When I took delivery of the 200, I took a bit of a punt on Falken Wildpeak AT3W tyres - 14,000km later, have I made a mistake?
8,000km old (left) vs brand new (right)
Tread depth - new
I picked one of the spare tyres at random when they were brand new and measured the tread depth at 13.5mm, 14.0mm and 13.5mm on the inside shoulder, centre rib, and outside shoulder respectively. I couldn't find any claims from Falken, but these are pretty typical measurements for this class of tyre.
I use a six tyre rotation pattern, mixing both spares into it. It's amazing the number of 4WDs you see out there with a decade-old door-mounted spare that has obviously never seen a mile of road - when the call comes for that tyre to go into service, it's going to let you down worse than Rudy Giuliani's hair dye. Or worse, guys who have fitted 35" muddies but you can still see the factory 31" highway tyre poking out from the spare wheel...
Some guys on the internet really overcomplicate things when it comes to rotating tyres - as long as you do it regularly and evenly, it really doesn't matter what "pattern" you use. The goal is to spread the love out front to back and left to right, and the pattern you use is just a way of doing that systematically. Any pattern that you can remember is just fine.
A tyre will wear fastest in its first few thousand miles of use, so if you can, do the first rotation at 5k, and then you can relax to every 10k after that if you have better things to do on your weekends than jack your car up and down.
Tread depth - 8,000km
This rotation was meant to happen at 5,000km, but life got in the way. Note the high wear on the outside shoulders on the front tyres, symptomatic of poor camber adjustment. Note also my reading of the rear right centre tread was 9.0mm in my notes, but I think I must have stuffed this up as it's such an outlier, so I've left it blank.
Tread depth - 14,000km
This rotation was meant to happen at 15,000km, but an untimely puncture brought it forwards a bit. Note the camber wear has improved, but still isn't great.
On these figures, I reckon these tyres should last about 60,000km per tyre - or 90,000km for the set of six - before they're 50% worn (6-7mm tread depth remaining). I usually change off-road tyres at 50% wear because their puncture resistance and off-road traction degrade quickly from there.
This is pretty consistent with comparable AT tyres in my experience.
As these are the first tyres fitted to the 200, it's very difficult to make objective calls about noise and grip, but I'll try. The internet sets a pretty low bar for objectivity and scientific analysis.
On-road traction and noise are fine. Both are better than my Navara did with its BFG KO2s, but of course the 200 has superior sound proofing, constant 4WD and better weight distribution.
I am primarily a desert tourer, as the theme of this blog hopefully makes obvious. I therefore cannot offer any comment on how well these tyres perform in primordial ooze or gnarly rutted mountain passes. But I can tell you how they run at high temperatures and high loads on the unsealed, corrugated messes we call outback "highways".
Or I should be able to. Unfortunately due to COVID19, our big expeditions this year have been cancelled. But we have done a few shorter trips in the Broken Hill region at expedition weights, so I can offer a few comments.
Firstly, their traction and stability seem fine. No complaints. But this terrain doesn't really challenge an AT tyre.
Secondly, I struggle to find a good balance between temperatures and pressures. My rear tyres support a lot of weight, which is a common issue for outback touring vehicles. This means I run higher pressures on the rear tyres to stop them getting too hot. Usually I put 2-4 PSI extra in, and with that difference the temperatures and bagging of the front and rear tyres are about the same. But with these tyres I have to run 10-12psi higher on the rear to achieve the same thing. That puts the rear pressures higher than I like for gravel road use and I can tell by looking they don't bag as much as the front tyres. But if I reduce the pressure difference the rear tyres rapidly heat up, becoming too hot to touch and showing temperatures above 80C.
Thirdly, they have a bit of an issue with rocks. On the one hand, they don't seem to pick up many of those small stones that usually spray the wheel wells and lower bodywork. The gravel road ride is therefore pretty quiet, free of the pinging and clinking that is the usual soundtrack to these roads for me. But on the other hand, the stones they do retain are really retained, embedding themselves in the tread so deeply that on more than a few occasions I've needed to use an awl and a long-handled screwdriver to get them out again.
The problem with retaining stones in the tread is the stones get driven deeper into the tread every time the tyre rolls over them. At the very least this causes damage to the tread, and at worst it can cause a puncture.
The photo above shows two cuts to the tyre around the base of the shoulder tread block - they almost look like cracks. I emailed this image to Falken Australia because I thought the tread block was beginning to tear. Falken politely responded and diagnosed stone drilling. They told me the damage was purely cosmetic and recommended I reduce pressures on gravel roads to stop it happening again. But as I've just described, this will probably lead to temperature problems...
I'm not sure what to make of it. Perhaps this will turn out to be a non-issue... Perhaps I've made a huge mistake... For now I'm happy enough to keep using them and I'll post more updates as we get more miles up.