The off-road tire industry is awash with competitors vying for customer dollars and face time on the trail. While a good many of us care about mud cleaning properties and stone ejectors, a good many more care about how the things look on their Jeep or brodozer. Hey, if demand from the jabroni pack causes tire makers to develop better off-road rubber, everybody wins.
Be honest – over the last few years, Yokohama probably hasn’t been the first brand that pops to your mind when thinking about off-road tires. They make some dandy high-performance rubber, namely the Advan and Avid lines, but it’s been a minute since the spellcheck vexing Geolandar all-terrain had a dose of research and development dollars shoveled its way. It was a good tire but overtaken by some of its competitors and their dandy new tech.
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Rubber, Meet Road (Etc)
The company recognized this and, about three years ago, started developing something new for the off-road market once again. Pushes into new marketing opportunities brought the brand from baseball billboards to smartphone screens, while signing recognizable gearheads like Travis Pastrana as brand ambassadors work together show Yokohama brings the goods to a fun off-road journey.
Marketing alone won’t drive demand, not if the tire doesn’t have a mouth to match its trousers when the rubber (literally) hits the road. Or trail, in this case. With this in mind, Yokohama set out to design and build a tire that will grab a dose of market share and steal a few customers from the competition.
What’d they come up with? This new Geolandar X-AT, for starters. Those in the know will recognize Yokohama is taking a similar naming convention as it did with its aggressive mud tire line by offering a workaday model alongside a more eXtreme version that’s prefaced with the letter X.
Ejecto Seato, Cuz
Even before turning a wheel in anger, it’s easy to see the tread design of this new X-AT is vastly different than that on the older AT. While the latter has a wide and flat profile, its aggressive brother is fitted with dynamic shoulder blocks varied in length to create a biting edge. In plain English, that means part of the sidewalls can provide a measure of grip in the rough stuff, especially if appropriately aired down. Those same shoulder blocks also promote the ejection of mud and stones. Those center tread blocks on the X-AT are also much more angular and offset than its light(er)weight brand partner.
The company is using the angle that this X-AT lives in the area between an all-terrain and mud-terrain. Taking a cadre of Ford Raptors out into the desert near Las Vegas, these tires had no trouble scampering up and over a steep rock cropping or powering through a deep sand wash. At the latter obstacle, it was easy to see the tire’s tread design doing its job, flinging compacted sand skyward in quantities sufficient to satisfy the hygiene needs of at least six Persian cats. This cleared the tread nicely for the next challenge.
Style for Days, Strength for Years
In a nod to the jabronis mentioned earlier, the Geolandar X-AT is reversible, meaning it has different sidewall designs molded into each side of the tire. Mesa or Summit – it’s your choice, dude. Needling aside, this actually is a good looking tire. Don’t underestimate the value of that feature in today’s marketplace. Yokohama knows what they’re doing.
Built with what the company calls Geo-Shield construction, the X-AT has three sidewall plies with a uniquely high turn up point to keep the sidewall strong and resistant to punctures. A full nylon cap stretches across the tire like a drum, adding a layer of strength to the tread area. Those reversible pattern designs also do duty as sidewall protectors, designed to deflect a sharp stone or wayward tree branch when you’re on the trail.
At the Corner of Yee and Haw
Tearing across a dry lake bed in the Mojave desert was more of an exercise in fun than in revealing tire characteristics but did prove that these new Geolandars are not squirrely when pressed into compacted dirt at high speed. With the sun high and the shadows short at midday, we headed for the Mint 400.
That’s right, the Mint 400. Portions of the track used by gonzo racers taking part in the fabulous Mint are simply desert tracks wide open for the taking. On this day, gun enthusiasts had set up on the berm of this route, unloading practice targets from old F-150s and battered Econolines. Don’t worry – they were firing their .22s and 12-gauges toward the empty desert. Well, most of them were anyway.
Hammering down wide and rocky paths upon which the likes of Bryce Menzies and Rob Maccachren had turned wheels a couple of months prior, the Geolandar X-ATs clawed for and found plenty of off-road traction, allowing the mighty Raptor to do what it does best. Tires, after all, are technically the only things on your truck touching the earth. All the bypass shocks and stout suspension gear won’t do a lick of good if your tires are useless. These new Yokohamas deploy their aggressive shoulders and center blocks to grip the ground like a child grips their blanket.
Hit the Road, Jack
After a day full of ‘wheeling, it doesn’t seem like these X-ATs will beat you up on the drive home. Instead of shuttling us to a trailhead in buses like so many sheep, Yokohama encouraged us to drive ourselves there in Raptors shod with these new Geolandars. Those zigzag grooves in the tread pattern really work to break up the airflow zipping through the tire, reducing that trademark zinging hum generally heard from an off-road tire.
Staggering the tread pattern in a five-block sequence is also said to help. From firsthand experience, we can tell you it’s easy to hear yourself think on a highway drive, something that’s not always possible with aggressive tires.
Our Final Verdict
Five years ago, the Geolandar family consisted of just three tires. Now, the engineers at Yokohama have doubled this number with rubber ranging from the G055 intended for family crossover vehicles to the mighty X-MT used by rock crawlers. This good looking X-AT lives towards the more extreme end of that scale, able to get drivers and their rigs up and over tough terrain without beating them up on the way home. Yokohama’s back in the off-road game with a tire that’ll please the gearheads and jabronis alike.
With 27 sizes planned, the new Yokohama Geolandar X-AT is one sale now.
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