Braving Baja: Testing the New BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2

Sep. 09, 2014 By Josh Burns, Photos by Art Eugenio/

Testing BFGoodrich's New A/T KO2 Tire

We covered quite a bit of terrain over the course of two days in Northern Baja, running up in the mountains and down to the coast.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road … Err, Dirt
Over the years, we’ve used and abused the T/A KO on a number of vehicles – trucks, Jeeps and other SUVs – and although there are some great all-terrain tires on the market, it’s hard to mark any one all-terrain tire higher than the KO. It terms of toughness, its blend of on-road and off-road handling, and its overall esthetic appearance, the T/A KO is a solid tire with an even more solid track record. So how does BFG improve upon that?

We caught a few looks at BFG’s KO2 last year at the Baja 1000 when it survived an early endurance test, as the Baja Challenge car the tires were equipped on won its class. (Note: Those tires are still on that same BC car, and our group drove the same car, with the same tires, during our press launch.) Just a few weeks back before our trip down to Baja, we had the chance to sit down with BFGoodrich to preview some of the new features of the tire. Esthetically, we thought it looked great, and it clearly has a more aggressive look to it as well – even more so than the KO. We were excited to hear about all the changes, but testing the KO2 in Baja would be the ultimate truth serum.

Once in Baja, we had a more detailed technical presentation of the T/A KO2 at Horsepower Ranch, and we were even given access to engineers to chat about tread material and the technology used to test and develop the tire.

Our anticipation was building for Baja, and soon enough we found ourselves on a bus with other journalists making the trek to the San Diego/Tijuana border, down the coastal toll road to Ensenada and out Highway 3 to Horsepower Ranch. We jumped off the bus and into the shade of the BFGoodrich semi. Baja icon and BFG employee Jeff Cummings gave us a safety intro about our trip, which was followed by a vehicle introduction of the Wide Open Baja BC cars and the Ford Racing/Miller Motorsports Park Ford Raptors. Before we knew it, we were picking out a PCI Race Radio-equipped helmet and hopping into a BC car to run a few test laps. We jumped from the BC car to the Raptor, and then we were off to Horsepower Ranch for a more detailed technical presentation of the tire that was followed by a few cervesas and dinner.

We woke up the next morning eager to put some miles on the new KO2. From Horsepower Ranch, we jumped out onto sections of the course used in the Baja 500 and 1000. We split time on day one between the Raptor and BC car, while also splitting driving and co-driving duties with our driving partner and fellow journalist Stuart Bourdon. We drove in formation with radio contact with our group leaders through Ojos Negros and covered miles and miles of Baja terrain, only stopping for lunch midday and only touching the tires on pavement when we needed to connect trails. Our final leg of the day took us up into the hills to Mike’s Sky Rancho, a renowned hotel tucked away in the mountains of Baja that only racers and serious off-roaders have had the chance to experience. Once the generators are turned off and power is off for the night, it’s easy to see why Mike’s Sky Ranch gets its name – nothing but stars are visible in the night sky.

A fleet of Wide Open Baja BC cars and Ford Raptors from Miller Motorsports Park awaited us for day's departure from Mike's Sky Ranch.

The next morning it was more tire bashing on the trails, as we hopped in the BC cars and left Mike’s Sky Ranch and headed down the brutal trail of Simpson Hill, which makes many tough trails we’ve tackled over the years look tame. From there, we headed up to the Summit at nearly 3,000 feet elevation, and from there we descended down to the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific for a lunch stop on the coast. We then traveled along the coast, tackled a sandy beach section and many miles of unmaintained dirt roads before eventually calling it a day.

We experienced a wide variety of terrain during the KO2 launch. What’s most impressive is we only lost one tire in spite there being nearly 30 journalists in our group.

It was a dream come true to be able to tackle hundreds of miles of iconic racecourse in Northern Baja. It’s hard not to think of the history of these trails, the legends who’s traveled over that same dirt, and how Baja still embodies that freedom for which many of us off-road – to get lost and found again in beautiful landscape. What was never lost on us was what we were there for – to test the T/A KO2. The production BFG put together was impressive, and considering there were nearly 30 journalists in our group (with another few groups later attending), a small army was assembled to make the trip happen. Yet with all those people, and after tackling hundreds of miles of racecourse, there was only one tire that was damaged. One tire! A wide variety of terrain was thrown at us during our trip. We had a few water and mud sections, plenty of high-speed dirt road sections, rocky slopes that require careful navigation of large boulders, and trails that featured literally nothing but jagged rocks. The KO2 stood up to all of it, and we were impressed with the traction in every scenario we encountered.

Getting the tires wet and then trying to climb up a rocky slope is an ideal scenario for tire traction, but we made it through this muddy creek and up the steep climb that followed with no issues.

Since we spent so much time on the tire on the trails, we can’t speak much to the on-road qualities of the tire – we’ll follow up with a more detailed review once we get our hands on a set. In terms of its off-road performance, though, we unable to uncover a weak spot in spite of our best efforts. The KO2 took rocky turns at speed with no sign of slipping or tearing, handled soft corner or hard-packed climbs with confidence. Although there hadn’t been much rain in the area, we managed to find a few muddy sections as well (one we found a little too late and paid the price for it with a cabin full of mud), and the tire performed just as well as it did on the rest of the trip.

My co-driver Stuart Bourdon (left) and I had two days of adventure on the new KO2s while in Baja. Splitting time driving, we tackled about every terrain imaginable other than snow, and we both walked away very impressed with the tire.

The T/A KO2 tire stood up to the challenge of Baja, and we’re sure it’ll be equipped on a number of race vehicles in 2014 tackling US and Baja desert races the rest of the season. For the rest of us, the tire will be available in the U.S. market on November 1st of this year. As if the KO2 hadn’t already showed up the KO enough, it’ll also be eventually offered in more sizes as well – the KO is offered in 53 sizes, but BFG plans to offer 61 sizes in the KO2. Limited sizes will be available when the tire is first launched this year (only 12), though the remaining sizes will be available in 2015. Produced at its plants in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, BFGoodrich says that retailers will set pricing but that the starting MSRP for the T/A KO2 will be $222 (with prices varying depending upon size).

The sun set on our Baja adventure as we returned to Estero Beach. Newsletter
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