Maximum Traction-Nitto’s New Trail Grappler M/T

July 12th, 2010

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson

Maximum Traction

Nitto’s New Trail Grappler M/T

It’s no secret diesels owners use their trucks. That is essentially what sets them apart from other truck enthusiasts. They use them for both work and play, and in many cases that play can including sled pulling or off-roading. To get maximum grip from a vehicle that weighs upwards of 8,000 pounds, you need a serious tire that not only has a D or E load rating, but also has the grip and stamina to handle the abuse that sled pulling and off-roading can dish out.

Nitto Tire USA has been in the truck enthusiast tire market for quite some time. It has the reputation for developing specialty niche-oriented tires to meet specific applications. Its first foray into the off-road market was its successful Terra Grappler line. A few years later, it also introduced the Mud Grappler series of tires for the hard-core off-roader.

In an effort to blend some of the on-road comfort and noise reduction characteristic of its Terra Grappler all-terrain tire with the traction capabilities of its Mud Grappler series of tires, Nitto has recently developed the Trail Grappler M/T. According to Nitto, the new Trail Grappler is both aggressive off road and quiet on the street, making it a great all-purpose tire.

“The Trail Grappler M/T is engineered to be a trail-ready tire without compromising on-road comfort and performance,” said Anthony Lee, Staff Engineer at Nitto Tire. “We have used advanced computer design and analysis to test the functionality of multiple designs before building the tire. This allowed us to engineer a tire that will perform to our customer’s expectations.”

Our test truck was outfitted with 325/60R18 Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a well-worn Terra Grappler at left, and a new Trail Grappler M/Ts at right. Besides a dramatic difference in tread design, the Trail Grappler M/T also features self-cleaning sipes between the outer tread blocks.

For on-road comfort, Nitto’s engineers used sound analysis equipment to develop the Trail Grappler M/T in an effort to reduce noise levels commonly associated with aggressive off-road tires. According to Nitto, the Trail Grappler M/T’s internal construction and tread design also help optimize tread life. Two wide steel belts provide a stable base for the tire and increase tread strength, according to Nitto, which also provides optimal uniformity and reduces irregular wear. On the outer shoulder block, the reinforced grooves maintain block stiffness to further extend the life of the tires.

For off-road performance, the sidewall combines a three-ply, high turn-up construction with a thick rubber compound that cushions the tire and helps prevent punctures, Nitto claims. On the tread surface, the blocks are configured to provide additional biting edges that give lateral stability and enhance forward traction. The balanced void ratio and stone ejectors are designed to help clear debris from the tread to provide continuous traction. So what does all this tire tech talk mean in plain English? Maximum traction and much less on-road noise at highway speeds.

We mounted the new Nittos on the owner’s existing wheels, a set of 20x10 MHTs. The added width of the wheel will allow for full tread contact, even at street pressures.

Rolled out in 2009, Nitto offers the Trail Grappler M/T in a wide variety of popular sizes ranging from 32 to 37 inches in diameter, with more sizes on the way for 16-to-20–inch wheels. For the diesel enthusiasts, the good news is that most sizes are E rated for maximum payload, so you don’t have to give up any towing capacity.


We got our hands on a set of new Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts for some real-world, hands-on testing at our Arizona “proving grounds.” The guinea pig for our testing was an ’05 Chevy 2500 HD 4×4, with the Duramax engine and Allison automatic. The owner uses this truck exclusively for off-roading and camping adventures, making it the perfect candidate for a more aggressive off-road–style tire. Oh yeah, he totes a 30-foot fifth-wheel trailer behind the truck when he heads to the Arizona back country. The nice thing about tire testing in Arizona is that you get every kind of surface imaginable off road: sand, rocks, sharp shale and occasionally some serious mud after it rains.

On the trail, even over round river rocks, the Trail Grappler M/Ts offered plenty of forward bite.

Our test truck sports a 6-inch RCD lift, and was initially shod with 35-inch Nitto Terra Grapplers that were getting a little thin. So the timing to add the new 35×12.50R20LT Trail Grappler M/Ts was perfect. The nice thing about the Nitto tires we have tested in the past is that they are easy to balance, requiring very little tire weights. Our new 20-inch Trail Grappler M/Ts were no exception this time, even when mounted on huge and heavy 20×10-inch MHT rims.


We were anxious to find out how noisy the new Trail Grappler M/Ts were on the road, based on the wide-tread voids, and were pleasantly surprised as they were fairly quiet for an open-lug, aggressive off-road tire. While the pavement contact patch is less than that of an all-terrain–type tire, they managed to handle well and had minimal noise at highway speeds. Sure, they were slightly noisier than the Terra Grapplers they replaced, but you would expect that from an open-lug tire. At highway speeds, they were quieter than other mud-type tires we’ve tested in the past. In fact, with the 10-inch–wide rim, the tread was spread evenly across the pavement, making for a very stable platform.


Next up, we rolled the big Chevy to a local trail with rocky sections for some traction testing. Even at street inflation pressures of close to 60 psi, the Trail Grapplers made forward motion easy, clawing their way through the rock piles. With a load range E construction and the added sidewall tread grooves, nothing stopped the Chevy from moving forward on the trail.

With a fairly flat footprint, we didn’t need to air down the Trail Grappler M/Ts for serious sand running.

Slow running in the mud allowed the treads to pack with mud.

We also got to spend some time in a sand wash on the way back from our trail running and mud adventures. Again, even with full street inflation pressure, since most people air down for sand running, the Trail Grapplers worked well in the thick sand. While the sand was not ultra-thin like beach or dune sand, the fact the 35-inch tires were mounted on a 10-inch wheel provided a flat footprint and decent floatation in the wash sand, which was also peppered with rocks. With plenty of throttle, the big Chevy moved through the thick stuff with ease.

The ultimate test for our Trail Grappler M/Ts was a section of gumbo-like mud we found at a local construction site. Just as we suspected, with an open-lug–type tire designed to dig, the Trail Grappler M/T could dig their way to forward bite and sling mud like no tomorrow. The tires were able to find the hard pack beneath the mud and keep the truck moving forward. Plenty of wheel spin kept the tread blocks clean, while during slow crawling, they tended to pack with mud until liberal throttle application cleaned them out again. We also suspect they will work well in the snow, since can will dig down to find traction and have a self-cleaning tread design.

With a fairly flat footprint, we didn’t need to air down the Trail Grappler M/Ts for serious sand running.


Judging from the deep tread pattern, we figured the new Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts would be awesome off road and we weren’t disappointed. No matter what we tossed at them, they managed to keep the big Chevy moving forward. The biggest, and most pleasant surprise was the tire’s on-road manners and handling characteristics. The Trail Grappler M/T is fairly quiet for an open-lug tire, with excellent ride and handling characteristics on the pavement. We suspect that sled pullers and off-road enthusiasts will find the Nitto Trail Grappler M/T the perfect tire selection for diesel enthusiasts who actually use their truck for both work and play.


Nitro Tire USA
(714) 252-0007

Nitto Trail Grappler M/T
Available Sizes

LT285/70R16 E
LT295/70R17 E
35×12.50R17LT E
LT285/65R18 E
LT295/70R18 E
35×12.50R18LT E
LT295/55R20 E
LT305/55R20 E
35×12.50R20LT E
37×12.50R20LT E
LT295/65R20 E
LT325/50R22 E
37×13.50R22LT E
38×13.50R24LT E

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