After 18 months of testing, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 has proven itself on slick rock, sand and a mix of other off-pavement surfaces.
When you think of the world’s largest tire manufacturer which comes to mind? Here’s a few hints of the countries the winner is not based in: France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, South Korea, or China.
For over a decade, the reigning king of tires worldwide has been Japan’s Bridgestone. Dwarfing most other brands, save the Michelin Man himself, the company has been a global fixture since 1931. The Tokyo-based overall leader in sales also holds the lead in light truck sales in the States.
Sheer product volume aside, the Bridgestone portfolio of tires targeting trail and street has been strong for years. Fifteen years back, a set of its hot-off-the-mold Dueler M/T tires made their way onto my previous project truck, kicking off my years of performance testing of tires for Off-Road.com. Read that review here. Fast forward to Overland Expo West in 2018, and I found myself at the company’s booth listening to the pitch about its replacement for the previous Revo 2 version of the Dueler A/T.
Only days after the tire’s initial release, Bridgestone representatives were quietly launching the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 amidst the acres of dusty, crowded vendor aisles. In an age where tire manufacturers frequently bring to such 4×4 events a mix of massive semi-trailers, towering inflatable tires/arches/pillars, and sometimes even offer driving experiences on closed courses, the humble Bridgestone booth was both surprising and, frankly, easy to overlook.
That low key “stage presence” (and Overland Expo is definitely one giant show, complete with many ‘stages’ and ‘actors’) is somewhat ironic when you consider the outsized presence of Bridgestone in the global and N. American tire markets. With annual sales of $25B, why not splurge a little, Mr. Ferrari?*
In reality, neither you, nor I, nor anyone else who truly relies on their truck’s tires to get them through nasty conditions gives a rip about global sales or inflatable marketing hype. We expect demand tires that perform. Period. So when those same smartly-dressed Bridgestone rep’s began describing their new all-terrain’s release, it was easy to request that they cut to the chase and explain what made the tire worth reviewing.
Table of contents
An AT for Every Use
Coming off a nearly 2-year test period with BF Goodrich’s (now) iconic KO2, I knew a perfect baseline for comparison was at hand. The burly KO2’s were not worn out by any means, and the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 tires would ship by mid-summer 2018. A “duel” between the latest, premium all-terrain tires from the world’s two largest tire manufacturers? Let the competition begin!
The “all-terrain” light truck category is a crowded landscape, filled with designs that will make you raise an eyebrow (“THAT is an AT?”). In fairness to manufacturers, consumers in this broad category want it all. Quiet street manners that border on sports car handling. Tenacious ability to claw through gooey axle-deep mud. And, of course, adhesion to every frozen terrain…all while lasting for years. Buyers expect all of that in an AT.
In truth, each major AT tire aims for a specific balance across the major performance criteria. Bridgestone’s engineers will tell you no different, and are quick to stake their claim for the balance that a premium (“Best” designation in their line-up) tire should achieve in this category.
The Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 (“Revo 3” for brevity) has a design intent that claims ‘long-life doesn’t require performance loss.’ Backing this claim up with a rare 60,000mi warranty, the listing is perhaps less a guarantee and more useful for highlighting relative lifespan. However, the Revo 3’s competitors typically fall in either the 40,000mi or, in a few instances, 50,000mi limited warranty groups.
With 37 size offerings, Bridgestone opted to hit the most popular fitments, skipping the larger and unusual sizes, and offering solely metric options. Nonetheless, sizes up to nearly 35” are among the lineup. For most buyers, the range is adequate. For our 2014 4Runner we matched the previous KO2 sizing of 285/70r17, again mounting them on OEM wheels.
Requiring an average of 4.8oz to balance (7oz max), the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 tires were mounted at our Big O Tires using one of Hunter Engineering’s dynamic balancers. That very minimal amount of lead is about right from any of the competing brands/models in the premium all-terrain space. But compared to most others, it’s quite low, and speaks to the mold uniformity and quality control that Bridgestone employs.
That same characteristic—even, consistent symmetry—is also central to another basic goal that Bridgestone intended for their “next generation all-terrain”: excellent highway manners. Reasoning that most SUV, cross-over and pick-up drivers don’t want to sacrifice pavement handling in a reliable A/T tire, they tossed the engineers another challenge on top of long life.
Modern A/T tread patterns are generally forgettable in a less-than-complimentary way. They are visually bland, indistinct, and make one wonder if the tread engineers began with criteria like “homogeneous” or “ho-hum”. Bridgestone thankfully avoided that trend, instead building the Revo 3’s architecture around a trio of bold circumferential channels—two being parallel and linear, and one centered and non-linear. Each is surrounded by a matrix of siped, asymmetric blocks.
For those who care about it, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 immediately stands out visually among a pile of tires, or even a row of 4x4s. Much more so that the KO2 or other blocky A/T competitors, the Dueler Revo 3 also stands out on closer inspection thanks to its heavy siping. The difference is seen immediately when compared side-by-side with competitors’ tread patterns. Popular models like the KO2 and Falken’s Wildpeak AT3W are built upon evenly dispersed voids amidst a repetition of moderately siped blocks. Conversely, Cooper’s S/T Maxx, like the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3, incorporates an architecture built around central grooves.
Speaking of grooves, looking more closely into the grooves that Bridgestone has incorporated is one means to see further how they keep the tire planted in adverse conditions. Featuring significant tread updates since the Revo 2, the latest iteration incorporates significant pass-thru profiles between blocks, enabling water and goo to migrate laterally out the shoulders.
Tread voids, the negative space between the rubber, are among the most meaningful features of any tire design, but also the toughest to assess. Bridgestone utilizes a moderate tread void percentage, relative to others in the all-terrain sector. In the high void range are Goodyear’s Duratrac, Pro Comp’s Xtreme A/T and similar patterns that use significant lateral—as opposed to circumferential—channels.
Finally, bear in mind that in the decade since the Revo 2 was released, plenty of outstanding A/T and R/T tires have emerged. Rubber compounds, along with computer-optimized tread patterns have elevated the quality of what consumers now expect in the durability, quietness and longevity of light truck tires. Bridgestone’s 60,000-mile wear warranty, which few tires other than Michelin’s LTX A/T2 offer, is a sign of those advances. Does it live up to that claimed life-span?
20,000mi on Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 Tires
For the past 18 months we’ve traversed thousands of miles of varied surfaces across the Desert Southwest, the Colorado Rockies, and Idaho, testing the Revo 3’s in every season, while towing, and with varying payloads. That extended usage and the types of terrain we traversed are comparable to the two years we had previously spent on BFG’s comparably priced KO2.
On our Trail Edition 4Runner the Bridgestones rarely disappointed. Deflation proved critical to allow the tread pattern’s moderate voids and blocks to hook up in some conditions. When softened they responded with traction that, while not overly grippy, proved more than adequate on low angle rock faces, in dry sand, and loose dirt and gravel.
That also illustrates how well the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 responds to modest deflation, its carcass offering enough deformation with 10-15psi drops to induce both clear ride quality improvements (e.g., on baked Great Basin washboards) and traction/floatation. We tested the tires for this characteristic across the gamut of western conditions, including volcanic and basaltic plains of Southeast Idaho and the sand washes and dunes of Utah.
Equipped with Toytec’s BOSS 2.0 suspension, the 4Runner’s ride requires a fuller payload to begin performing at its peak. In normal trim, or when loaded for a light trip, the ride quality of the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 allows for modulating ride quality with subtle (~5psi) inflation changes for both trail and street.
In contrast, aggressive A/T’s present a more firm/stiff ride, which is understandable when you grasp the unmounted sidewalls of a KO2 versus that of a Revo 3. The BFG’s well-established 3-ply sidewall durability is a boon on tough trails, but comes at a ride quality price. By comparison, the more compliant Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 molds and conforms to rocks well, but compromises in puncture/cut resistance. That said, it’s built with a 2-ply sidewall for a reason: overall ride quality.
With a bit over 20,000 miles of usage, our Bridgestone Revo 3’s measure a consistent 8/32” of tread depth. Bridgestone spec’s the 285/70r17 as having 16/32” depth when new. While tread wear slows as the percentage of rubber contacting the road increases, our results suggest that the verdict is still out on whether users are more likely to be experiencing the estimated lifespan or utilizing a warranty claim.
When it comes to divulging construction specs, Bridgestone has really kept the Revo 3’s details under wraps. Why they don’t roll out the hidden technology on their web site is hard to understand in today’s competitive market. Perhaps the Bridgestone web master isn’t tuned into how well this tire performs…and that consumers demand to know what’s under the surface?
Now about the lack of a three peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) rating for the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3…Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain this. These are solid winter tires. While earning the 3PMSF designation, which was established by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), is a meaningful and reliable indication of snow/ice performance, it may not be the be-all and end-all. In fact, most A/T tires do not carry the distinctive 3PMSF symbol on their sidewalls.
In the case of the Revo 3, what the tire gives up to those with the 3PMSF designation isn’t terribly obvious. Our two winters on the tires were filled with mountain trips to ski resorts, clawing through unplowed Forest Service roads to reach trailheads, and a regular wintery mix of conditions alternating between ice and slush. While not on par with our Outback shod with Michelin X-Ice’s, it’s hard to see where the Bridgestone’s give up ground to the KO2 in winter driving. Test track results from Tire Rack and others have reported similarly strong winter performance by the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3.
For our usage, the bottom line is that Bridgestone has struck the right balance in an A/T for drivers that want to hit the trail on weekends without feeling like they are paying a price the other five days of the week. With a tread that has proven itself capable in all conditions short of slimy mud, this Dueler should be on the radar of a lot of drivers.
If we had to choose a word for this latest Dueler model we might lean towards “invisible”. This is a tire that drivers can easily ignore throughout the season, and get on with their travels, whether on interstate or backcountry routes. It’s easily forgotten, in the best sense. There is no drama, and the tire doesn’t beg to be noticed or voice its presence.
A very drivable A/T with good driver feedback, the Bridgestone performs well in many off-road conditions. Trails that commonly harbor sidewall-slashing rocks aren’t this tire’s preferred habitat, but it has proven itself effective on slickrock, sand and a mix of other off-pavement surfaces common through the West. And with the enhanced traction control systems in modern SUV’s and pickup’s, a moderately aggressive tire like the new Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3 should be very attractive for many owners.
*Paolo Ferrari is President, CEO, COO and chief-cook-and-bottlewasher of Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
About the Gear Doctor: Dr. Sean Michael has been designing, abusing and testing outdoor gear since the 1980’s, and began reviewing for Off-road.com in 2000. Today, he is Professor of Outdoor Product Design & Development at Utah State University, a product consultant, and a frequent Instructor at Overland Expo. Follow his trips and gear @thegeardoctor on Instagram.
Special Thanks to the team at Big O Tires, Logan, UT, for their generous support and technical assistance with this and other Gear Doctor reviews.
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