TESTED: Nitto Dura Grappler
Tires on a truck are often ho-hum items. Most truck owners aren’t interested in shaving tenths off of lap times, nor are they generally interested in how well they perform at the limit of adhesion. Generally speaking, as long as it’s comfortable, doesn’t feel too dangerous, lasts long enough and generally holds air, most are happy to let them be. For our Nissan Xterra, while we’d like to say otherwise, we were of about the same mindset. When Nitto approached us with a set of their new Dura Grapplers, however, we were amazed at what happens when a manufacturer strives to make something better than just “good enough”.
Nitto, as I’m sure you know, has been in the high performance tire business for quite some time (indeed, the first tires I ever bought were of Nitto manufacture) and they’ve never failed to impress. In recent years, Nitto has expanded their lineup to include touring and, more importantly to us, light truck and SUV tires. To make up for a lack of brand recognition in the segment, Nitto worked especially hard to make a tire that outperformed its rivals with their Grappler lineup. Each tire in the Grappler lineup is geared towards a specific duty, and that allowed Nitto’s engineers more flexibility in producing a tire that drivers would be happy with. For the Dura Grappler, tread life, ride comfort and rolling resistance were the primary goals, with specific construction and tread patterns for LT or P-metric sized tires.
All tires start with internal construction, and the Dura Grappler’s “Dura-Belt” (LT sizes only) was designed to support the loads seen in light truck use. The Dura-Belt internal construction, while heavier, allows the tire to be stable while carrying heavy loads, reducing tread flex and resulting tire wear and heat. One of the biggest reasons for LT tire failure under load comes from heat, and while our Xterra won’t tax the Dura Grapplers much at all, it is nice to know that we’ve got a far more stable tire under the truck than the lowest bidder hoola-hoops that it came with.
The tread design itself, while looking “truckish” is still geared more towards the commercial “rib” style construction than towards a set of mudders. The four continuous bands allow for less tread squirm, and results in a quieter ride than their individual tread block “terrain” type cousins. Our LT spec tires differed from P-Metric Dura Grapplers in tread pattern, with some concession for noise and ride comfort given up to allow for greater load capacity. Nitto specified a harder compound for the Dura Grappler, giving it a 60,000 mile treadwear warranty. An expected and welcome side-effect to the tire’s solid and quiet tread design is that the Dura Grappler maintains a much lower rolling resistance than is typical for truck tires.