If you're one of the many SUV / 4x4 owners in the UK, the chances are you're on a regular summer tyre which will offer very little performance on surfaces as simple wet grass or loose dirt.
With normal summer 4x4 tyres being designed almost entirely for on-road usage, what happens if you need to use your 4x4 on a surface that isn't tarmac or concrete? Turning up at the shooting club in your £100,000 Range Rover only to get stuck in the grassy car park would result in many jokes at your expense in the pub, or getting stuck down a muddy trail near a fishing lake could result in your day of leisure being wasted trying to get your vehicle mobile again.
The answer is all terrain tyres, which are intended for both on-road and off-road use. In the past all terrain tyres have been a blunt instruments, and as such have had a number of drawbacks which include reduced wet grip, and much higher noise levels than regular summer SUV tyres.
General, a US tyre brand who are manufactured by Continental, think they have the answer to the on-road off-road problem with the new General Grabber AT3.
The General Grabber AT3 is an all terrain tyre designed for 50/50 on-road off-road use, but with very few of the drawbacks traditionally associated with tyres which can be used off-road. The AT3 conforms with the latest EU "2 bar" noise regulation, which means it is 60% quieter than its predecessor, and scores an excellent "C" label for wet braking. The new General Grabber AT3 is also marked with the European three-peak mountain and snowflake symbol, which means the AT3 can be used in parts of Europe where winter tyres are mandatory during certain times of the year.
Want to go more off-road? General have that covered too with the aggressive General Grabber X3 which is intended for 20/80 on-road off-road use. The Grabber X3 replaces the Grabber MT, which was only available in four sizes and was quite pressure and application sensitive. The new Grabber X3 is available in 19 sizes and improves on the MT in all the key off road performances, while matching the on-road ability of the predecessor.
To highlight how the new tyres perform, General invited Tyre Reviews to an off-roading event in the west of the UK.
We started the day with a short road drive in the new Discovery 5 fitted with the General Grabber AT3 tyre. With the windows up at normal road speeds, you'd be hard pressed to know all terrain tyres were fitted to the car such is the refinement of the package. Wind the windows down and hang your head out of the window and you'll hear the familiar thrum of an aggressive tread pattern pushing air out of the sides of the tyres, but it certainly isn't an issue like on previous generation tyres and only noticeable when really listening out for it.
One we reached the off-road driving, the AT3s could only be described as remarkable. Jumping into a diesel Range Rover Sport, a 2 ton plus vehicle not fitted with a low-range gearbox or locking centre diff, you could have forgiven the tyre for having issue with the deep thick mud or steep wet rocky inclines we were tackling, but the AT3 took it well in its stride without ever hinting we might get stuck. Another advantage of a 50/50 tyre was no concern about tyre damage thanks to the AT3s Duragen technology, which gives the tyre advanced cut and chip resistance allowing the AT3 to take impacts which would destroy more road-bias rubber, all while at standard road pressures.
Next up was a Discovery 4 with a low-range box and the more extreme General Grabber X3 tyre fitted. While this wasn't needed for this challenging off road course after the AT3 did such a good job, it was still a fun challenge to see just how deep we could wade and how steep an incline we could manage on a true off-road tyre. As you would expect, the high void pattern and sidewall lugs dug deep in any surface on offer no matter what part of the tyre we were on, and the stone bumpers and self cleaning blocks ensured the tyre tread pattern was clean after just a single rotation, ready to dig in again.
The days off-roading was a huge success. Not a single one of the nine vehicles in use around the boggy challenging off-road course got stuck and needed rescuing, which is a testament to the broad range of abilities of both the General Grabber AT3 and X3. If you're looking to do some serious off-roading, and want the best tyre available, certainly look at the Grabber X3, but if you want to give your 4x4 off-road capabilities without compromising the on-road wet grip or comfort levels, the General Grabber AT3 is a seriously impressive tyre.