Goodrich R17 KO2 Review

The review is based on New Mexico Backroads [NMBR] experience with the Goodrich 37×12.50R17 KO2 tires mounted on a Jeep Rubicon for a year-long review.

“Is it time to return to an all-terrain tire?” –this question would function as running theme for New Mexico Backroads’ continuing review of this KO2. Would an off-roading enthusiast or professional be inclined to give up their huge cube mud-terrains for BFGoodrich’s next-generation competitive all-terrain tire?

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Currently, the KO2 tires have over 15,000 miles of use, the vast majority of which has been off the sidewalk and on dirt in 14PSI. NMBR’s  experiences have included an expedition hosted for American Expedition Vehicles, two Ghost Divide Expeditions, traversing the historic Butterfield Trail with Overland Journal, the Gila Legends Expedition, the Camino del Tesoro Overland and a host of other rocky field work Throughout the backcountry of the Southwest. The tires are subject to every possible surface state except ice. As mentioned previously the tires provide exceptional traction in various challenging conditions and terrain while still maintaining excellent pavement manners. These powerful characteristics have remained unchanged over the previous eight months and 15,000 miles.

Review Background

Coming from my excellent experience (zero failures) using a half dozen sets of BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrain tires because their 2008 launch, the KO2’s had some big shoes to fill. My expectations for the KO2 All-Terrain tires were although they’d be a tire, but could fall short of the KM2 in terrain or the scenarios. Up to now, my assumption was proven wrong.

Sidewall Durability

In technical scenarios utilizing the sidewalls is essential, and where the tire tread isn’t in contact with the terra firma, the sidewalls of the BFGoodrich KO2 hold powerful. The sidewalls of the KO2 feature a shoulder layout sipes and an side lug design that provides bite when steering precision is crucial. The material was improved over the KO tire with BFGoodrich Coregard Technology that offers a durable rubber composition that resists cutting and bruising. For extra protection, the sidewall rubber compound and side lugs of this KO2 extend towards the tire’s middle. Countless miles of riverbed and dry streets were traversed with the Jeep Rubicon and the KO2’s. Hundreds, if not thousands, of stones (football to VW Bug in size), have manhandled the sidewalls.

When airing up, I try to always inspect the tires and the car’s bottom for damage. The sidewalls show no indication of gouges or cuts. Some of the harshest contacts has arrived in scar regions, where branches stretch onto the road like spearheads from ponderosa snags. The sidewalls of the KO2 have not been jeopardized by the branches, but pelase remember that driving over such hazards are not recommended.

Airing up with the KO2sIt had been mentioned in the May 2,000-mile review that the KO2 sidewalls were stiff and the preferable off-road PSI was 12.5 PSI. In the months since, the sidewalls have broken in a bit, providing greater flexibility and a more conspicuous sidewall “bulge” at low PSI. At 15,000 miles, 14 PSI currently provides optimum (total) of sidewalk stability and grip for our Jeep Rubicon.

Traction, Tread & Mileage:

It’s official, the BFGoodrich KO2 has equivalent or better overall grip attributes when compared to the BFGoodrich KM2.

While the vast majority of the mileage I log is off-road, I only engage the 4WD  when necessary. Lots of the paths we cover are just three or four hundred miles between fuel stops where fuel conservation is critical.

With the KO2 tires, I have managed to travel more miles in 2WD than with the preceding KM2 tires. Whereas with the KM2 tires I used to arrive at Reserve, NM for refuel on fumes, after three days traveling across the Gila Legends Expedition route, I am currently arriving on a bit less than a quarter tank with the KO2 tires. The improvement in mileage could be attributed to improved traction and decreased 4WD involvement and the tighter (lower rolling resistance) tread pattern of the KO2–when comparing to the KM2. In any event, I will take it!

Traction while climbing loose steep inclines is on par with the KM2. Spin out and breakaways are minimal when the differentials are equally open in 4-low and non-existent when the differentials are both secured on the loosest and most angled terrain. The standard of grip the KO2 tires supply in these difficult conditions equal that of the knobbiest mud terrain tires on the market–a significant statement for an all-terrain tire.

The extensive siping found throughout the KO2’s legendary interlocking tread block pattern provides improved traction, which further compliments the threads themselves. While the tread edges stay sharp and unphased after 15,000 miles of hard use, the sipes borders themselves exhibit minor rounding–this indicates that the sipes are working hard and essential to the tread pattern’s functionality.

Between the treads are small pyramid-shaped risers which foster the ejection of debris and stones to maximize traction by maintaining the tread openings open and protect against drilling (meaning embedded rock caused tire damage).

Tread Profile

 

Road Manners

BFGoodrich’s KO2s remains true and steady. Cornering is excellent for a 37-inch tall tire. Since the May 2,000-mile review, the favored street air pressure has come down to 28 PSI. This places all but a quarter inch of the tread in contact with the sidewalk while providing a good ride on New Mexico’s pothole-riddled byways. While the tires were rather quiet rolling down smooth-street when brand new, they create slightly more sound with 15,000 mph–not really an issue or complaint, just an observation.

Nevertheless, the KO2’s are still quieter than a brand new pair of KM2’s. Balancing has been undramatic; no tire cause drifting, negative feedback or vibrations can be detected.

 

Dirt road driving

Tire Wear Characteristics

While keeping to the basic interlocking tread block look of the prior KO all-terrain tire, BFGoodrich has significantly altered the tread rubber compound of this KO2 to offer a 100% more on grime tread life expectancy using the newest KO2–a figure derived from extensive Baja improvement and third-party testing.

Given the tough life the Rubicon’s BFGoodrich KO2 tires have lived in a relatively short period of time, the treads are in good shape. The tread depth of the tires fresh was 15/32 of an inch, in over 15,000 miles; they now measure an impressive 12/32 of an inch. It must be noted that the spare remains unused and won’t be included in the normal 3,500-mile rotation and balance program. The  Rubicon’s frontend orientation program was run every 5,000 miles. As for trail-related wear, just a half dozen nicks that the size of a fingernail is found in the tread blocks–no chunking, dividing or cutting is evident. The tread block edges are still sharp and unphased. The siping inside the tread blocks display minimum rounding–proof the sipes are hard at work providing maximum grip. The wear exhibited so far are the best I’ve seen of an aggressive all-terrain tire. The 15,000-mile KO2 review photographs provide the best comments on wear–the pictures say it all. The NMBR Rubicon’s KO2 tires aren’t even halfway through their service life.

KO2s up close

Be sure to tune in next week, were we take to the Norwegian roads to review studded snow tires.

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