Change from the tried-and-true can be difficult, and we stepped into this tire review holding our breath and hoping it wouldn?t turn out too bad.
Look at the tires on virtually every rig out on the trail, and you will find some variety of mud terrains on the majority of vehicles. There is good reason for this. The lugs of a mud tire act like fingers hooking themselves around the corners of rocks to help pull or lift the vehicle through obstacles. Additionally, the thick rubber lugs protect the tire from sharp rocks slicing into the tire carcass. Also very important, but not often appreciated, is the sidewalls. Typically mud tires will have thicker, multi-layered sidewalls that take the inherent abuse that comes with off-roading.
Knowing all these things; we held our breath, closed our eyes, and jumped in to the all-terrain swimming pool and picked up a set of all-terrain Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor 35x12.50?s.
Up front let?s state the obvious, this is NOT a mud terrain; and we are not about to tell you of some miracle all-terrain. Our point? If you play in the swamps or thick clay mud, stick with your tried and true mud tires.
Tale of the Tape
The best way to describe the Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor is a 50,000 mile tire whose outward appearance is like a cage fighter in a suit.
This tires ?suit? is a true all-terrain design with plenty of void space to get serious when leaving the asphalt. But it?s not so hardcore to get you evicted from the hoity-toity driveway of your look-the-part Hummer friends.
Looking closer at the tread blocks, you will find lots of factory siping. This siping improves traction by providing additional biting edges. It also increases tread life, and provides better braking.
Deeper yet, below the tread blocks, are ?Traction Ridges.? We have seen this on other tires and the claim is often two fold. First, the ridges help to clear mud by creating an uneven surface for mud to ?suck? on to. The second, these ridges are supposed to help in soft terrain (sand) to paddle their way across when there is nothing solid to bite into.
Underneath the tread are two steel belts, and the key to ?SilentArmor,? a layer of Kevlar®. Pound for pound Kevlar® is stronger than steel and also has the ability to deaden road noise.
Moving around to the sidewall we find our ?cage fighter in a suit? is a well rounded warrior utilizing Goodyears Durawall? sidewall compound to resist cutting.
Our last point in this tale-of-the-tape is the 50,000 mile warranty. For years we have just accepted ?off-road tires? and ?short life? go hand-in-hand like ?Sierra Club? and ?loss of public lands?. Now we don?t know what the cure is for Sierra Club, but silica blended rubber seems to be the cure for short tire life while improving less-than-ideal weather traction.
Into the Cage
So we like the sound of the hype, but can it perform?
The on-road handling is superb. We had forgotten how much we give up when driving mud terrain tires on the street. Braking drastically improved, cornering grip was night and day, and ice no longer made us nervous. But what about the quietness of SilentArmor? We found the tire to be quieter than the most popular AT on the trail, the BFG All-terrain KO. Now we can?t say if it all comes down to tread design, rubber compound, or if the layer of Kevlar® really makes that much difference; but the tire is incredibly silent. On the highway we even discovered that the stereo in our Jeep actually works over 55 mph.
Wrangler 1 - Mud 0 - Draw 0
Off-road this tread design does concede the win to a mud terrain when climbing rock outcroppings, but the Wrangler isn?t going down without a fight. We found the numerous biting edges from both the siping and number of tread blocks allowed the tire to fight and claw its way up. Of course, the lugs of a mud would simply hook on and lift with little effort.
Wrangler 1 - Mud 1 - Draw 0
Unfortunately, the world isn?t covered in just rocks, so we have to consider mud. Here in the Rocky Mountains and deserts of the west, our mud tends to be mostly silt. This type of mud clears itself from tire tread rather easily since it lacks the tackiness of clay.
Wrangler 1 - Mud 1 - Draw 1
With that said, it doesn?t mean clay can?t be found, and as expected, the Silent Armor?s tread blocks quickly become mud doughnuts.
Wrangler 1 - Mud 2 - Draw 1
Enough with the mud, how about wet traction? The silica blend compound of this tire demonstrated excellent grip on wet roads and continued to perform just as well on the wet rocks after an Easter Jeep Safari rain. When compared to its mud terrain brethren, it downright shined. We suspect this is due to the additional biting edges of this tread design ? with siping to clean the rock and the silica rubber blend?s ability to grip in the wet.
Wrangler 2 - Mud 2 - Draw 1
With all this talk about mud and wet traction you wouldn?t know Moab is in the desert.
Dry traction appeared to be on par with most any other tire, but what set this tire apart is again the tread design. The greater number of biting edges held on steep rock faces where mud tires would start to slide. The dirt on the rock surface acts like ball bearings under the mud tire?s large tread blocks.
Wrangler 3 - Mud 2 - Draw 1
While not a terrain type, durability is most definitely a consideration. We would be willing to match this tire?s tread durability against any of the common mud tires on the market. Where this tire gives up a bit of ground in a durability comparison is the sidewall. Yes, it uses Goodyear?s proprietary Durawall? sidewall compound, but it only has a two-ply sidewall instead of three-ply in most big-name mud tires.
Wrangler 3 - Mud 3 - Draw 1
As you can see the tires battled to a draw, but there is more to consider ? such as how quiet these tires are. We can actually talk to each other and not yell. We know it?s kind of cool to have the hum of some big ole muds, but it grows old after a while.
Off-road the tires are more pliable, compressing and wrapping around obstacles easier due to the smaller tread blocks.
Gas mileage has also come up a bit. We're not going to try and pin down the exact mpg increase because there are too many variables in such a clumsy, aerodynamically challenged block of a vehicle. What we can measure is that in our normal routine we aren?t having to fill up quite as often.
The real test for any product is would you buy it again? We would give a resounding yes. We?re not saying this is a magic tire to do all the things a mud terrain will do, but it is a very capable alternative that gets the job done while remaining very civil to live with. If your Jeep is a daily driver, seriously look into a set of Silent Armors. You won?t be disappointed.