/A KO or the Mud Terrain.
With that said, the Rugged Terrain is a great all-around truck tire. It might be ideal for someone needing a good tire for a tow vehicle that will tackle off-road terrain but won’t be rock-crawling; for the outdoor enthusiast looking to get to the trail; for the dirt biker or ATV rider who needs to travel off-road to get to the riding spot; it ultimately is for someone who might get a little dirty but doesn’t want a tire so aggressive it will make the tire louder on the road.
You’d be hard pressed to look at the new Rugged Terrain T/A and not say it’s a good-looking tire. But looks aside, the Rugged Terrain T/A was designed to perform. We’re happy to report that it does, offering off-road capability, quiet on-road operation and great wet and dry traction. The blend of good looks and performance is the mixture that BFG sought, and we’d have to say it delivers.
The BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A will be available in dealerships at the start of May, 2011. For more information, visit http://www.bfgoodrich.com/.