Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT vs Nitto Ridge Grappler


Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT and the Nitto Ridge Grappler are two very different tires, the Ultraterrain A/T comes in (less aggressive) all-terrain category, while the Ride Grappler is a hybrid, also called rugged terrain. So there are some very unique differences to see here.

Nitto Ridge Grappler
Im in love with the sidewalls on Nitto Ridge Grappler.

Being a tire engineer, from my perspective, The Wrangler UltraTerrain is a better tire for roads, snow, tread wear, and ride comfort, whereas the Nitto Ridge Grappler does better off-road, on gravel, sand, rocky and muddy terrains.

Tire Sizes

The Nitto Ridge Grappler offers 98 total sizes, in 16 to 24 inches, with following specs:

  • Load ratings available: SL, XL, D, E and F.
  • Speed ratings available: T or Q.
  • Weight range : 36 lbs to 91 lbs.
  • Tread depth range: 13/32″ to 18/32″ (Most common: 16.4/32″).
  • Sizes have no mileage warranty or 3PMSFR.

Detailed review of this tire.

Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT has limited sizes in 16 to 20 inches rims, with following specs.

  • Speed Ratings: S and Q.
  • Load Ratings: SL and E.
  • Weight Range: 40 to 70 lbs.
  • Tread Depth: Either 16/32″ or 18/32″.
  • 3PMSF and M+S ratings available.
  • Doesn’t offer any treadwear warranty.

Tread Structure

Out of the two, the Nitto Ridge Grappler is a more aggressive tire.

Nitto Ridge Grappler
Nitto Ridge Grappler central tread part looks dope!

The tire offers very biting triangular ribs in the middle. These are actually 2 unique tread blocks making mirror images with each other, nonetheless, the two facing sideways are slightly bigger, and equipped with full depth biters (aligned with the grooves of shoulders).

The other two (vertically positioned) blocks carry other features (besides notches), as they have rectilinear (full depth) sipes, sharp razor blade edges and offset sides.

And where these (features) give bite in all directions (especially on rocks), they have foundational supports providing highway stability as well. So basically this way, the tire handles both types of terrains.

Moving towards the shoulders, these lugs are very aggressive, but only towards edges, where you see mud scoops of serrated edges, along with thicker sidewall lugs.

The tire actually has dual sidewalls (meaning, different pattern on each side of the tire is seen, so you can choose which side you’d want to show outwards).

And with these lugs it gives amazing grabbing abilities, when you lower the air pressure.

On the other side, the Goodyear UltraTerrain also give you a ton of biters.

Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT
Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT features shoulder lugs with missing mud scoops, though each lug is serrated on itself.

In the middle, the tire offers 2 main ribs containing blocks of various geometry.

These lugs carry full depth sipes, notches, off-set edges and form a network of grooves, which connect with the outer longitudinal channels.

(See how the outer circumferential channels are wave-like, this promotes self cleaning of the tread on dirt and mud filled surfaces).

Moving towards the shoulders, the blocks are thicker here, and they have notches facing the central lugs.

The siping pattern is also a little different here as well, as they form rectilinear shapes, though they are still full depth.

Towards outer edges, these shoulder lugs make sharp edges, and on sidewalls (though not visible in the image above), they get to have various shapes of biters, though they are still less aggressive compared to Nitto Ridge, that’s for sure.

Tire Toughness

To ensure strength and durability, the internal construction of an off-road tire must be carefully designed.

That’s why even though both tires have chip-resistant rubber skins, and deep enough voids in the tread, the Nitto Ridge Grappler still provides better protection here.

It features 3 ply polyester casing whereas the Goodyear UltraTerrain only provides you with 2. Though other than that, both tires have 2 wide steel belts on top, reinforced with 2 cap plies of nylon.

Dry Performance

Out of both tires, it’s no surprise to see Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT providing better overall dry traction in comparison.

The tire not only features a larger footprint of the tread (to meet up with the road), but it’s lugs are also arranged longitudinally. This supplies better distribution of the weight, as the tire rolls straight, creating better directional grip, resulting in shorter stopping distances and acceleration times.

Moreover, as the tire also attributes less voided shoulder structure, and the lugs there are reinforced with secondary rubber foundations underneath, they get to provide better handing times and steering response.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other hand, lacks in both areas of grip, with it’s wider tread voids, and it’s heavier weight, both causing its lugs to flex much more in comparison, limiting steering efficacy.

Wet Traction

Wet roads require a tire that can quickly remove water from the surface, dispensing strong grip and hydroplaning prevention.

And out of both tires, the Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT provides a better job.

Its wide longitudinal channels connecting with the shoulder voids supply the needed resistance to hydroplaning, and it’s combination of wave-like and rectilinear sipes provide better clearance of water at a micro level.

Sipes are just gaps in the tread, which soaks up the water particles in, so a tire could grip the surface of the road. And with a softer compound, the Wrangler UltraTerrain allows these sipes to flex better, providing superior wet traction.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, although does great with aquaplaning, with its map of interlinked grooves, it’s stiffer sipes can’t generate similar wet traction values in comparison.

Fuel Usage

Although off-road tires are never going to “impress” you, when it comes to their fuel efficiency, the Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT still shows a better economy out of the two.

The tire comes with a less aggressive design, having a lighter structure, so it’s rolling resistance is not negatively impacted by too much.

Where on Nitto Ridge Grappler, the heavier weight of the tire, combined with wider grooves, each of it’s lugs get to bear more pressure on them. And so they rub off the road with greater force, increasing rolling resistance and as a result fuel usage.

That’s why switching between these two, you’d see a difference of 1 MPG (on average).

Ride Quality

Tread noise, and ride stability are the two defining features, which play a big role in determining the overall ride quality. Let me talk about them both.

On-Road Noise

The relationship between the tread and noise is clear, as a tire with less tread results in more air flow through the shoulder grooves, and increased noise. A fancy way of saying, balder tires are louder.

That’s why looking at both tires, it makes sense why the Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT is much more capable here. It’s shoulder voids don’t allow too much air particles to come in and hit around the walls of the tread (which generates noise).

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, produces more noise due to it’s wider grooves, though it’s pitch sequencing which Nitto calls variable pitch technology, is pretty good at dampening the noise levels. So compared to other rugged terrain/hybrid tires, it still does better.

Ride Stability

The Goodyear UltraTerrain also does better when it comes to mitigating the vibrations on roads. It’s flexible inner structure and malleable outer lugs account for better settling of the vibrations, providing you with a comfortable ride.

And since all its lugs are attached longitudinally (from underneath), they also don’t compromise when it comes to highway stability (where the tire mostly rolls directionally).

The Nitto Ridge Grappler, on the other hand, feels stiffer on roads, with it’s harder tread compound, and with larger grooves, the tire lacks in providing ample ride stability, comparatively.

Tread Wear

The three key elements affecting tread life are friction, tread depth, and composition.

That’s why with better rolling resistance, and deeper tread voids (reaching up to 18/32″), you get a better tread life on Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT, even tough the tire features a softer compound.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, bears more pressure on it’s lugs (like I explained in the fuel section), and so you see a faster burning rate on this tire.

(Though worth reminding, both tires don’t come with any kind of tread wear warranty).

Mud Performance

Out of both tires, the narrower grooves of Goodyear UltraTerrain A/T leads to limited clay evacuation and a reduced traction in muddy conditions.

The tire is basically not bald enough, and as it’s lugs are joined up with each other longitudinally, the thick mud can’t leave out in time, especially through sideways.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, with it’s Z shaped grooves connecting wider outer circumferential grooves, and shoulder voids, supply better efficacy.

Moreover, the tire’s staggered outer edges also bring about superior scooping abilities, where it’s thicker sidewall lugs further add to that. They paddle the tire’s way out, throwing mud particles backwards, resulting in forward momentum.

Rock Traction

A tire that has a flexible tread to enable bendable blocks/lugs, a strong grip in all directions to maintain stability, and robust sidewalls to protect against sharp punctures is vital for navigating rocky terrains.

And with my experience with both tires, I can confidently say that the Nitto Ridge Grappler is way ahead here. The tire’s countless biters, in the form of chamfered edges, sharp sides, off-sets (saw-tooth biters), and full depth sipes, all assign amazing rock grabbing abilities.

Moreover the tire offers very powerful sides form both inside and out. Internally, it provides 3 ply polyester casing, and on the outside, it has dual sidewall designs, with thicker lugs on each side of the tire. The Wrangler UltraTerrain can’t compete with the beast.

Sandy Terrain Traction

On sand, you need a lighter in weight tire, having a softer compound. Both of these factors allow the tire to float more and dig less, even with lowered air pressure (which is a must to do on sandy terrain, I talked about it more here).

Weight wise, both tires are equal, and where the Goodyear UltraTerrain has the advantage of softer compound (which molds better with the sand with lowered air pressure), the Nitto Ridge Grappler provides bulkier sidewall lugs which get to spread out more enhancing the tire’s footprint overall in a better way.

That’s why Ridge Grappler gets to have an upper hand. Moreover the tires section width (across all sizes, on average) is also greater in comparison, which is again better for the floating.

And although it’s heavier size has more weight in comparison, on average, both tires weigh almost the same on average.

Gravel Performance

Despite the cut-resistant rubber composition in off-road tires, they can still experience harm and reduced traction from stones and dirt particles, which can easily get lodged in, if the tire doesn’t not provide effective self cleaning grooves.

And so it makes sense why out of both tires, you get a better braking distances and handling times (on gravely roads) on Nitto Ridge Grappler.

The tire features wider grooves, and it’s shoulder lugs are embedded with bolder stone ejectors, which throws away any stone/dirt/debris, that tries to settle in.

Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT, on the other side, doesn’t have any stone ejectors on the outer edges, though it’s middle lugs still have some ridges on the base (of the grooves), that provide some stone repelling properties.

Winter Traction

The assessment of a tire’s effectiveness in snowy conditions is based on its ability to provide better snow to snow contact. That’s why the Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT yields better efficacy.

The tire has a lot of in groove biters, and (more in number) siping, and both of these, grab and hold on to the snowflakes allocating snow to snow connection (with them).

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other hand, not only lacks in providing such biters, but it’s tread is also not so thermal adaptive, meaning with freezing temperatures, it’s blocks get stiffer, and it’s harder compound isn’t helping here either. That;s why it’s not rated with 3 peak mountain snowflake rating unlike its counterpart.

In the End

Goodyear Wrangler UltraTerrain AT being a less aggressive tire off the two, yields a superior traction on both wet and dry roads. Moreover, the tire also does a lot better in terms of other on-road performance metrics, including snow traction, tread wear, fuel efficiency, and overall ride comfort.

In comparison, the Nitto Ridge Grappler features superb off-road grip, where it shines the most on gravely and dirt filled roads. And it’s sand and mud performance is also worth noting.

2 thoughts on “Goodyear Wrangler Ultraterrain AT vs Nitto Ridge Grappler”

  1. Both my Jeep Wrangler and my Chevy Colorado both came with Goodyear Wrangler tires. The steel belts separated on both vehicles prematurely. 29k on the Jeep and 35k on the Colorado. These tires suck and the tread wear was horrible. They were not good on wet roads with the Colorado but fairly good on the Jeep. Overall my recommendation is stay clear of Goodyear Wrangler. Both vehicles came with Wrangler tires unfortunately.


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