Range Rover P38a Tire Choices

Wheel Information
Using Mark III Wheels on a P38
Air Suspension Information
Standard Fitment Tires
Alternative Standard Size Tires 
30-31 inch Tires: 255/70, 245/75 
Wide Low Profile Tires (265/70, 275/70)
32 inch Tires
Uncharted Territory
What do I use?
 

Photo: Bruce Lawrence's 31x11.5R16 Baja Claws on his stock 4.6

Wheel Information

For the MarkII Range Rover, the wheels were specially redesigned to allow the swivel axis to be repositioned further outboard for bump steer elimination and better handling.  Note that MarkII Range Rover wheels are NOT interchangeable with Classic RRs. The new Discovery, introduced in 1999, borrows its axles from the Mk II Range Rover, so wheels are interchangeable between these models. (Photo: Bruce Lawrence's 31x11.5 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws on his 4.6)

 

US spec Range Rovers come with 8 inch wide rims, either 16x8 (4.0SE) or 18x8 (4.6HSE).  For those wishing to experiment with tires, these wide rims somewhat limit the range of possible sizes. The narrower 16x7 wheels supplied on UK base models (the same size as on the Classic) greatly expand the choices. The 1997 Trek Range Rovers used 16x7 "Futura" alloy wheels (ANR4660), painted yellow, to allow the fitment of 225/75 MT tires. These wheels (in their factory silver sparkle finish), and the ANR3491 used as the stocker in the UK, can be ordered through US Land Rover dealers and Rovers North. A cheaper source for 16x7 and even 15 inch wheels for the 4.0/4.6 is  is racerwheel.com which seems to have a huge variety (including larger 18-20 inch wheels) at very low cost. They also offer free shipping. 

Lee Levitt reports that having driven a 4.0 and 4.6 back to back, he could notice no difference in handling response due to the lower profile 18 inch tires on the 4.6. In my opinion, if off-roading is on your agenda, you may wish to specify the 16 inch wheel option when ordering your 4.6, reducing the likelihood of rim damage and increasing your tire options.

If your main priority is high speed pavement performance, the 18 inch rims probably have a marginal handling advantage. Also, Julian Niemeyer points out that with the engine conversions available nowadays, there is also a push towards beefing up the brakes.  One company (JE Engineering) does a kit for Discos and RRs, but to use it one has to go to 18 inch rims. Some oversize tires are becoming available for 18 inch rims, although as yet no real off road tires that fit the RR are available in this size. (The closest I have found are the 255/55R18 and 285/60R18 Nitto Terra Grappler -- see below, and the 255/55R18 General AT2).

If you do like the really low profile tires, I saw some 19x9 inch wheels available for the 4.0/4.6 models at The Tire Rack. They also have other wheel options for Range Rovers. Another supplier that seems to have a large variety of 4.0/4.6 wheel options is racerwheel.com (which claims to have the net's largest selection of performance wheels at wholesale prices, and they offer free shipping). On a recent search for Range Rover 4.0 wheels there I found 16 different styles and sizes from 15 to 20 inches. The prices of all these aftermarket wheels are miles lower than the originals -- you can get snazzy alloy wheels for $500-$700 per set of 4. 

Using Range Rover III Wheels on a P38
Ian McKiernan reports that he put the 19” 2004 MK III RR wheels and tires (about an inch larger in diameter than stock 4.0/4.6 tires) on his 2001 4.6 and had a severe vibration which was mostly fixed by a simple “hub centric shim” that is available from most tire stores. (The center hole in the wheel is a larger diameter than on the 4.0/4.6 so it has to be centered accurately). Curt Boykin found these shims on eBay for $60, and reports that although they are only plastic, the precise machining  cures the vibration problem. The lug nuts need to be from a Mk III as well -- although the threads are the same, the lug nut is more of a sleeve-type BMW style design. Ian reports it to be a nice upgrade but it took a while to figure out the problem and he thought that would be helpful to others looking to do the same. A picture of his setup appears at this link. Ian reports that the 19 inch wheels from the Mk III RR are readily available inexpensively now since so many owners of the newer vehicle want to "upgrade" to the 20 inch or even bigger rims. He picked up a complete set of wheels and tires (with only delivery miles on them) for $1,000. Ian was still experiencing some steering judder with these wheels even with tthe shims, but later found his steering box needed adjusting and was causing the remaining shimmy -- which went away entirely after the adjustment.

Air Suspension Information

The air suspension's built in "lift" capability on the 4.0/4.6 helps make the fitment of larger tires easier. For example, by avoiding the use of low profile, Mike Pio was able to use 265/75R16 tires (see below). Really large tires can be fitted by lifting the air suspension -- for details see the page on lifting the air suspension.

Calibration with Taller Tires:
The first time my air suspension had to be calibrated after fitting taller tires, I was concerned that the dealer's calibration procedure might reset the suspension to a lower level and lose me the height advantage gained by taller tires. However this turns out not to be a concern. The calibration is done using special blocks between the frame and axles, on the pads you can see near the air springs. Because all measurements are done between the chassis and the axles rather than the chassis and the ground, the tire size is totally factored out of the equation and makes no difference. If you want more lift, you can have your EAS recalibrated for higher settings; see the section on Recalibrating the EAS for More Lift.

Scorpion STStandard Fitment Tires

Like the Classic, the MkII Range Rover uses 29 inch tires, but the width is greater. The following tire and rim combinations are standard.

UK 4.0 models:  16x7 rims, 235/70R16 Michelin 4X4 XPCs (like the US Discovery up to 1998).
US 4.0SE, UK 4.6HSE: 16x8 rims, 255/65R16  Michelin 4X4 XPCs (the same diameter but wider).
US 4.6 HSE, some 4.0 models: 18x8 rim, 255/55R18 Michelin 4X4 XPC or Pirelli Scorpion ST

All these sizes are of lower profile than the 82% aspect ratio tires used on the Range Rover Classic, and are designed for better handling characteristics. Compared with the Classic, these wider tires work better in sand, but are less capable in mud. As mentioned in the section above on Classic tires, the stock Michelin XPC design works well in nearly all conditions except serious mud. The Scorpion ST, available in both 255/65R16 and 255/55R18 sizes has similar characteristics. Another alternative, available in the 255/55R18 size, is the Toyo Proxes S/T. See The Tire Rack for detailed specs and reviews of all these tires. (Right: 255/65R16 Pirelli Scorpion S/T)

One consideration in choosing is the ride you get. Michael DeWitt decided to replace the Pirelli Scorpion S/T's with Michelin XPC on the stock 18" rims after experiencing a harsh ride. The ride is now much better (but still nowhere near a Classic), and road noise is no worse despite the much more aggressive tread. Mike  observed the Pirelli's, when unmounted, had no springyness in them at all, perhaps explaining some random deflations on cold days. They must have hardened and got out of round. No amount of balancing and front end checks could fix the vibration issue at speed".

Alternative Standard Size Tires

Models with the 16x7 inch wheels (UK spec 4.0 models) can use many of the same tire choices as described above for the Classic. For example, the Land Rover Trek 4.6HSEs used these rims shod with 225/75R16 BF Goodrich M/T tires.snow tire

For US spec models with the wider 16x8 inch rims, the standard replacement is the 255/65 R16 Pirelli Scorpion ST,  generally cheaper and easier to get than the Michelin equivalent. Other tires in this size are gradually becoming available; for instance Ron Beckett recently reported that the Yokohama G011+II  (known in the US as the Geolandar AT-II) is available in Australia in this size, but unfortunately not in the US. David Currie reports (Feb 2004) that now the Michelin LTX M/S is available in 255/65R16 and he finds it quieter, with better handling and ride, and seems to do better in sand, snow and mud than the stock units.

Although the rim is too wide for the popular 225/75R16 replacement used on earlier Range Rovers, another choice close to stock but very slightly narrower and larger in diameter is the 245/70R16, available in an increasing variety of tread patterns (eg the Pirelli Scorpion AT). The stock Michelin tires for new Range Rovers can be hard to get in the US from non-dealer sources, due to some unaccountable policy by Michelin that makes tire dealers jump through various hoops to prove they really need them. 

18 x 8 Inch  Wheels: In the case of the US spec 4.6HSE, and certain 4.0 models that were also supplied with 18 inch rims, fewer alternative tires are available. However the Nitto Terra Grappler is now available in the stock 255/55R18 Range Rover size. This is the closest thing to a true all-terrain tire avilable in the stock size. Gordon Kessler s trying them on his 4.6; his initial reports indicate their highway noise is less than his original worn XPCs. Update October 2005: The new General Grabber AT2 is now available in 255/55/R18!! This seems like a genuine all-terrain design and should be very good. Lawrence Howis found some great winter studded tires for his 18 inch rims -- the Nokian Hakkapaliita SUV in the 235/60 R18 107 XL pictured on his RR at left. Additional options appear below under 30-31 inch tires.

Owners who are serious about off roading anad want more options might want to swap for 16 inch rims or buy a set of them for use on expeditions. (Buyers of the 4.0/4.6 model when new could specify either 16 or 18 inch rim size as an option).

30-31 inch Tires
The 4.0/4.6 provides slightly more room in critical spots under the wheel wells than the Classic, having to cater to wider stock tires and the variations in air suspension. The result is that bigger tires can be fitted without modifications than on the Classic.  In the US tire size system, the most common "upgrade" off-road tire for SUVs is probably the "31", or 31x10.5R15, with an actual diameter of about 30.6 inches depending on brand.  The following choices have roughly this diameter, and work without problems, as long as you remove the front mudflaps. The latter seem to interfere with even the stock tires if you are on hard lock and/or articulation.

255/70R16
The 255/70R16 is basically one size up from the stock UK fitment 235/70R16 tire. Since I got my 4.0 in 1998, this size has  become more popular and available with the market trend towards lower profile truck tires. Nominal diameter is 30.0 - 30.3 inches depending on manufacturer. I have used the Big Foot XT in this size, with a 30.3 inch nominal diameter, but found actual diameter to be about 30.0 inches. It works fine on the wider US rims, and I find it gives about half an inch of extra ground clearance and a softer ride with little penalty in gearing or other respects. I found it desirable to remove my front mud flaps due to periodic slight rubbing. (The flaps are in any case poorly designed and almost useless). Like the stock Michelin, this is a rather wide tire, and on extreme articulation rubs very mildly on the rear inner wheel well, but only in low profile which normally is not used under such conditions. The 255/70R16 size is becoming available in a wide variety of patterns ranging from mild street designs to full mud treads. Available "all-terrain" patterns include the BF Goodrich A/T KO, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T, the Dunlop Radial Rover A/T, the Yokohama Geolandar AT and the Pirelli Scorpion AT.   Available mud patterns include the Dunlop Radial Mud Rover and the Cooper STT. In 2001, the Goodyear MT/R and re-designed BFG M/T also became available.  The Big O Big Foot XT mentioned above is a compromise between the A/T and M/T designs, but not really very mud capable.

245/75R16 is closer to a real "31", with a diameter of 30.4-30.7 inches depending on brand. It should give nearly an inch more clearance under the diffs than stock, and a huge variety of tread patterns is available.  Except for the BF Goodrich M/T, all tires of this size specify a 7 inch or narrower rim width, so order a set of 16x7 rims. It should be noted that most tires in this size are "10 ply" or load range E -- giving bulletproof off-road puncture resistance at the expense of a slightly firmer ride. The 245/75 is a narrower size than either the stock 255s or the traditional 31x10.5R15 seen on so many 4x4s, and in my view this is an advantage on most types of terrain. However as for all other tire sizes, exact dimensions including diameter, section width, tread width, and revolutions per mile vary among brands, so you can tailor your exact choice to your needs. For example Dunlop and BFG tires in this size are wider than Coopers. As of this writing (March 2003) I have been using Bridgestone MTs in this size for about 18 months with no rubbing problems (See photo at right). I found the narrower profile seems to make up for the increased sidewall stiffness and have not experienced a harsher ride than stock -- if anything the opposite, especially over significant bumps where the larger size absorbs the shock better. 

215/85R16 is another option here, with the same diameter as the 245/75 but narrower. This too would require the narrower wheels. My personal opinion is that for the 4.0/4.6, with its more handling oriented suspension compared with the Classic, such a tall narrow tire might produce unacceptable cornering degradation in terms of poor lateral dynamic response in rapid maneuvering.

 

265/60R18 Brandon Hewaytt has tried Bridgestone Dueler HP 265/60/18 tires on his 1997 4.6 with 18 inch rims, and reports that  although they do scrub a little at tight turns, they ride a lot better than the stock 255/55R18s and fill up the wheel wells nicely. This size is equivalent to about 30.6 inches in diameter, the same as nominal "31's".

 

Wide Low Profile Tires (265/70R16, 275/70R16, 31x11.5R16, 285/60R18)

265/70R16 should just about fit, although based on my 255/70 tests I suspect some rubbing might be experienced on full articulation due to the extra width. The most likely spot for rubbing is the inside of the rear wheel well. Available all-terrain designs are the Bridgestone Dueler AT, and according to the Dunlop website the  Radial Rover AT, although when I tried to purchase a set of these recently the local Dunlop dealer could not find them. I was also interested in the Super Swamper SSR in this size, but found it was much bigger than most makers' 265/70's. It was even bigger than most 265/75R16 tires, with a diameter of 31.5 inches and a tread width of 9 inches!265/70R16

The 275/70R16 size used on Toyota Land Cruisers (Michelin LTX M/S)  might also fit in a pinch if you do a bit of inner fender trimming (for details see the fender trimming page) to allow full articulation. The range of tread designs available is currently limited, but includes the Pirelli Scorpion A/T.

Update February 2004: Chris Crompton reports that he successfully uses 275/70R16 tires (Maxxi 751 A/T) on his stock 4.0 (photo at right) with no rubbing except in tight corners, and then only  when riding on the bump stops (ie when EAS fails).  Otherwise, they do not rub even at full articulation -- the only modification Chris did was to remove the front mudflaps. According to the specs on the Maxxi tire website, these tires are 31.3 inches in diameter and 10.8 inches wide -- considerably larger than a standard "31" tire. Chris uses his 4.0 frequently on the dunes and other challenging terrain of Abu Dhabi.

 

31x11.5R16: Bruce Lawrence successfully uses 31x11.5R16 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws, for his four wheeling adventures, switching back to street tires for normal use. The Claws have worked great for him with no rubbing or other problems. They look impressive too (see photo at top of this page)!!
 

32 inch Tires

265/75R16: Some tires of this size might just fit on the new Range Rover according to my calculations, but I have not tried them. (Most 265/75s have significantly narrower tread widths than 265/70 and 275/70 tires). For full use of low profile and maximum articulation, suspension lift, a small lift or some body trimming may be needed. For details of how to lift the 4.0/4.6, see the page on lifting the air suspension, and for body trimming details see the fender trimming page

I think the Dunlop R/T and M/T would just about make it, as their diameter and tread width are on the small side for 265/75s.  Also their revs/mile is close to most makers tires a size smaller -- obviating the need to consider gearing changes.

Mike Pio  has used 265/75R16 BF Goodrich M/T tires on his 4.6HSE. These are on the big side of available 265/75 brands. He found they fitted if he trimmed or removed the front mud flaps. In off-road driving he found moderate rubbing on all four wheels during extreme articulation, although it did not seem to hinder performance, and staying in high profile minimized the rubbing. On the highway, he found that staying in standard profile was best, as hitting bumps in low profile caused rubbing. He reported that these tires really filled the wheel wells and he thinks he would go for a size smaller next time.

Nitto Terra Grapplers

 

285/60R18 : I found this size advertized recently (February 2003) by a tire company called Nitto. The tire is called a "Terra Grappler" and has a reasonably aggressive all-terrain tread -- the most aggressive 18 inch tire I have yet seen. It includes staggered tread blocks at the shoulders for good mud and rut grip. Although advertized by the maker as a (31x10.7 R18), it is closer in size to the typical 32 inch tire (265/75R16). Its outside diameter (31.57 inches) is about the same as a typical 265/75R16, and its overall width of 10.67 inches is marginally narrower. Brent Wilhelmi now uses this tire on his 2001 HSE (photo at right) and reports: "I have been very pleased with them. They are a little too wide so some minor trimming on the inside of the wheel wells is needed. I have the factory Air Bags still in tact. One thing to remember with this size is that if the Air bags fail and it drops on to the bump stops it is NOT drivable at all. The rubbing on the out side wheel well is far too much when in this mode. These tires have been on the vehicle for nearly 7000 miles and are wearing very well. They have been aired down to 16 psi with not problem. I have run Trails as difficult as Holy Cross and Old Chinaman’s in Colorado and the Poison Spider/Golden Spike/Gold Bar Rim in Moab Utah. The tires are excellent off road and have a stronger side wall than the BFG tires. I highly recommend the use of these tires for the all around RR owner."

Mike Perdue upgraded to the 285/60R18s and reports "They are great!  They fill the fender well and give a softer ride on the ruff stuff.  they do rub a little at certain angles, but I was lucky enough to find a set slighty used (less than 100 miles), got a lifetime warranty and still walked out at less than $600!  My rover has the spring conversion, which I will mention, but the parts that are rubbing are rubber and 800-1000 miles down the road, I dont think they will rub at all."

 

Uncharted Territory

The fitment of tires larger than this will definitely require a suspension lift, body lift or body trimming. For details of how to lift the 4.0/4.6, see the page on lifting the air suspension, and for body trimming details see the fender trimming page. Many owners of older Range Rovers assume that you cannot lift an air suspension -- of course this is nonsense, and doing so involves little more trouble than lifting a coiler. However, it will lead to the familiar chain reaction of lower gears, steeper drive shaft angles with more vibration, and more strain on the drive train, with more likelihood of breakages. Those wanting substantially larger tires need to look at the complete picture and perform other appropriate vehicle modifications to achieve the desired clearance, strength, performance and safety.

 

What Do I Use?

My "ideal tires" would give good performance on  mud, sand, rocks, ice, snow and pavement (wet and dry). I am constantly searching for this ideal! When I first procured my 4.0SE, I tried a set of stock Pirelli Scorpion STs. They had excellent high speed handling, with great performance on pavement, sand, rocks, ice and snow. However, as  expected, their mild tread design limited mud performance, and it was not long before I got stuck.

I next tried the Big O XT, an interesting compromise tread pattern with more open shoulder lugs and larger voids across the entire tread  than the usual A/T design. I used the 255/70R16 size (load range C). On pavement, it is noticeably louder than the stock tires (and my old Dunlop RTs) but not obtrusive. I removed the front mudflaps because there was some contact between them and the tires at certain steering and articulation angles. Ride is marginally softer than stock due to the higher tire profile, and grip is excellent on wet and dry pavement, snow, sand, rocks and light mud. In heavy mud these tires seem a little better  than stock but are not impressive. My feeling is that wide tires only do well in mud if they are are very aggressive.

To enhance mud performance, I decided to try the narrower 245/75 size with its large range of tread options. So, I obtained a set of  16x7 "Futura" alloy wheels (ANR4660) from my local dealer -- Land Rover of Marin. On my short list were the Dunlop RT, BFG Trac Edge, and Cooper CTD -- all tires with what I consider genuine all-rounder treads (unfortunately the latter two are now (2003) discontinued in the US). I had already tested the Dunlop RT on my Classic, and liked it a lot. In order to try something new, and aim for even better mud performance than the Dunlops, I selected  the slightly narrower and more aggressive Coopers (see photo above). At first I was concerned that the "E" load rating of most 245s would give a harder ride, but to my surprise I found they give a softer ride than stock! I think this is because of the narrower profile; wider tires give a firmer ride, other things being equal. They seem to have good pavement grip -- though probably not as good as stock tires in the limit. They are a bit quieter than the Big O XTs, in spite of their wide tread lugs. In their first test in mildly muddy conditions they performed well, even pulling a Land Rover Defender 110 (which had the ultimate mud tires - Michelin XCLs) up a slippery slope.

Finding the Coopers to be out of production when I wanted replacements, I next tried the Bridgestone Dueler MT in the same 245/75 size -- see picture above. Mine lasted about 2 years (40-50,000 miles). They were quiet when new and very capable, except they would obviously be poor performers in snow. The main problem I had with them is that the tire shop could never quite get them to balance perfectly. Also, like most mud tires, they did become much noisier as they wore down.

My next experiment (current as of February 2005) is with a set of Firestone Destination MTs (245/75R16C). These seemed to have the best reviews of any of the maximum traction tires at The Tire Rack, so I am giving them a try. They are pretty quiet on pavement, but I have not given them a serious test off road as yet. The experiment continues!


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Page revised February 9, 2012