Originally published January 27, 2015
Big Sky, Montana – Along with the Montana introduction of the new Continental WinterContact Si tire which is designed for passenger cars and CUVs, Continental also introduced a winter LT (light truck) tire from its General Tire division. The General Grabber Arctic LT is a Load Range E, 10-ply tire, similar to the Firestone Winterforce LT.
These tires are designed for heavier-duty trucks in the 2500 and 3500 range, along with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Nissan NV and Ford Courier. Some 1500 series trucks also require LT tires, depending on their specification.
According to General Tire representatives, owners of these vehicles will often replace the LT tire with a rugged all-season tire expecting good all-year (including winter) driving performance from them. A wide choice of designated winter LT tires has not been communicated or promoted effectively, and an all-season or all-terrain type tire, therefore, may have seemed sufficient as an alternative, and a cost-effective one at that.
To compare the Grabber Arctic LT with its competition, the General Tire team at Big Sky ran three 2015 Ford F-150 trucks on a snow and ice-packed course that tested for tractive, transient and lateral forces at city-driving speeds.
While one truck was fitted with the new General tires, the second wore a set of Firestone Winterforce LT tires, a popular choice, and the third rode on B.F. Goodrich All-Terrain tires (not an LT tire, and in the US, not designated as a winter tire).
The first part of the course started with straight-line acceleration from standstill to 40 km/h on a hard-packed snowy/slushy surface, followed by a sweeping turn and a quick lane-change maneuver. The second part of the course combined these conditions into an off-road test.
In our group, three drivers participated, taking turns in each of the vehicles. Our results were almost identical. With traction control on, flooring the accelerator, the truck fitted with the General Grabber Arctic LT tires required an average of 7.4 seconds to accelerate to 40 km/h. The truck fitted with the Firestone Winterforce LT tires required an average of 9.2 seconds, and the truck fitted with the B.F. Goodrich All Terrains required 9.3 seconds.
We were told by a General Tire engineer that this “tractive force” test is relevant for braking as well, and that the results can be extrapolated to stopping distances (i.e., the vehicle with the General tires would require less distance to stop in these conditions than the trucks with the Firestone and B.F. Goodrich tires). I would have preferred a separate braking exercise comparing the three tires, however, as the stopping distances between the winter tires seemed similar to me.
Continuing through the course, I found that the truck with Firestone Winterforce LT tires exhibited good grip in lateral and transient maneuvers. Maybe they didn’t equal the Generals, but it was close.
The truck wearing the all-seasons was another story. In addition to its limited ability to gain traction from standstill, these tires exhibited poor grip in lateral and transient maneuvers on this surface. This truck simply wanted to slide sideways when asked to corner, the stability systems almost continuously trying to correct for the loss of control.
Our group’s conclusions were that the General Grabber Arctic LT tire outperformed the Firestone Winterforce LT when accelerating from standstill, and felt more slightly controlled in transient and lateral maneuvers. Both LT tires far exceeded the all-season tire in these conditions, with the General Grabber Arctic clearly superior in the test for traction.
Bridgestone Blizzak W965
Firestone Winterforce LT
Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
Toyo Open Country LT1
Michelin LTX Winter