One of the most important things on any car is without doubt the tyres. No matter what car you drive and no matter where you drive, all that keeps you connected to Terra Firma is four patches of rubber that measure in at roughly the size of the palm of your hand. Ok, some tyres are wider than others and so are some hands, but the point is that the traction between you and the road is rather tiny when compared to the size of your car. The odd thing is that tyres seem to be a grudge purchase for most people and so they often skimp on costs by either getting tyres in the wrong size or by buying terrible quality tyres. There are however options that offer up great quality at a price point that won't break the bank, and the latest additions to the range at General Tire are exactly that. I was lucky enough to make my way to the Cape with the Altimax crew to sample these new additions, the Grabber AT3 and the Grabber X3.
When you take a close look at tyres you'll find out that every groove is there for a reason; on street tyres a lot of it is for dispersing water, but for all terrain or more off-road focussed tyres the grooves actually work to expel sand or mud that can cake up on the tyre and negatively affect traction. With these two new tyres, one is made for all terrain purposes and one has more off-road focus, but is able to offer a decent drive on tarmac. The Grabber AT3 is, as the AT part of the name suggests, the all-terrain tyre. This tyre is destined for use on bakkies, SUVs or off-road oriented cars that will spend at least an equal amount of time on tar and on gravel, a 50-50 split. The Grabber X3 is meant to spend the majority of its life off-road, but is capable enough on tar to keep you cruising safely. For this tyre the usage split is 80-20. Of course I fully expect to see Sandton Jeeps running around with this off-road rubber even though the biggest obstacle they're likely to face is climbing over a centre island to do a U-turn when Maps sends them down the wrong road into traffic. With aggressive-looking tread being one of the deciding factors when people buy tyres these days, that's not a bad thing, the Grabber X3 looks properly mean.
To test the Grabber AT3 we were sent on a route with amazingly breathtaking views of the Cape while driving a fleet of the new 2.4-litre Fiat Fullback bakkies. It was my first time sampling of a Fullback and I must say I was quite impressed with it. It's powerful and smooth and has all the mod-cons you expect in a new bakkie, although the interior did feel like it was a few years old in look and feel, but that has nothing to do with the tyres. On tar, and a few gravels roads, the Fiat performed flawlessly, hoofing it on a few bends showed that there was good grip on the roads and as far as road noise is concerned it wasn't really noticeable. The same when it came to the sand roads. It must be said that it's hard to figure where the tyres are showing off or the bakkie's traction control settings. Still, the ride was good. At one of the waypoints we swapped over to Jeep Wrangler Unlimited models fitted with the Grabber X3 tyres. Again, even though they're meant to spend just 20% of their time on the tar, they gave good grip and feedback, even on some wet roads it took a bit of silly buggers to try get the Jeep to lose traction. That's a win.
After a few hours traversing the best driving roads the Cape has to offer, tar and gravel, trying to rescue a poor duiker that we witnessed breaking it's back while jumping through a fence it didn't see, and falling just a little bit in lust with a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we arrived at our accommodation for the night at the Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve. Apart from being an amazing lodge, it's also the home to Mountain Brewing Co and is also the base for the General Tire Adventure Academy where you can learn the ins and outs of off-road driving - see attached .pdf at the end of this article for great off-road driving information. Dinner (an awesome one), drinks (made on the same mountain we were on) , chats (about all sorts) and bed was the order of the night.
Just after sunrise and a great breakfast we headed into the valley to do some more testing. The first part saw us heading out in the Fiats again on an amazing scenic off-road route made up of hard sand, beach sand and your average medium grade off-road trail. The Grabber AT3 tyres got us through all of it without any issues. In some parts the electronics of the bakkie intervened to regain traction, but the tyres are the main ones responsible for the grip. After having more fun than should be legal in a bakkie, we swapped over to the Wranglers to put the Grabber X3 tyres through their paces. The trail we were lead on this time was way more technical and a lot more demanding on the cars and tyres, but thanks to the skilled instructors we managed to do the course without falter. There were some instances when I thought we'd be in a little trouble, but the grip of the tyres and the amazing agility of the Jeep got us through. I did get to see what the tyres look like up close when they're crawling over obstacles and you can actually see how the different sections grab on to the various rock surfaces and how they expel the water and sand and mud, quite fascinating really.
The new additions to the General Tire Grabber range are what the market needs right now. They are great tyres that come at an affordable price, and they have also made them available in the most popular replacement sizes to manufacturer spec. The Grabber AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: TRACGEN, DURAGEN and COMFORT BALANCE. The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15 to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications. Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance. The Grabber X3 is an extreme terrain tyre ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – as the name suggests: X3. The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s DURAGEN Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance and the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved. This mean-looking tyre is available in a total of five sizes for 15 to 17-inch rims.
Best of all, they supply the tyres in OEM fitment to the Suzuki Jimny that I will own one day. A huge shoutout to the Altimax crew, the Xtramile crew and the guys from Klipbokkop/MBco. This was an amazing, unforgettable experience. Oh, and one last note - I decided to try something different on this event, all images taken were with my Samsung Galaxy S8. I wanted to see if it was possible to get quality pics without lugging a full camera kit around. I'm happy with them, but I still think it's worth the extra hassle to have my Canon DSLR with me.
A few more images, because I can...
Mountain Brewing Co.
Just a quick mention of Mountain Brewing Co because the venue, and the team behind it and most importantly, the craft beer itself is brilliant. While staying over we had a few drinks at the Klipbokkop Brewhouse Pub as you do, and we got to sample the wares. They have a great craft beer menu, and I tried two of them while there; Loadshed and an MBco original called Fynbos. The latter was made with fynbos instead of hops, and the only way to describe it was like a liquid veld. Seriously, the way a veld smells after rain is what this beer sort of tastes like, and that's a good thing. Loadshed was great though, I could happily put a 6-pack away. The brewerie gave us a takeaway pack of beer containing all six flavours, and as soon as the first real Saturday of summer comes around, they're doing down like a cheap Chinese watch.
CAPE KRAKEN BELGIAN AMBER ALE
BLACK OR WHITE HY SMAAK ORAAIT: VANILLA PORTER
COPPER DAWN LAGER
SHARING THE TASTE: MBCO ORIGINALS