May 9, 2017
Second chances are hard to come by. Who wouldn't love the ability to pause, rewind the clock and try over again, but the reality most often is that you have to get it right the first time. Tires are the same way. The product life cycle for Off-Road Maximum Traction tires is substantial, with designs typically remaining on the market for ten years or more. When a manufacturer launches a new product in the category, it needs to be a home run, as it will be a considerable length of time before they get to try again.
With the launch of the Destination M/T2, Firestone is replacing the 15-year-old Destination M/T. To experience first-hand the impressive capabilities of the Destination M/T2, select members of the Tire Rack team joined other tire dealers from around the country to participate in an off-road test drive utilizing Jeep Wrangler Rubicons equipped with new, production-spec tires. Demonstrating how the Destination M/T2 performs in its natural habitat, the test would include deep mud, rocks, creek beds, fording streams and more. It was apparent this wasn't going to be a traditional tire preview experience.
The morning session consisted of laps around a 2.15-mile course designed to allow the drivers to familiarize themselves with the vehicles, the tires and general off-road driving. Even this "warm-up" drive featured intimidating obstacles, including fording an axle-deep stream with an uphill exit onto smooth, slippery rock, and navigating a rocky creek bed with zero visibility below the surface, as well as a deep pit of thick, slimy mud. These, combined with the countless ruts that would list the vehicle unnervingly toward trees, large, pointy rocks threatening to destroy tires, wheels or sheet metal and the forest that generally seemed to close in on either side of the narrow trail, meant the familiarization drive was a far cry from a relaxing stroll through the woods. And the comforting words of advice from the professional driver who had been riding shotgun throughout the experience? "Just wait until the afternoon session."
After a break for lunch, the time arrived to head out to the more advanced course, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Leading off with a crawl through a rock garden of suitcase-sized boulders, the Destination M/T2 immediately surprised our drivers, not just with its outright capability, but the composed and controlled nature with which it traversed the challenging terrain. Following a tight track over loose soil led to the next major obstacle, a roughly two-foot drop into a narrow ravine with a simultaneous off-camber, tight left hand turn through thick and slippery mud. The combination of the vehicle's natural tendency to follow the landscape and the limited traction of the surface challenged both the tires and the driver, but smooth inputs and helpful instruction allowed the Jeep through without incident. Traversing the bottom of a winding creek bed, our convoy slogged through axle-deep mud strewn with seemingly bumper-high, partially exposed rocks until reaching the exit - an approximately three-foot drop into a wading pool-size mud puddle leading to a steep, uphill climb through thick, soft earth.
Once beyond the sticky muck, a quick jaunt up a leaf-strewn hill proved easy work for the Destination M/T2s, as did the seatbelt-straining descent down the other side. A severely off-camber trip across the face of the same leaf-strewn hill tested the tires' side bite, and some tight turns through deeply rutted, uphill trails demonstrated the pulling power of the tread lugs' 23-degree attack angle. The final obstacle of the course was another rocky section, but this time featured smoother rocks and required the vehicle to travel noticeably uphill in the process. The rocks were slick with mud from the continual procession of Jeeps, yet once again the Destination M/T2 cleared them with aplomb, only requiring a little stab of the throttle to accelerate over the largest rock of the group.
This event, like most product launches, was an experience designed to demonstrate the strengths of a new tire, and our team left impressed with the Destination M/T2's capabilities. The vehicles traversed rough rock, slick rock, loose dirt and debris, thick mud and every combination of these elements, and the tires never left us wanting for traction. There was no on-road component to this testing, so the noise and ride comfort and light handling performance of the tire are still unknowns, but off paved surfaces, the Destination M/T2 will likely prove satisfying for even the most demanding off-road enthusiasts.
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