Secret Testing of the BFGoodrich Next-Gen Mud Terrain

Dec. 01, 2015 By Josh Burns, Photos Courtesy of BFGoodrich/Charlene Bower
We had a chance to test some prototypes of BFGoodrich’s next-generation mud tire in Georgia, and although it’s still in development we can say it’s a big improvement over the company’s already solid KM2 mud-terrain tire.

For the average car owner, their vehicle is nothing more than a commuting tool. It’s a means to an end, and its tires are nothing more than a maintenance item like oil and brakes.

The off-road enthusiast is cut from a different cloth, however. Like any other automotive aficionado, the off-roader takes great pride is his or her vehicle and will go as far as customizing it for their particular type of adventure. The tires on their rig are of supreme importance, as they are literally the direct connection between the vehicle and the ground, and being that traction and trail contact is of supreme importance off of the highway, the off-roader tends to have a more personal connection with tires. The question of “what tires are you running?” can carry just as much weight as “what’s under the hood?” or “what suspension are you using?”

In the off-road world, BFGoodrich is one of a handful of brands that has a lot of customer loyalty. Maybe it’s because of the brand’s long history in the truck and SUV world or because of the company’s legacy in off-road racing (which was recently exemplified with BFGoodrich’s 27th SCORE Baja 1000 victory), but BFGoodrich has been a tire brand synonymous with off-roading and the off-road lifestyle.  

Last year, BFG unveiled the replacement to its popular All-Terrain KO tire with the new KO2, a tire we were fortunate enough to get a first impression on in Northern Baja on parts of the Baja 500 and 1000 course. Now that new All-Terrain T/A KO2 tire has launched and is available to the general public, the design team has turned its focus to its next project: mud tires. BFGoodrich recently reached out to us with an invite to a secret testing event for its next-generation mud-terrain tire, and of course we jumped at the chance to check them out.

Much like the car and truck manufacturers are currently working on vehicle we won’t see for years down the road, tire manufacturers are in product development for years before product actually hits the market. BFG’s next-gen mud tire will be the successor to the KM2, but we actually won’t see it hit the market until 2017. While there are message board conversations already calling this new tire the “KM3,” which is a possible and logical name, BFG doesn’t have a name for this tire yet. For now, we simply know the tire we tested as a version of the next-generation mud tire.

Sworn to Secrecy
Since this new BFGoodrich mud tire is still in development the company obviously wants to keep some level of the secrecy of its design, compound and tread pattern. So while we drove it and can report on aspects of it, there’s only so much we can say about the product right now. Frankly, it’s very possible the tire will still see some changes along the way anyway, and that’s part of why I, along with a handful of journalists and off-road racers, were invited to this event not only to report on the tire but also to provide input and feedback on its performance. We headed out to Durhamtown Off-Road Resort in Union Point, Georgia, and fortunately for our particular test, the area had just been pelted with heavy rainstorms to make sure there was plenty of mud on hand for our testing.

In terms of comparison for this particular test, BFGoodrich didn’t have competitor tires on hand; instead, we compared the next-gen prototype to the current KM2 mud-terrain. As a previous owner of the KM2, which I had equipped on my TJ Wrangler, I thought that tire was great for all-around off-roading, good in mud and soft terrain, and it still had great tackiness on rocks. It was a great tire that worked well for me, so I know first hand that BFG has some serious work to do if it wants to improve on that design.

During our test day in the mud, we started out in a Jeep Wrangler JK outfitted with KM2s and pounded through some of the extremely muddy trails of Durhamtown. Driving us initially were the actual BFGoodrich tire testers who perform this testing day in and day out. They explained how they quantify the changes felt from one prototype tire to the next, whether the tires grip better, self-clean better (often indicated by how much mud flings off), and if they provide better or worse lateral stability (or side-to-side grip) in mud. They plowed through the trails with mindless comfort after having tested on the very trails countless times. Most importantly, everything was done in 2WD too so 4WD couldn’t help bail out the tires when traction became limited. It was insightful and fun all at the same time. 

After our loop on the current-generation BFGoodrich KM2 mud-terrains, we then got behind the wheel of some Wranglers ourselves. First, we drove a loop with Wranglers fitted with the KM2s, and then we headed out on Wranglers fitted with the new tire. We were pretty amazed at the difference. Here on the west coast, we don’t see quite as much mud as the folks back east, but we ventured on some extremely muddy and soft terrain. While the KM2s performed well, we were surprised at just how much better the new mud-terrains gripped the sloshy, muddy trails. The grip overall was improved, but could also clearly note there was less slippage in the corners, which improves steering input and control for the driver. We could also tell how much better the new tires appeared to clear out mud from the tread, which is crucial for mud traction since caked-up tires won’t have any tread exposed to grip the trail.

We can’t go into the design of the tires or really talk much about the tread pattern, but we can relay that BFGoodrich had employed some of the same sidewall construction design used on the KO2 all-terrains. The sidewalls share a similar look to the KO2s at present (which may or may not change), but the new construction for the next-generation mud-terrain will likely offer improved sidewall toughness and durability compared compared to the KM2, much in the same way the KO2 improved upon the KO’s sidewall durability.

There isn’t a ton of information we can share on the new tires at this point, but if nothing else it we are very fortunate to get the chance to see the behind-the-scenes development and testing that BFGoodrich puts into its product. There’s still at least a full year ahead of us before we will see the company’s next-generation mud tire, but we’re happy to report the next-gen mud tire from BFGoodrich is already a big improvement over the KM2, and that’s saying a lot because the KM2 is a great off-road tire. If you missed out first impression of the KO2 tire down in Baja, be sure to check out our story. Even though it’s still quite a ways away, be sure t stay tuned for more updates on the developments of the next-gen mud-terrain from BFGoodrich, as expect to hear more about its development in the coming year. Newsletter
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