Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2009   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

Molson And Merlot

Goodyear's Wrangler DuraTrac targets a wide range of LT consumers

Goodyear (and the industry in general) isn’t short of aggressive-looking, off-road LT product … so how do you target a new tire? For Goodyear’s Wrangler DuraTrac, the trick is to perform well enough in a wide enough range of vehicle fitments and driving conditions to cover most, if not all, of the LT tire market’s ever widening consumer base. Does it succeed?

What’s Inside

The Wrangler DuraTrac is a true LT tire and uses Goodyear’s familiar dual polyester sidewall plies with another two under the tread along with two steel belts. Deep at the bottom of the tread grooves is a sort of mini-tread, a technology Goodyear calls TractiveGroove, designed to enhance mud and snow traction. I’ll say more about snow below.

An integral rim protector covers the curb strike issue while zigzag sipes reduce tread squirm and buttressed tread blocks resist chip and tear injury in heavy use. Visually, the tire is closer to Goodyear’s MT/R hardcore off-roader than Fortera, and it aims toward the sport/off-road side of the segment while retaining enough road manners to appeal to the “urban off-roader.” How do we know? Goodyear offers the Wrangler DuraTrac in 26 sizes from LT21685R16 to LT32560R20, with the notable addition of 31X10.5 R 15LT and 33X12.50R15LT which is approved for rim widths from 8.5 to 11 inches. Can the tire appeal to both the Molson and Merlot set? We drove a set extensively to find out.

How It Drives

Tire & Wheel Canada tested the Wrangler DuraTrac on paved road, off-road and dirt road conditions and learned some interesting things about the tire. The test vehicle was a late-model Chevrolet Silverado using the stock LT 265/70 R 17 size. Off-road, which was tested in Northern Ontario on a mixed surface of dirt, rock with tree roots and forest duff mixed in, the tire dug in well and showed good flotation in the odd sand pit and boggy areas, as would be expected for an aggressive, open-treaded tire. The tread bleeds to the sidewall a little like Goodyear’s Wrangler MT/R, but with a more modest “Greek key” scallop, notably split by a groove at the tread shoulder. This tire likes to approach obstacles with a little more steering input than single-purpose off-road rubber, and sets well when the inner edge of the shoulder is allowed to grab the surface before transferring the load outboard. You won’t “hang” a heavy truck on the sidewalls, but driven intelligently, the Wrangler DuraTrac is hard to tell apart from many dedicated pure off-road tires. It’s relatively easy to build grip and toughness in a pure off-road tire, where enthusiasts will give up everything to summit that rock, but for occasional off-roaders, hunters, anglers or backwoods cottagers, the tire will spend most of its life on a prepared surface. On dirt roads the tire is quiet, and rejects a wide variety of stones well, from irregular debris kicked up by graders to crushed gravel. On the pavement, however, the DuraTrac is most surprising. All tires in this category are noisy, but Goodyear’s engineers have tuned out many of the harmonics at the high and low end of the spectrum, altering the tire’s noise profile by moving it into the range where the truck’s chassis engineers have designed for noise reduction. Put simply, on the test 4×4 Silverado, the Wrangler neither sings nor rumbles at highway speeds; the tire effectively “hides” behind the GM engineers’ sound deadening technology, making the tire acceptable for daily pavement use. This is especially tuneable with tire pressure, so don’t blow these to the maximum 50 psi and advise your customers to avoid under inflation. On the Silverado, plaquard pressure is 35/35 front to back, and the DuraTrac worked well at these pressures empty. The tread is moderately sided, is symmetrical and uses the expected large-void shoulder blocks so rain isn’t an issue … which brings us to winter.

The Wrangler DuraTrac is snowflake-rated and pinned for #16 studs, making it a true all-season LT tire. The ability to sell the product into the cold-weather season and maintain turns on your inventory is significant for dealers, and for moderate (read southern/coastal) Canadian climates, it would be an excellent choice, although dedicated winter product is still best. The other advantage of the snowflake rating is the ability to fit customers who carry heavy loads year-round. By avoiding the often lower load rating of pure winter tires, it’s possible to add a margin of safety for heavy haulers.

Taking On Winter

Curb appeal is something between Baja 1000 and Sussex Drive, with the outline white lettering mercifully appearing on one side only of these non-directional tires. On the Silverado, the “Wrangler” branding looked great; on your customer’s Range Rover, the black wall is probably the way to mount. Remember to point this out at the tire wall, since most shops display these tires with the OWL side out. We’ll keep these tires on the test truck and check winter performance … stay tuned! SSGM

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