After 15,000km on the 130, including one of the toughest desert crossings in the country, Sam gives us the long-term report on his tyres.
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My Land Rover Defender, known as Project 130, probably spends the majority of its time in the bush. It does get used as a bit of a packhorse around the office but the rest of the time is spent touring, mainly on dirt roads and off-road driving. After 15,000km the Bridgestone Desert Dueler MT 674 are holding up surprisingly well given the pressures I’ve run in them and the terrain they’ve taken me over, but they’re hardly new any more.
The trip that really tested the tyres was the Madigan Line tour with its 2,000km of sealed roads, 2,000km of unsealed roads and 1,000km 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.
The 130 is a big 4X4, with a GVM of 3.5T. Pushing it along is a five-cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged diesel engine. It makes 91kW at 4,850rpm, and 300NM of torque at 1,950 rpm – not a lot by today’s standards, especially when loaded. This meant that 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 have 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 all accounted for, but 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’re 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 muddies 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 highway-terrains 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 big girl 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 avoid 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 on even the slipperiest of tracks. 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. 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 4WDing.
Prices vary according to size.
Words By Sam Purcell, photography by Brett Hemmings