32” Tire Evaluation – Part 1
We put the first 6 tires through the gauntlet in Part 1 of our epic 32” Tire Evaluation!
With the ever increasing performance capabilities of UTVs, tire selection is becoming a greater factor in determining how these ultra high performance UTVs handle as a whole. Right off the showroom floor, our 2018 Can-Am Maverick X3 X RS test vehicle can handle nearly anything the average consumer can throw at it. The adjustable suspension is extremely capable in every terrain you might find yourself traversing, and with 172hp on tap, finding traction in almost any condition can be a chore.
Besides suspension tuning, bolting on a different set of wheels and tires will have the greatest effect on accommodating your handling and traction needs, for your specific driving style and environment. As with our recent 30” Tire Evaluation, we designed this test to cover many different types of terrain (with the exception of mud – sorry, we wish we had some!), and utilized a team of drivers, all with different driving styles and levels of experience to be able to provide you with a very well rounded evaluation of how these tires affect the overall performance of the vehicle throughout the different terrain types.
Key details for this evaluation:
- Tire Diameter must be 32”.
- Wheel choices were left open to the manufacturers.
- Air pressure: To ensure a level playing field, we set each tire to 10psi. We found this to have the best combination of ride quality and traction, while still preventing the tire from rolling over onto the sidewall in aggressive cornering.
- Test Vehicle: 2018 Can-Am Maverick X3 X RS, with the only “performance modification” being clicker and preload adjustments on the suspension.
- Test Location: Lake Havasu City, AZ.
- Primary Test Terrains: moderate rocky hill climbs, smooth and rough hard pack dirt roads and two-track trails, and torturously rough gravel washes.
- Key reminder: The last page has a FULL SPECIFICATION SHEET for each tire/wheel combo! We highly recommend taking a look at this as it includes key numbers like overall weight, max loads, tread depth, and more. You can also click on the button at the bottom of each page to view this spec sheet.
Tire: Fuel Offroad Gripper R/T UTV – 32x10R15
Wheel: Fuel Offroad Trophy Forged UTV Wheel – 15×7
In the 30” Tire Evaluation, the Fuel Gripper was a top performer and absolutely one of our favorite tires, and they definitely stood out amongst the crowd mounted on those bright blue Fuel Forged UTV wheels. Well, once again you won’t have a hard time spotting these wheels, as this time they sent us a set mounted on bright red Fuel Forged UTV wheels!
However, in comparison with the 30” Grippers we tested, the 32x10R15 Gripper R/T’s are a totally different tire. While the tread design is very similar, the 32” Gripper R/T’s have a much flatter tread profile, and seem to have a much harder rubber compound. Out of the six tires in Part 1 of our 32” Tire Evaluation, the Fuels show the least amount of wear after many hard miles of testing. For longevity, these tires score a 10 out of 10, but with that increased longevity comes less overall traction.
All of our testers commented on low grip levels when running at high speeds on the slick hard pack roads and trails, but found the tires to be very predictable in all conditions. Once accustomed to the loose and playful handling characteristics of these Gripper R/Ts, we were all able to push the car to its limits without fear of sudden understeer when braking late into corners, nor did we experience snap oversteer when exiting corners hard on the throttle. The predictability led us to be able to set the car up sideways well before corner entry, and then use the throttle to steer the car through the corner and maintain perfectly executed drifts on the way out. This may not be the fastest way through a corner, but it makes for an extremely fun driving experience.
Ride quality over the rocky trails and through the rough washes was not overly harsh, but left some plushness to be desired compared to a few of the other tires tested. Traction in these conditions was also fairly good, with the upside being that they do not transfer a lot of negative feedback through the steering wheel when running hard in four wheel drive, as some of the other ‘grippier’ tires did.
For the average UTV enthusiast putting in a lot of miles on a variety of different terrain, this Fuel Gripper R/T may actually be the ‘best bang for your buck’ tire choice. Although overall grip levels are lower, the balanced handling characteristics make this a very enjoyable tire to drive on, and the impressive resistance to wear means you won’t be changing out tires after every other ride. The Gripper R/Ts are also DOT approved, so if you live in a state where you can register your UTV for road use, these tires may be a good option for you!
Sedona Tire & Wheel
Wheel: Sedona Split 6 Beadlock Wheel – 14×7
One of the first things you notice upon laying eyes on the Sedona Rock-A-Billy tire, is how extremely aggressive they look. Sharp, multifaceted tread blocks and a more convex footprint suggests that these tires should definitely hook up and go when asked, and after running our test laps, that suggestion was more than confirmed. Out of the all the tires we’ve tested in this 32” Tire Evaluation, the Sedona Rock-A-Billy has the highest overall level of grip by far.
How much grip is too much? Depending on your driving style, you may want to slide the car around a bit, and if that’s the case these may not be the tires for you. One of our ‘fast and loose’ testers commented, saying that “the X3 was very hard to drive with the Rock-A-Billys, as I couldn’t get the car to slide, and therefore couldn’t comfortably drive the car through the corners at speed.” While one was disappointed, another test driver rated the Sedona as one of their favorites due to the precise feel, and shifter-kart-on-asphalt like handling characteristics exhibited by the X3, all from just bolting on a set of wheels and tires. Both understeer and oversteer were extremely limited, while having good mid corner responsiveness in essentially every terrain we tested on. Straight line acceleration and braking traction is also very good, with these tires almost never slipping or spinning, even in two wheel drive.
Ride quality over rough and rocky terrain was pretty good as well. While not being the smoothest riding tires in the test, they provided a good amount of sidewall flex by way of having an extra inch of sidewall height utilizing those 14 inch wheels. Even with the tires delivering a high level of grip, they did not feed too much jerky, negative feedback, back through the steering wheel when pushing hard in four wheel drive.
With so much traction available, these Sedonas laughed at even the steepest loose-rock hill climbs that we could find, and usually all of that traction would come at a price. The softer-compound rubber showed more wear on the edges of the tread blocks after testing than a few of the other tires in this evaluation, but it was not enough to cause concern. Considering the extreme beating all of the tires in this test received, we feel they held up very well.
Whether for racing or for play, if you’re looking for a tire that will never be searching for traction in almost any environment you may find yourself in, this is definitely a good option for you. However if you love that feeling of throwing down long, controlled slides, then you may want to find a tire with a little less bite.
Wheels: Method Race Wheels 401-R UTV Beadlock High Offset – 15×5
Being the only true soft compound race tire in the evaluation, we were all super excited to get behind the wheel of our Maverick X3 as we bolted up the Tensor DS Soft Compound 32s. The other unique item in this set-up is the 15×5 Method 401-R UTV Beadlock High Offset wheel. With the wheel being only 5 inches wide, and having a +46mm offset, the wheel mounting surface is in line with the outside lip of the wheel. This absolutely translates to better steering feel and extremely precise, almost telepathic handling when behind the wheel.
The Tensor/Method combo is also the lightest tire and wheel combo in the evaluation at 51lbs 15oz, this should translate to even more responsive handling through reduced unsprung weight, and better performance through less rotating mass. The featherweight Tensors are also the smoothest riding tires we’ve tested so far, whether it was blasting over the huge chop in the washes or bouncing over the huge rocks protruding from the hard packed ground on some of the two track trails, you’d barely feel a thing in the car.
Traction in every terrain was plentiful with the extremely soft rubber compound, forward bite and braking performance was very good, and the steering was so precise that it really felt as if you were one with the car. The slightest movement of the steering wheel would very predictably put the car where you wanted it, and all of our testers were shocked at how it felt like we were driving a totally different vehicle, simply by bolting on a different wheel/tire combo. Understeer was almost nonexistent, while you could easily induce controlled oversteer by laying in the throttle as you made your way through and out of a corner.
The incredible performance of the Tensor DS Soft Compound tires comes at a price though, both in figures of dollars and how quickly they wear out. After our test laps, the Tensors showed a huge amount of tread degradation, and definitely wouldn’t last more than a couple days of hard driving, even recreationally. Being the most expensive tires in the test, you don’t want to be replacing tires every other day as a recreational driver, no matter how amazing the tires are. Tensor does sell this tire in a hard compound though, it’s slightly cheaper, and from prior experience we know that it holds up well to hard driving, and still has a good balance of handling characteristics, while maybe being a little less laser precise.
Tensor really has developed an incredible tire here; unbelievably precise handling, very high level of grip while still being able to predictably slide the car around, and they provide a very comfortable ride, also without transmitting ANY negative feedback into the steering wheel. This setup makes the Can-Am X3 effortless to drive. If you’re racing, this tire and wheel combo is a very good option, however if you’re an everyday recreational UTV enthusiast, consider at least going with the hard compound DS.
System 3 Off-Road
Wheel: System 3 SB-3 Beadlock – 15×7
System 3 Off-Road is an all new player in the UTV market, but they’ve hit the ground running with a full line of UTV tires and wheels. They sent us a set of their RT320 “Race and Trail” tires and SB-3 Beadlock wheels, and we’d have to say we’re impressed. The build quality of the wheels is something you’d expect from a longstanding high-end wheel manufacturer, with the dual drilled beadlock ring bolt holes and steel insert lug nut seats, and the tires looked promising as well with their unique and aggressive tread design.
Bolted on our X3, the System 3 combo was for sure one of our favorites in the looks department, and as we ran our test laps it was clear they provide the performance to back up the good looks. The RT320 has tons of forward bite, as well as great braking performance in every terrain we tested on. Low speed handling was pretty good as well, with only a moderate amount of understeer being present if pushed into a corner on the hard pack roads and trails, and low-speed, loose and rocky hill climbs were no issue at all.
Getting down in the high-speed gravel washes was a blast with the System 3’s; our testers praised having the ability to slide the car around at will, without ever feeling out of control, and the straight line braking performance gave you the confidence to really push the car deep into the corners before turning in through the apex. The tires really shined on the hard pack dirt roads as well, again providing the confidence and predictability to throw the car sideways prior to corner entry, while being able to control the slide by modulating the throttle all the way through and out of each corner.
Ride quality with the RT320’s was decent, sidewall flex felt somewhat limited in the rough and choppy washes at higher speeds, and the wide and flat foot print of the tire seems to transfer more of that jerky negative feedback through the steering wheel, only when running at high speeds. However, ride comfort when traversing the slower speed rocky two track trails was very good compared to some of the other tires in the evaluation.
For being an all-new tire from a brand new wheel and tire company, we were very impressed with the System 3 RT320. The tire provides great all around performance in all of the terrain types we were able to test on, with great traction and good predictability. The harder rubber compound showed very little wear after running all of our test laps, even after throwing down a handful of extra high-speed drifts on the rocky hard pack roads for photos. The System 3 combo was one of the heavier tire/wheel set-ups in the test, but that didn’t translate to any poor performance. Overall, the high level of grip and balanced handling characteristics made this combo one of the favorites among testers in this evaluation. The RT320’s are also DOT approved, and the high resistance to wear makes this set-up a great option for the everyday UTV enthusiast.
Wheel: ITP Tornado – 15×7
The Coyote from ITP Tires had a lot to live up to coming into this test, having already proven itself in the desert racing community, with a win in the King of the Hammers UTV race at the hands of ITP team driver, Mitch Guthrie. The flat footprint of the tread surface, tall and skinny construction of the tire, and large aggressive tread pattern make the Coyote a unique and mean looking tire, among others in the test.
The ITP’s really performed well in the loose gravel washes, the skinny profile and tall tread blocks really seemed to dig and hook up in the deep gravel, providing more forward bite and braking performance in this terrain than many of the other tires in the evaluation. Ride comfort was good through the high speed chop, but our testers commented that the tires did transfer a lot of negative feedback through the steering wheel in the fast two-track corners, making you feel as if you were fighting the car to keep it in the ruts.
Overall grip levels were very high in every terrain we tested on. Whether on slick hard pack, or in the loose gravel, it was difficult to get the car to slide, but could be coaxed into doing so if pushed hard. This was a trait liked by some testers and loathed by others, but everyone could agree that the steering was very precise, if not a little stiff, with the ITP combo mounted on the car. All of the sketchy hill climbs in our test area were no match for the Coyote, the tall and aggressive tread blocks again would dig in and hook through the loose silty dirt and rocks, launching our X3 up the hills.
The hard rubber compound provided great resistance to tread wear, especially considering the high level of grip this tire delivers. The tall and aggressive tread hooks and grabs the ground so effectively however, that it also has the side effect of picking up and throwing a lot more rocks than other tires in the evaluation. This was apparent both through the audible indication of massive amounts of rocks hitting the bottom of the chassis, as well as several testers feeling rocks come flying through the gap underneath the bottom of the OEM Can-Am half doors.
The ITP Coyotes performed among the best in this evaluation, but the aggressive tread design that provides all of that grip also causes you to fight the steering in high speed rutted washes. High grip levels in all conditions make this a great option for racers or those who enjoy going out and finding gnarly, rough 4×4 trails and hill climbs. The Coyote is also DOT approved, and it’s high resistance to wear make this tire a great choice for the all around, everyday UTV enthusiast.
GMZ Race Products
Wheel: GMZ Gunslinger Beadlock – 15×7
GMZ Race Products engineers developed the Ivan “Ironman” Stewart Edition tire with input from the legend himself, Ivan Stewart. Decades of competing in the highest levels of off-road racing, and coming out as one of the all-time greats has earned Ivan the knowledge of what needs to go into a tire to make it handle well, and most importantly last through the pounding given by running a tire though the rough and unforgiving southwestern deserts.
The tread design was developed by Ivan, and includes massive shoulder lugs that roll over onto the sidewall of the tire. This design grants massive amounts of forward bite, and great braking performance in all terrains, but again caused our testers to fight the car in the deep gravel washes at high speeds. So much so, that some of the drivers came back after their test laps with severe arm pump, granted the ruts were at their deepest point by this time in the test, and our drivers’ fast and loose driving-style did not seem to work as well to the high grip tires.
The GMZ combo performed extremely well on the smooth, high-speed graded roads, giving testers the confidence to be able to throw the car sideways when entering corners, and the ability to actually pull the car out of the slide and rocket out of corners by adding in more throttle with all the forward bite given by this tread design. However when entering low speed, tight and flat corners, the GMZs had a tendency to understeer and push though the turn, but this may have been accentuated by the low offset design of the wheels.
Thick sidewalls and those large shoulder lugs give great protection against flats and sidewall punctures, but seemed to make the tires a little less comfortable to drive over rough, choppy, rocky terrain, with less sidewall flex. Climbing steep and loose hills was no problem at all for the GMZs, the tires always tracked straight under power, even if slipping, and were very confidence inspiring when attacking some of the sketchier hills.
It’s no surprise Ivan Stewart helped develop these tires, as they seem to be designed specifically for blasting across the wide open deserts at high speeds. The tough, near bulletproof design provides good protection against rock punctures, and the tires suffered very little wear after being put through the rigors of testing. This does cause them to lose some comfort and handling responsiveness in slow, tight, and rough terrain however, but that can be made up for by the superior straight line traction and braking performance. The GMZ Ivan “Ironman” Stewart Edition tires are also DOT approved for street use.
After getting through testing the first six of the twelve tires included in this two-part evaluation, it’s extremely clear that tire manufactures across the board have been stepping their game up. None of the tires in this test could be considered bad, and all of them excel exceedingly well in one aspect or another. It’s a great time to be a UTV enthusiast or racer, because as with the machines themselves, there’s a tire out there for anyone and everyone.
The key bit of advice we can give you, for deciding on what tires to spend your hard-earned money on, is to closely evaluate your wants and needs. Take a look at where you ride the most, what kind of terrain are you tackling on a daily basis, and what aspects of driving do you find most enjoyable? If you spend your days running high speed fire roads, and relish in the feeling of gliding sideways through long sweeping turns, there’s a tire perfectly suited for you! The same thing goes for those who long to find the most challenging 4×4 trails and hill climbs, eager to push their UTVs, and themselves, to the limit.
We hope this evaluation truly helps you to find your ideal tire, based on your specific needs. Be sure to check back next month, as we will have the final six tires in Part 2 of our 32” Tire Evaluation in the August Issue of UTV Sports Magazine.