BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3: The Ultimate in Off Road Rubber?

Posted by Wheels On Edge about 3 years ago
King of the Hammers, Baja 1000 and the Dakar Rally. Hell on vehicles, and especially hell on the tires that they depend on to navigate some of the worst terrain a car could ever traverse. But those iconic races are also the proving grounds for improvements and innovations that anyone from the everyday commuter, to the amateur off-road enthusiast, and even a seasoned professional can benefit from. Among those who subject their creations to the off-roading extremes is BFGoodrich. The tire company boasts an impressive history and involvement in extreme off-road racing dating back to 1980 when the company unveiled a then-world first, a radial light-truck tire with a priority for performance. Now 40 years later, the latest iteration of that tire, the KM3, is here. We went to The 4x4 Centre in Vermont to put the new rubber to the ultimate test.

Our time with the KM3’s began with standard road use. Starting in the town of Essex in Vermont, the journey to The 4x4 Centre took us through some relatively normal streets, with a curvy mountain road at the end. Heavy rains didn’t bear much noticeable effect on the tires, and road noise was surprisingly low. Given how chunky these tires are, there shouldn’t be any surprise that these will be noisier than a standard tire. But given their size and aggressive nature, the ride and noise are more comfortable than you’d expect. Grip was not an issue either, despite a very heavy rainfall on the way to The 4x4 Centre. 
The 4x4 Centre is home to a number of services with a passion for off-roading laying at the centre of each of them. Acting as a service centre, restoration house and a place for custom off-road oriented upgrades, The 4x4 Centre has been in operation since 1998. One other service they offer is a driving school for would-be off-roaders to seasoned veterans. We were treated to a crash course, taking us through treacherous rocky terrain, deep and slippery mud banks, tight and winding forest paths and even slanted terrain.

The off-roading began with a demonstration of the tire’s grip and durability. One of the centre’s instructors drove a Jeep fitted with the KM3’s up a precarious rocky incline, leaving the vehicle stopped on a pointed rock that would have easily penetrated a standard road tire. The KM3 – with lower than standard air pressure for off-roading – simply enveloped the rock, maximizing surface area and grip, which left the Jeep stable and gripped to the surface. The tire was un-compromised, and remained so for the remainder of our day.
Once we got a chance to get behind the wheel, an instructor helped us apply various driving techniques like left-foot braking, proper gearing and 4-Wheel-Drive modes to navigate the varying types of terrain we’d encounter.  On one such encounter, we drove a Jeep down a steep incline covered in loose rocks. Set to 4WD-Low and remaining in first gear, the Jeep descended the incline slowly and controlled without having to use the brakes at all. In this situation, using the brakes could have caused the wheels to lock up, ending up in traction loss. A similar lesson was true for ascending the rocky slope. Remaining in 4WD-Low, but keeping the Jeep in a higher gear, allowed for a controllable climb up the path. These lessons can also be applied during winter driving, when traction is at a minimum. The KM3 did a good job of maintaining grip on the loose but jagged surface. 

The winding, muddy and sometimes treacherous path through the 4x4 Centre’s land threw a number of challenges at the KM3 tire. The only time a struggle occurred was navigating a slick, mud covered winding incline. Some vehicles in the convoy had to be winched to the top, but one vehicle, driven by an instructor instead of a journalist, made it up with a masterful blend of technique, prowess and just a touch of aggression.
Despite being purpose built for harsh and rough conditions, BFGoodrich say the majority of their performance mud tires won’t see anything but asphalt. According to the tire company, 39% of these tires go to drivers who simply enjoy their looks. It’s hard to deny they are a mean, aggressive looking tire that adds an extra edge to any vehicle that can fit them – which should be quite a lot. The KM3 tires – according to BFGoodrich – can cover 91% of the market. Sizes range from 15 to 22 inches with a wide array of diameters, load ranges and widths.

Compared to the outgoing KM2, BFGoodrich say the new KM3 tire grips better on rock, and has sidewalls that are 27% tougher. The tread also features something the designers call ‘mud-phobic bars,’ which are a raised part of the tread intended to release compacted mud that would normally get stuck in the tread.

Written by Shane Kalicharan

BF Goodrich KM3, off-roading, jeep, BFG, KM3, 4x4 Center Vermont

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