The main focus of a mud tire is typically one thing: ultimate off-road traction. If you're using your four-wheel drive as your main vehicle, however, your tire also needs to have decent pavement manners. "We believe a good mud-terrain tire should perform well in all versions of terra firma; after all, mud only happens when dirt and water mix. The rest of the time, you have dirt, rock, sand and snow -- not to mention all forms of pavement," says Robin Stover from Four Wheeler Network.
Experts recommend the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar (Est. $245) because of its balanced performance both on the trail and on the street. "It's like having both an aggressive mud-terrain and a mild-mannered all-terrain wrapped up in one attractive package," says Stover. In Four Wheeler Network's comparison of the best mud tires, they add that "If you want a mud tire that shines both on- and off-road, the MT/R with Kevlar is hard to beat." The editors add that on-road manners are "pleasant and relatively quiet, while off-road, the "three-ply sidewall is flexible enough to envelope rocks the size of tennis balls." The addition of Kevlar to the sidewalls add a level of puncture resistance that competitors lack.
Experts say don't be fooled by the seemingly tame sidewalls and overall design of the Falken WildPeak A/T (Est. $160): Where the rubber meets the road, these tires have serious four-wheeling abilities thanks to their "larger, deeper and more aggressive tread patterns to improve not only the tire's looks but also its off-road prowess," says Ali Mansour of Four Wheeler Network. It does struggle a bit in wet clay and thick mud, but that's something that challenges all off-road tires to some level.
On-road prowess is surprisingly excellent for a tire designed to emphasize off-road use. To achieve a boost in all-terrain traction, many tires sacrifice road noise and highway performance. Reviews say the Falken WildPeak A/T manages to have both, making it a strong contender for the daily driver. In a different Four Wheeler Network review, Sean P. Holman says the Falken are "astonishingly quiet on the pavement. At one point, we even disengaged the transmission at speed and let the (Jeep) coast, and there was no perceptible tire noise over the engine noise."
Durability is another highlight. Following a 1,100 mile test over all types of surfaces under all types of weather conditions, Holman was somewhat astonished by the tires' condition. "Every single tire appeared to be in like-new condition, with absolutely no tread chunking or sidewall scuffing," he says. "Despite serious trail abuse, these tires were no worse for the wear." Falken backs the tire with a 50,000 mile treadwear warranty -- not the longest, but still pretty strong for a tire aimed at the off-road crowd.
Similar to the Falken, the General Grabber AT2 (Est. $160) falls in between the mud tire and all-terrain categories. It's an off-road favorite with reviewers, who say it's reasonably comfortable and extremely quiet for this class. General's warranty is the longest for mud tires in our report, covering treadwear for six years and 60,000 miles.
Road manners are excellent. "With virtually no road noise and great all-around performance, the AT2 is a good choice for daily drivers that need added traction for weekend adventures, no matter sand, rock, rain, snow or ice," says Four Wheeler Network. Off-Road.com calls it one of the best maximum-traction tires, though the General loses some grip in thick mud.
Like the Cooper Discoverer A/TW (Est. $180) covered in our discussion of the best all-terrain truck tires, some (but not all) sizes of the Grabber AT2 carry severe winter tire ratings, making better them than average performers in snow (though not better than a true winter tire, like those profiled in our report on the best snow tires), and can, in addition, accept studs for added winter traction.