Crap was about the only word my brain could process as I felt the rock shift beneath the Excursion’s mass, letting the rear end slip from its precarious perch down into a ditch. The truck stopped with a thud, and I sighed in annoyance at the situation. Just a few hours earlier I had been in Phoenix under sunny skies, but now I was further north, and heavy snow had covered most of the road’s obstacles, including the one that I had failed to see. I peered back through the mirror and saw the sidewall of my brand new A/Tx wrapped around a rock like a balloon ready to burst. Well, time to find out if these new tires are worth their salt. I dropped the Excursion into low range and applied a hair of throttle to the 7.3L diesel. The Generals turned slowly, grappling for traction in the icy rocks. I cringed as the rubber curled and distorted, seeming to flow around the boulder rather than slip by, but to my amazement it held strong, and the Excursion clawed its way up and onto the main track once more. Not a great way to start a trip, but a fantastic beginning to my evaluation of these tires.
Last year I logged over 15,000 miles on a set of M/T’s in my Ford Excursion, but for 2019 I wanted to try something new. Something, dare we say, trendy, and no tire segment fits that bill quite like aggressive all terrains. In the last few years, it seems like every manufacturer under the sun has released their own version of these tires, combining the smooth road manners of an A/T with the aggressive sidewall and shoulder patterns of an M/T. The result is a product that packs the looks we love without the ride we hate, at least in theory. With several upcoming trips, I sourced a set of A/Txs from General Tire and set out to see how this latest cross segment handled day-to-day use from the highway to the trail.
The Grabber A/Tx combines the legendary tread pattern of General Tire’s AT2 with the sidewall of the Grabber X3, giving the tire aggressive looks and improved durability without sacrificing the ride or road performance we love. It handles technical terrain and loose surfaces with equal ease, but don’t let the shoulder lugs trick you into thinking it’s a true M/T in the mud. After 7,000 miles, I’ve burned just 1/32 inch of tread depth but developed a slight shimmy just before rotation, so you’ll want to keep up on your balancing.
What You Need to Know
Tire size and specifications tested – 315/75/R16 Load Rating E
The A/Tx is priced within a few dollars of its competition in nearly every size. In some instances, it is slightly cheaper, while in others, it is more expensive, but overall it’s very competitive. We’ve included online prices from Tire Rack below for reference.
- General Tire Grabber A/Tx – $236 each, or $1,180 for a set of five
- Cooper AT3 XLT – $234 each, or 1,165 for a set of five
- BFGoodrich T/A KO2 – $232 each, or $1,160 for a set of five
- Falken Wildpeak A/T3W – $244 each, or $1,220 for a set of five
One of the most important factors when selecting a tire is going to be weight, as the more a tire weighs, the more power it will take to move it, and the more stress it puts on your vehicle. The A/Tx splits the pack on this front, coming in lower than the Falken and BFGoodrich, but higher than the Cooper.
- General Tire Grabber A/Tx – 66 pounds
- Cooper AT3 XLT – 63 pounds
- BFGoodrich T/A KO2 – 68 pounds
- Falken Wildpeak A/T3W – 73 pounds
The Grabber A/Tx carries a few impressive warranties. The first is a 45-day satisfaction guarantee, which allows you to return the tires if you aren’t completely happy within 45 days or the first 2/32nds treadwear, whichever comes first. The second is a general wear warranty, which lasts for a surprising 60,000 miles. That beats BFG and Falken, by 10,000 and 5,000 miles, and ties with Cooper’s AT3 XLT.
Weather Rating – Three peak mountain snowflake
Initial Tread Depth as tested – 16/32 inch
Tech Behind the Tire
Most people buy A/Ts for their balance of on-road comfort with off-road performance, so it’s pretty darn important that they don’t fall short in either category. We’re happy to report that the A/Tx certainly doesn’t, thanks to a host of technology integrated into the design, starting with their legendary all-terrain tread pattern. This is a slightly updated carry-over from the AT2 and uses an off-set five-row distribution of interlocking tread blocks to provide the tire with different angles of traction to match the ever-changing terrain beneath it. Traction notches provide extra grip in loose surfaces like sand or snow, while stone bumpers help to loosen rocks and debris that become lodged in the voids. When winter comes knocking the A/Tx’s three-peak mountain snowflake rating really comes in handy, but for those facing genuinely harsh conditions, it can also be studded using the optimized pattern of pre-placed pinholes.
The A/Tx also carries General Tire’s Duragen technology, which combines a durable rubber compound with the flexibility needed to deform around obstacles and operate in cold climates. Duragen is another carryover from the AT2, but technical features like alternating shoulder scoops and longer shoulder lugs called deflection ribs are new. These give the tire additional traction in more technical off-road conditions, while also adding puncture and tear resistance thanks to the added rubber.
Any A/T that hopes to compete these days needs to be more than just good on the dirt though, so General Tire was sure to incorporate plenty of tire tech to improve handling on the road as well. Underneath the tread, you’ll find layers of shock absorption materials isolating the vehicle from road disturbances, a feature that General Tire calls Comfort Balance Technology. This cushioning system was a welcome update from the previous AT2, which had room for improvement in ride quality. Full depth siping boosts traction in wet or snowy weather, and GT’s Stabilitread technology provides a wide footprint while promoting a long tread life and even wear.
It’s plain to see that a lot of development went into this tire, but the question is, does it work?
Performance and Impressions
On the road, the Grabber A/Tx is everything I hoped for. I picked up two miles per gallon in fuel economy over my previous M/Ts, and the ride quality was as smooth as the day I bought the Excursion on road tires. I found the tread pattern to be well suited for road travel, tracking straight with little to no wander and no need to actively control it. Vibrations were minimal, and I didn’t experience any odd feedback caused by the lug shoulders impacting the pavement when turning. Even while towing my Airstream, I found the mannerisms were favorable, especially compared to the M/Ts I had used in the past.
The Comfort Balance technology did indeed give the tires a cushioned ride, and the acoustic engineering integrated into the tread voids kept things quiet regardless of speed. Take that with a grain of salt, as the 7.3L Excursion isn’t exactly the pinnacle of quiet on the highway. I probably wouldn’t notice the sound of many all terrains at 65 mph.
What I did notice, however, was the A/Tx’s ability to grip in wet and snowy weather. Rain had little effect on the tire’s traction, and even compacted snow didn’t seem to make much of an impact thanks to a silica-based tread compound and deep siping which helped it bite into the slick surface. On my trip to Yosemite, I found myself pushing the Excursion through the corners at a surprising speed without any indication of slipping. I often left the truck in two-wheel drive, while passing others who were spinning in four-wheel drive.
Tread life seems to be good thus far, as I’ve only reduced the depth from 16/32 to 15/32 inches in 7,000 miles, but the tires did begin to develop a slight shimmy at certain speeds. You’ll want to rotate them often to ensure this doesn’t become a problem over time.
On dirt roads, the A/Tx feels at home. Its predictable handling and precise responses to steering inputs give you the confidence to push the tires just a bit more than you’re used to. Even on corrugations and loose surfaces, the Excursion felt solid, with less step out than I’m used to seeing from previous tires with larger tread voids.
Speaking of tread voids, the A/Tx did an excellent job of clearing out snow, and a fairly good one of clearing out mud and debris. I did find that in the sticky clay near Flagstaff, Arizona, it struggled to keep up, though I suspect any A/T would have in those conditions. The stone bumpers meant to push rocks out from between the tread blocks performed okay, but I tended to pick up more stones than with my previous tires. This was an issue I experienced on both the Excursion and the Airstream.
Macro keying was favorable in the rocks around Sedona and Phoenix, especially where the new shoulder lugs came into play. The A/Tx was able to crawl up all sorts of obstacles, interlocking its offset five lug pattern with the terrain to climb with ease. They also performed well on slick rock, but I would suspect the harder compound used to achieve the long tread life is leading to slightly less adhesion on the stone. If you’re participating in off-road competitions, this may be a factor, but the minuscule differences in performance felt well worth it to me.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the durability of the A/Tx is pretty impressive. Despite dragging it along rocks and ledges under the weight of my 9,000-pound Excursion, they’ve held strong without cuts, chips, or punctures. The standard 2-ply sidewall may not be as thick as other E-rated 3-ply competitors, but it’s far from a concern, especially with the added deflection ribs extending down the side of the tire. These ribs help reinforce the most commonly contacted portions of the sidewall, pushing debris away while adding thicker rubber for those mistakes we all eventually make.
Although we’ve only spent 7,000 miles with the Grabber A/Tx, I’m very impressed thus far. On the dirt, they surpass the abilities of the former AT2 and deliver on the promise of a true all-terrain by tackling rocks, snow, mud, and sand with confidence inspiring effectiveness. On pavement, they continued to please with long tread life, a smooth ride, and little impact on fuel economy. When combined with their 45-day satisfaction guarantee and one of the longest warranties in the business, there’s a whole lot to love about General Tire’s Grabber A/Tx.
To learn more, check out their website here.