Range Rover Classic Tire Choices

classic33Standard Fitment Tires
Other 205 R16 Tire Choices
Near-Equivalent Sizes: 225/75, 245/70
Wider Tires
30-31 inch Tires: 215/85, 245/75
32 inch Sizes
Really Big Tires!!
What do I use?

Photo at right: Ian Matthews' Classic with 33 inch tires (BFG MT 255/85R16 on reversed Discovery 16x7 rims)

Standard Fitment Tires

michelinThe standard tires for new Range Rover Classics were the dual purpose Michelin XMS 244 -- specially developed for the vehicle (see photo at left depicting author's XMS 244 with a rock penetrating the tread). The tire was pinned for studs, and its tall, narrow 205R16 size was better suited for use in mud and snow than the wide "flotation" sizes used for aggressive looks on most off-road vehicles. The narrow footprint sinks through the soft surface to grip the harder surface underneath. (Of course, in bottomless mud, nothing works).  On the other hand, these tires are not optimized for soft sand, so airing down may be needed in those conditions to increase the ground contact area. All in all, this design gave remarkable all-round performance. In 1991, the Hunter model came with 205R16 Goodyear Wrangler tires -- also a dual purpose design. These still show up occasionally -- for example a shipment came into Atlantic British in 2004. xpc

In 1995-6 the XMS 244 was superseded by a new, more highway-biased Michelin design, the 4X4 XPC -- the same tire used on the Discovery and 4.0SE, but in the narrower 205-80-R16 size. According to Michelin advertisements, this tire has better wet pavement grip than the old tire, and a 40% greater contact area. Most users find it to be quieter and smoother riding than the old 244, and a superb tire on pavement, rocks, sand and snow. Visually, the tread looks less aggressive, and is 3/4 inch wider than the old design. Not surprisingly, therefore, most users agree that the tradeoff for all these benefits shows up in reduced mud performance. (Photo at right: Michelin 4X4 XPC)

When I got my Classic, new XMS 244s cost almost $200 each, but Paul B, tire center manager at Costco in Colorado reported(2001) the 205/80R16 was then available for $111 ($120.99 installed) at Costco. Michelin has since discontinued production of the XPC in this size and replaced it with an extremely wimpy pavement-only tire called the Synchrone.

Other 205-R16 Tire Choices

In the US, the range of tires available in the 205 R16 size is limited. An exception is a new Continental 4x4 Contact tire recently sourced by Atlantic British and available form them individually or in sets of four for $539 -- pretty much a record for Range Rover tires!! Another option is the Cooper Discoverer Radial, with an all-terrain tread design similar to the stock Michelins.  Avon tires (optional on new Rovers in the UK), are also now available in the US through Cooper dealers due to the recent takeover of Avon by Cooper. The 215-75-R16 Avon Rangemaster radial, with its narrow, aggressive tread, was offered as an option on Range Rovers when fuel injection was introduced in 1986, and has done very well in off road tire tests. However this seems to be no longer available in the US. The less aggressive 205-R16 Rangemaster CR34 looks like a cross between the Michelin designs and a Goodyear Wrangler AT. It was still available last time I looked in August 2003. The 205 R16  Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 C, a specialized snow tire, is available through suppliers like Atlantic British.

In the UK, many other 205-R16 tires can be obtained. Those with mild treads similar to the OEM tires include the Goodyear Wrangler (original equipment on the 1991 US Range Rover Hunter), BF Goodrich Long Trail and General Grabber AP. Slightly more aggressive is the Falken 235 All-Terrain. Some very aggressive mud tires in the 205 R16 size are available from Simmonites in Bradford, including the "Satanik" and the "Super Trak". Retreads are available in both road and mud patterns.

Near-Equivalent Tire Sizes (225/75, 235/70)

Because of the difficulty of obtaining most 205-R16 tires in the US, many tire dealers list the 225-75-R16 size as an almost-equivalent alternative. The diameter of these tires is very slightly larger than the 29 inch 205-R16, while the cross section is very slightly wider. A vast array of tread patterns from mild to extremely aggressive is available in this size. Some of the better known All Terrain and Mud Terrain designs include the BF Goodrich All-Terrain and Mud-terrain T/A, the Goodyear Wrangler AT/S and MTR, the Bridgestone Dueler AT and MT, the Dunlop Radial Rover RV and MT, and the new Yokohama Geolandar AT. With so many choices available, the Range Rover owner needs to decide what tread pattern is best for his particular vehicle use.

A tire of the same diameter as the stock 205/80R16 (but slightly wider) is the Michelin XPC 4X4 235/70R16 used on the Discovery (see The Tire Rack for details). Derek Brennan uses this size on his LWB, and Mike Mallers uses it in a BFG AT KO. Both confirm that there is no problem of rubbing.

A more pavement-oriented choice is the new Michelin Cross-Terrain, designed for "the way most Americans use their SUV's" (ie no off road use). Ben Bailey reports these tires (which he tried in the 235-70-R16 size) give an exceptionaly quiiet and good andling ride on te pavement.

Wider Tires (255/65R16)

The Classic was designed for narrow tires, but some have had success using wider ones. Niall Sommerville has used Grabber A/P 255/65/R16s and found them to be good on pavement and quite reasonable off road in the dry, losing about 15% lock. He also tried Pirelli Scorpion II 255/65/16s, finding them very good on road and quite impressive in the wet, with a slight tendency to aqua plane in very heavy surface water (same as most road patterns). They caused a 10% loss of lock. Graham TerMarsh found the 255/65 Yokohama ATs that came on his used LWB rubbed seriously on tight turns. So, if you use this wider size intended for the 4.0/4.6, adjustment of your steering stops is probably advisable.

Larger Tires: 30-31" Diameter (245/70, 215/85, 245/75, 31x10.5)

It is traditional in the four wheeling world to increase ground clearance by fitting larger-than-stock tires. In the US sizing  system, the most common "upgrade" off-road tire for SUVs is the "31", or 31x10.5R15, usually about 30.6 inches in actual diameter -- about 1.6 inches larger than stock Range Rover tires. Most of the following choices have roughly the same diameter as "31's", but are narrower. Most of these options seem to work without necessitating other changes like suspension lifts.

245/70R16
A few millimeters taller than the 225/75R16, and a bit wider, is the 245/70R16. Gregg Feldman uses Pirelli Scorpion ATs of this size on his 1988 Range Rover. He has OME MD springs. He loves them, experiences no rubbing, gets a great ride wet or dry, and their performance off road has never let him down. However, Jay Corbett tried 245/70/16 BFG All-Terrains on his RR with Old Man Emu springs (about 1.5 inches of lift). He found plenty of room for the tire's height, but the width caused rubbing on the strut on the inside of the wheel well, limiting the turning radius of the tire. (Preventing the rubbing would require adjustment of the steering stops). He also found the spare of this size would not fit inside the carrying space. He also rightly observes that any tire sizes larger than stock will have some effect on braking and speedometer settings.

215/85 R16
This size requires no body, suspension or even steering stop modifications. Interestingly, dimensions are almost identical to the 700-16's used on Camel Trophy vehicles for many years, and the width is similar to the stock Range Rover tires. It yields close to an inch of extra static clearance under the diffs, with a slight gearing penalty of 3-4% at highway speeds. A range of tread patterns is available in this size, mainly designed for commercial truck use. Examples include the Dunlop RT, the BF Goodrich Trac Edge, and the Big O XT. (Photo: Dunlop Radial Rover RT, 215/85R16).Dunlop RT

George Bull and Granville Pool use BF Goodrich Trac Edges in this size on their 87 and 92 Range Rovers. Keith Armstrong uses the Dunlop RT on his Discovery.  I used the 215/85R16 Dunlop RT on my 89 Range Rover Classic. All users report better traction and clearance off road. I did find the tall narrow size adversely affected dynamic steering response and handling though. I recommend making sure your suspension bushings are new and in excellent shape if you use this tire size, as any extra slop can make the oversteer rather scary. Tim Hart  found that 215-85-R16 Michelin LTX ATs led to enough oversteer and sway on his 84 Range Rover that he removed them.

245/75 R16
This is the same diameter but wider  than the 215/85. Unfortunately most 245/75s are rated load range E (ie 10 ply), which may give more road "feel" going over small bumps. Exceptions, available in Load Range C, are the Dunlop Radial Rover RV (an all-terrain) and the Firestone Destination MT, a mud tire.  John Lewis, Peter Bradley and others have reported that 245/75s cause  minimal or no rubbing at full articulation if the steering stops are adjusted. Exact room to spare depends on brand and style; John Lewis reports no rubbing with BFG ATs at full articulation, with adjusted stops and a moderate lift (OME springs), but observed that MTs rubbed on other vehicles he saw. He reports the upside is the extra ground clearance, and extra width to get through soft sand and protect the rims a bit more. The downside is the slightly decreased acceleration from the larger diameter, and a harsher ride from the stiff sidewalls and extra unsprung weight. (there may also be little room for snow chains). Others have found no problems with certain brands of 245/75 on bone stock Range Rovers. For example, Tad Helms reports excellent results with his Firestone Firehawk RMTs.

31x10.5 R15
The traditional 31 inch tire under the US "flotation" tire sizing system is the 31x10.5R15. For these of course you need to obtain a set of 15 inch rims that will fit the Range Rover bolt pattern, and the wider footprint of the tire compared with those above may call for some sheet metal mods and/or suspension lift to avoid rubbing at full articulation. Michael Slade has installed 31x10.5R15 Super Swampers on his 1990 Range Rover using an OME 2 inch lift and some fender cutting. He has an excellent description of how he did it at this link.

32 inch Tire Sizes (7.50/16, 235/85, 265/75, 32x10.5R15)

The next step up in size is to about 31.5-32 inches in diameter, about 10% more than stock. This is getting up to the size where some kind of modification to the suspension (a moderate lift) or the body (fender trimming) is usually needed to avoid rubbing at full articulation. For illustrated details of this procedure, see the fender trimming page

7.50-16
 Andy Grafton has done extensive testing with the 7.50-16; about the same 32 inch diameter as a 235/85 but narrower. He has used Michelin XCL mud tires in this size on his 1979 2-door Range Rover with standard shocks and springs. He used Discovery wheels, which he says are slightly more inset. With the steering stops adjusted, there was no rubbing on the bodywork at all, even under complete articulation and full lock. The middle tread of the tyres touched the top of the rear wheel wells on full articulation when the tyres were new but once they lost a few mm of tread they clear all round.  When the tyres are covered in mud the bodywork sounds like it is scraping a little, as there are only a couple of millimetres between metal and tyre, and the mud gets noisy in the gap.

Subsequently, Andy lifted his suspension two inches by using longer springs  (articulation appears unchanged but he is riding 2" higher on the shocks). He now uses, as his everyday tire, the 7.50R16 General SAG Radials (mild tread). However he recently tried a set of serious mud tyres on loan; General SAG crossplies, similar to Firestone SAT with big lugs and massive tread.  On Disco steel rims they rubbed the inside of the fenders/chassis at the front somewhere and the tyres got damaged.  The solution was to use 5.5" wide rims from a standard Land Rover 109. The tires required a lot of steering stop adjustment but now, Andy reports, "they don't rub and boy do they grip!"

235-85-R16
This is a tall, relatively narrow tire and has been found variously to fit or rub according to exact dimensions which vary from brand to brand. Without a lift, fit is marginal. Larry Michelon  runs 235/85s (Cooper Traction RLTs) and found they only contact the forward lip of the rear wheel well. Steve Williams had BFG MT's in 235/85/16 and they rubbed so much they started to bow the entire side of the car out. In everyday driving there was no rubbing, but in extreme situations it sounded like an Uzi going off. He observed on a friend's RR that trimming the inside lip of the wheel wells helped considerably. Andy Grafton tried 235/85 Conti Tracs but found that although they are the same diameter as the 7.50s they are considerably wider at the tread and interfere with the front  and inner fenders on full lock and full articulation.

With a 2 inch lift (eg OME heavy duty springs) the 235s usually fit but some minor fender bending may still be needed depending on the specific tire and setup used. Rick Raile fitted 235/85R16s after adding OME springs, Bilstein shocks and "adjusting" his spare tire well with an 8 lb sledge. David Sherwood found that his 2" Medium Duty Emu springs work well with the 235/85 R16 BFG MT on his 88 RR. (As in other sizes, the BFG MTs are actually a little larger than some of the other 235/85s, such as Generals).  David fitted Safari Gard bumpstops, folded back the body work at the bottom of the rear door, and adjusted the steering stops. He still gets a little rubbing in the back under FULL articulation, but it is only on the smooth surface of the wheel well. He reports: "I would highly recommend the 235/85 vs the 245/65 as the extra clearance has made me able to go through obstacles that a Rangie with 245/65s and dual lockers got hung up on...".  Chadd Montgomery has 235/85 ATs on his 87 RR with an OME MD suspension lift. He reports that "they fit very well and only rub when turning very sharply to the left. I now have about 10 inches of clearance under the differentials." He also reports that the 235/85s noticeably softened the ride over small bumps compared with 225/75R16 tires he used previously.

265/75R16
The 265/75R16 is marginally smaller in diameter than the 235/85 but considerably wider. James Cirbus has fitted 265-75R16 BF Goodrich M/T tires in conjunction with the tallest available Old Man Emu lift, and reports no problems except a reduction in steering self centering. Before and after pictures of his conversion can be seen on his website.

In these sizes conventional wisdom would suggest that a change in differential gears would be desirable. However Larry Michelon found his highway gas mileage actually improved versus his former OEM 205/80 tires. Around town mileage appeared to drop, but he didn't have a before and after comparison. Driving through the mountains of PA, WV and VA on a recent trip, he did not find the power loss to be a problem.

32/10.5R15
15 inch tire sizes are most popular with the 4x4 community in the US, and many choices are available. To use these tires on a RR you have to get special 15 inch rims, available from suppliers such as SafariGard or Gulf Coast Rovers. Bob Koly has pictures of his 89 Range Rover with 32x10.5R15 (he ordered American Racing rims  from gulfcoastrovers.com - Alan and Mimi Dobbs - $50 a piece) - at this link.  He had to do two rounds of trimming  -- see pictures. However he was surprised at how well the 10.5's fit into the wheel well. He found that handling stayed very similar, but the truck floats a little more with these large tires on smaller wheels. Acceleration is noticeably reduced, and low gear is noticeably higher. He is thinking of installing lower gearing, new axles, and probably lockers for these tires.

On the topic of 32 inch tires, Larry Michelon comments "A 32x10.5 is not 32" tall, so you won't run into any height problems. They are probably closer to 31.5". They will be wider than both these sizes.  Having 235/85's myself and seeing many 265/75's, I would bet you're going to run into problems with inner fender lips on the forward edge of the rear wheel wells (I hope that made sense). This lip can be folded flat for clearance (this should be enough). You'll have to adjust you're turn stops to keep them from hitting the radius arms".
 

Really Big Tires! (33-35 inch tires, 255/85 etc)

The fitment of "33s" will definitely require both a moderate lift and some trimming of the fenders. For illustrated details of the latter procedure, see the fender trimming page. Tires even larger than 33's can lead to a chain reaction of suspension and body lifts, lower gears, steeper drive shaft angles with more vibration, and more strain on the drive train, with more likelihood of breakages. Hence the need for heavier axles and drive train parts, axle trusses, heavier shocks, etc. Ironically, some of these mods, (eg axle trusses), can reduce the useful ground clearance which was the original reason for the project! Those wanting substantially larger tires should look at the complete picture to achieve the desired clearance, strength, performance and safety.Dave Brown's Monster Tires

Dave Brown, a true pioneer in Range Roverdom, is working on such a build-up. He has Old Man Emu heavy duty springs and Bilstein shocks front and rear. The tires are 255/85R16 (33.6" tall) Dunlop Radial Mud Rovers.  As the picture shows, tire rotation folded part of the fender upwards behind the front tire, so the plastic sill under the doors is now too long. Dave plans a steel one, 2" to 3" shorter than stock, doubling as an air tank. The front tire only rubbed slightly on the front of the fender, so Dave bent it slightly outwards (from "(" to "|" ).  He plans to get an ARB or equivalent bumper, and trim off the lower front 4" of the fender, where the stock end caps normally go.

The rear wheel well was notched to allow articulation. No rubbing occurred until the tires try to tuck into the wheel well, when they rub at the front of the rear tire.  Dave trimmed the lower INSIDE lip of the door, where the short piece of weather-stripping was (this stripping is only a dust seal and doesn't affect the water seal). He also cut a "notch" in the door frame, and folded the edge over to facilitate articulation.  None of this is visible from the outside (even when the door is open unless you're looking for it).  It still rubs a little under heavy articulation, so a bit more work is needed. Dave thinks his ultimate solution will be raising the body by 1" to 2".  As an alternative, he is thinking about first making blocks to put underneath the lower spring mounts. The downside is that this will raise the center of gravity, and increase the drive line angles.  On the plus side, it's dirt cheap!

Ian Matthews felt Dave's low cost tire fitting job a bit rough and ready, so he produced the rather neat installation at the top of this page. He reports: "The springs are Land Rover, but spring weights and lengths have been selected to give a 2 inch spring lift and a 2 inch body lift has also been added. The front and rear guards and doors have been cut and replaced with fibreglass flares. The tires in the photo are 255/85/16 BFG M/Ts on fully reversed 16x7 Discovery rims. I have large amounts of articulation on all wheels and one just touches the flare on the drivers side rear door." He liked the extra stability the reversed wheel arrangement provided, as well as the fact it helped to fend off rocks!  Ian subsequently modified his setup and now has 33x10.5x15 Simex Jungle Trekker 2 tires fitted to 15x8 rims. He reports they do not hit the flares at all as the rims are slightly more towards the centre of the vehicle (10mm).  The flares are supplied by lrautomotive.com.au, who make flares for Range Rovers and Discoverys that are available for shipment overseas.

Allison van der Kooi  put 33 inch Baja Claws on. He reports "I have fitted a 2 in body lift and added 2 in to the springs. I had to trim the wheel arches as the first trip to the mud I found the tyres to be hitting on the back of the front arch and on the front of the rear arch, they are all clear now, The only problem I have now is the tyre's  rub on the radius arms when at full lock. the only way I can see to stop this is to off set my rims. My current rims are 15 x 8 ROH steal wheels that look a wide version off an old Landrover rim."

What Do I Use?

On my Classic Range Rover I started with the stock Michelin XMS244 tires, replacing them with the Michelin 4X4 XPC when it came out. The latter was exceptionally smooth riding and grippy on the pavement, and seemed less easily destroyed by rocks. However it inspired reduced confidence in the mud, so I switched to the Dunlop Radial Rover RT in the 215/85 R16 size. I was choosing between the 215/85 and the 245/75, but found that most tires more aggressive than an A/T in the 245/75 size were only available in Load Range E.  This makes for a fairly heavy and stiff riding tire. (I since found out about the Firestone RMT which is load range C in the 245/75 size  -- well worth considering for those looking for a mud tire). The 215/85 BFG Trac Edge and Dunlop RT are a good deal more aggressive than all-terrains, but are available in Load Range D. The RT design is amazingly quiet for its aggressiveness. Still, on the highway, the ride over small bumps is not quite as silky smooth as with the stock Michelins, and there is a slight handling penalty due to the taller tire profile.

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Page revised February 9, 2012