Tires are tires, right? Not exactly. When it comes time to replace the tires on your SUV, you'll be doing yourself -- and your SUV -- a big favor if you do more than simply put on another set of original equipment shoes. Goodyear Tire & Rubber wants to capture your replacement tire dollar by continuing to improve and innovate. Their latest SUV tire is the Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar, and it's a great choice for drivers who spend most of their time on the pavement, but want to have the right tire for occasional off-road use, with minimal sacrifice in comfort, durability and capability.
The Wrangler name is a familiar one. It's been emblazoned on various Goodyear tires since at least 1991, according to the Goodyear website. The big innovation in this all-new version is the addition of Kevlar.
"Kevlar" is the trade name for an aramid fiber manufactured by the DuPont company. It is reputed to be five times as strong as steel on an equal-weight basis -- which means that it is extraordinarily strong for its weight. Kevlar is what makes bulletproof armor work, and it is turning up in many different products. Goodyear currently has the exclusive license to use the name "Kevlar" in connection with passenger car tires.
Wrangler is built much like any other steel-belted radial tire, except a layer of Kevlar replaces the usual layer of nylon cord. Starting from the outside, there's the tread, then a layer of Kevlar (one layer for standard load tires, and two layers on the Light Truck or "Pro Grade" version), then two steel belts. Replacing the nylon layer with Kevlar results in a tire that's lighter, stronger and more puncture-resistant than before. Durability is also improved, which allows Goodyear to include a 60,000-mile tread life limited warranty on the new tire.
Tread and sidewall
Testing on pavement and off
I got to drive a 2013 Chevrolet Suburban equipped with a set of Wrangler tires during a recent trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Goodyear brought a group of automotive journalists, tire writers and tire retailers to the mountain town in order to experience the adventure aspect of the new Wrangler. I drove on city streets, highways and curvy paved roads, fully expecting a noisy ride from the assertive tires. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Wranglers were as smooth and quiet as most other on-road tires I've driven on recently, and the sense of grip and confidence was up there with the best.
Then it was time for a little bit of light off-roading -- actually, more like dirt-roading than genuine off-roading. Still, the Wranglers impressed, riding across dirt and light mud with little drama at all. The Durawall Technology seems to work well, imparting great road feel to the steering wheel without stiffening up the ride beyond comfort levels.
A final test came in a short autocross in a big (empty) parking lot. Goodyear set up a short tight autocross route, delineated with orange cones, and brought out a water truck to wet a few of the corners for us. They spooned a set of Wranglers on two white Ram 1500 pickup trucks, and a set of competitor's tires on two black Rams, and then let us drive them back-to-back. The Wrangler-shod Rams greatly outperformed the competitor-equipped Rams in the wet stuff, keeping their footing even under heavy acceleration during corner maneuvers. I killed a few cones in the competitor tire vehicles, even when trying to maintain a sane speed through the curvy portions of the autocross. The most significant advantage that I felt in the Wrangler was in the hundred yards or so after the water obstacle. The Wrangler instantly shed the water from its grooves, and performed beautifully. The competitor slid out in the first curve after the water hazard, seemingly retaining water later through the drive. The autocross ended with a controlled stop, slamming on the brakes to full and allowing the ABS system to bring the truck to a halt. I noticed a slight advantage for the Wrangler in this test as well, though not as significant as the wet surface test revealed.
Conclusions and recommendation
It's very difficult to evaluate a new tire, but I feel like I got a pretty good sense of the properties of the new Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar. The advantages of a Kevlar layer (or two) are obvious, and the performance of the Durawall Technology and new tread pattern were demonstrated well enough to impress me. I was especially pleased with the quiet, confident on-road performance of the Wrangler, since that's where most of us spend 90% or more of our time driving.
And even though it has nothing at all to do with performance, I thought the beefy Wranglers were pretty good-looking tires, too -- especially with the raised white lettering exposed to the outside. Goodyear is a premium tire brand, and Wrangler looks the part. What can I say? I live in Los Angeles, where even the appearance of your tires matters.
There may be more appropriate tire choices for serious rock crawling and specialty off-roading, but those tires are difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis. I hope to get my hands on a set of Wranglers for a long-term test on Moose (my 1994 Toyota 4Runner) in the near future.
Even in the absence of a long-term test, I feel confident recommending the new Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar for everyday use on your SUV, especially with its 60,000-mile tread wear warranty. The all-new Wrangler goes on sale in late August 2013, and is available as a replacement tire in 44 different fitments -- 24 of which are normal load, single Kevlar layer tires, and 20 of which are Pro Grade double Kevlar, heavy-duty steel belt Load Range E tires. See www.goodyear.com to find your local dealer.