I’m about 15,000 kilometres into the Bridgestone Dueler M/T 674 tyres that have been fitted onto Project 130. The Land Rover Defender gets plenty of work done for us at the office, a rough guess would be that half of that total amount would be on sealed roads. The rest is dirt roads and off-road driving.
The big journey that really tested the tyres was the Madigan Line tour with its 2,000 kilometres of sealed roads, 2,000 kilometres of unsealed roads and 1,000 kilometres of desert. Bitumen, soft sand, rocks, gibbers, mud, city, town, country, Outback and desert; in these 15,000 kilometres, the tyres have just about seen it all.
Project 130 is a big 4X4, with a GVM of 3,500 kilograms. Pushing it is a five-cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged diesel engine. It makes 91 kilowatts at 4,850 rpm, and 300 newton-metres of torque at 1,950 rpm – not a lot by today’s standards, especially when loaded. Unlike the V8-powered LandCruiser, or the Steinbauer-equipped DieselCare Hilux, I didn’t have wholesale grunt to depend on for coasting over dunes on the desert crossing. Rather, I had to air my tyres down a long way for floatation over the sand.
One advantage I had over other vehicles in this regard was the internal beadlocks I have installed. So even with a big load on board, I ran 12psi in my tyres to allow me to cruise over the dunes without flogging my car. On the high-speed dirt sections on each side of the desert, I was running 24psi.
The Duelers worked out to be great desert tyres. I didn’t have any flats with them during my time, and they gave me all the grip I needed, when I needed it.
The tyres are showing the wear and tear that is commensurate with hard off-road work. Tread blocks are looking weathered, and there are a couple of small cracks showing up around the crown and shoulder (most noticeably on the rears). This is because I ran the tyres so low, with a big load, for so long, across the Madigan Line. Some could even say my usage borders on abuse, and maybe they are right. But the tyres still performed well. And most importantly, they didn’t let me down.
When they first went on, the tyres were very, very quiet. After 15,000 kilometres, there is a whir that anyone who has run mud-terrain tyres would be familiar with. It’s not loud or intrusive; more of a hum than a drone.
I find the noise quite bearable, considering the tread pattern, and how much grip that affords off-road. If you don’t want any noise at all, buy some slicks and don’t go off-road. In other words, the noise (for me) isn’t an issue.
The performance of the tyres on-road has been good. The Defender steers directly and brakes cleanly, with smooth performance through corners. Keep in mind, my Defender gets driven similarly to how Aunty Doris takes the Camry up the road for some social bingo: A race car it is not. I did have to stand on the brakes quite hard a few times, to dodge a few kangaroos west of Wanaaring, and the tyres gripped progressively instead of going into instantaneous lock-up. For me, the on-road performance is fine.
The tyres have been very impressive in muddy and boggy conditions, grabbing well in even the slipperiest of conditions. There was great performance on unsealed roads, as well: I pushed the car hard into corners along Wombeyan Caves road a while ago, and it took a lot for the tyres to start losing lateral grip. When it did, it was smooth and progressive; allowing me to easily handle the car. These tyres smashed the Simpson Desert, along the toughest crossing in the form of the Madigan Line. No flats and no issues, including the 2,000 kilometres of commute either side of the desert. I also did a couple of short, tough tracks on Sydney sandstone, and was very impressed with their grip. For a real-world test, that is a massive thumbs-up.
If you’re looking for an off-road biased tyre that will still give an agreeable on-road demeanour, I would recommend that you consider the Bridgestone MT 674. The entire range of sizes comes with light truck construction, which is a big bonus for 4WD.
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