General Tire Grabber X3 First Drive
General Tire made a concerted effort to re-enter the off-road segment in the last decade. It offered new product aimed at truck and SUV owners who took their rigs off the highway, and General Tire expanded its presence in the market with sponsorships of major off-road events such as the reborn Mint 400 race and the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally, among others.
General’s A/T2 all-terrain was the tire that went head-to-head with other all-terrain mainstay tires in the market, but there’s no doubt its biggest splash was with its Grabber tire that was designed for extreme off-roading and was often used on race vehicles in desert racing and short-course off-road events. The Grabber, highlighted by its eye-catching red sidewall lettering, really helped brand General Tire with off-road enthusiasts; only one company offered red sidewall letters, and Grabbers were almost like a badge on pre-runners and daily drivers, proclaiming: I off-road.
The Grabber served GT well in recent years, but now it will be slowly phased out of General Tire’s lineup to be replaced by the company’s all-new Grabber X3. The new X3, which will serve as the company’s newest mud-terrain offering, will be offered in more sizes for truck and SUV owners than the Grabber, giving General Tire an aggressive tire that offers more mass appeal.
We had a chance to drive on the new Grabber X3 tires at an event at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, where we were able to test the it in the three key areas – mud, dirt, rock – for which the “X3” is named.
Before we hopped into the fleet of Jeep Wranglers on hand, all of which were fitted with 35 x 12.5R17 Grabber X3s, we were given some background and details of the new mud-terrain. General Tire says it spent more than three years developing the X3. The Grabber X3, following through on that theme of “threes,” is constructed with three-ply Duragen Technology that aids in chip, cut and puncture resistance. The mud-terrain X3 features a high-void tread pattern, which General Tire designed with evacuation channels to aid in mud and debris ejection and to avoid caking. It also features block chamfers and traction notches in the tread design to aid with grip, while stone bumpers are employed to prevent stone and rock retention and drilling (and the design alternates between raised lines and “Grabber” lettering). Alternating shoulder scoops help grip loose terrain, and the X3 features large, aggressive sidewall lugs for additional sidewall protection and grip, especially during aired-down operation.
General Tire will offer the Grabber X3 in a number of OEM replacement sizes and larger sizes for those looking to add more rubber to their ride. There will be 29 different sizes of the Grabber X3, which includes 13 flotation sizes ranging from 31” to 37” (fitting 15” to 20” rims), and another 16 LT metric sizes fitting 16” to 20” rims. Some sizes will be offered with the option of General Tire’s red lettering or a standard black lettering, which is why there are 42 part numbers for 29 sizes.
During our time in Pennsylvania, we had a chance to test out the Grabber X3 on wide variety of off-rad terrain. We hopped in Jeep Wrangler JKs and explored the local terrain, which consisted of wood-lined trails that had everything from rocks, mud, small mud-puddle water holes, and loose and hard-packed dirt. Along for the ride with us was Nena Barlow of Barlow Adventures and the Jeep Jamboree staff.
We fortunately didn’t have to go very far to find trails, as the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort actually has a decent trail system on its heavily wooded property (you know, just a little ways from the golf course); if you ever visit, they have rentals too. We actually started out the drive in 2WD to see how well the Jeep Wrangler would crawl up the rutted-out dirt trails that had the occasional tree root exposed. The Grabber X3s offered confident grip climbing up the loose terrain, and when we did find a rock or tree root the high-void tread seemed to grab ahold of the object and not spin the tires one bit.
Before long, we found a muddy water hole and had the chance to dip the Grabber X3s into some really thick mud, and for the sake of not getting stuck we finally popped into 4 Low before diving in. We noticed very quickly into the ride how well the large voids of the X3s grabbed the soft terrain, and on the first few hill climbs just after coming out of the mud pit we were impressed that the X3s didn’t have any mud clumps still left in the tread (our filthy Jeeps can attest to the mud ejection from the tires). The lack of mud retention allowed the tires to grip into the soft hills and pull us up the trail with ease. During the remainder of our trail ride, we came across plenty more slippery slopes, a few deep water holes (one of which came nearly up to the JK’s hoodline), and plenty of muddy trails. In terms of the mud testing, from our two days of riding on the X3 we definitely felt it passed with flying colors.
Our trail ride provided plenty of variety though, as we later encountered more hard-packed dirt trails, cross-rut sections and tight wooded turns, a few of which required three-points maneuvers to complete. The wide and deep void pattern of the X3s we had no trouble at all with dry traction, and the alternating scoops and textured sidewall design allowed our aired-down tires (about 15 psi, which was appreciated and is appropriate for most trail rides) to really grab the edges of ruts and ridges to provide lateral traction to keep us on our intended path.
Saving the best for last, the biggest test remained for us at the end of the trail: The Rock Garden. A large collection of jagged granite rocks was our final obstacle, as we’d have the chance to see how well the X3s conformed to the uneven edges. This section would also tell us just how well the sidewalls would hold up to the abuse. We were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as challenging from the driver’s seat as it appeared, and that is a direct compliment to the Grabber X3s. The Rock Garden had its share of challenging sections, where you’d have to hug a larger rock on the driver or passenger side of the rig and slowly crawl the tires on the opposite side blindly over the exposed, jagged edges of a tire-shredding rock. The X3s held up to the abuse. After our drive through the section we were able to see first hand just how well the sidewall lugs conform and search for traction while also offering additional protection on the rocks.
We didn’t get all that much time on the X3s on the pavement. Having tested the road-friendly Continental TerrainContact all-terrains earlier in the day, we could certainly note the X3s were considerably louder (which is no surprise with such a high-void tire). With so little time on the tires we couldn’t report tread wear or chip resistance, so we’ll follow up with that in a more detailed review in the future. Our first impression of the Grabber X3 is a positive one, though, and we’re happy to see that General Tire will offer it in a wide variety of sizes (37s and options for 15-inch wheels). Expect to see the X3s in dealerships in September.