Well, that was quite the trip.
Last month, I got an email inviting me to test the new Firestone Destination M/T2 tires in an off-road driving experience in Orange, VA. I thought it was fake. Why would they invite me? Perhaps they found my Ultimate Guide to Tires article, or the *one* time I wrote about Jeep Rubicons. I’m not totally sure, but this type of thing tends to happen to me.
Read: The Time I Got Interviewed To Be The Next Host of Top Gear USA
So I said “why not?” and headed south. (Ok, the title is a lie, I drove. But “The time Firestone offered to fly me to Virginia and I drove because it was shorter than flying and I like the dirve” didn’t have the same punch).
Holy crap, I don’t belong here
We stayed at the Salamander Resort and Spa, and to say it was top notch would be an understatement. I’m the type of guy who thinks a Super 8 is nice, so this place blew my mind. Fantastic views, food, drinks, and weather made me wish I was staying a lot longer. We had a quick presentation about the Destination M/T2, which I’ll get into later, and I spent the evening getting to know the rest of the group. There were other writers, from places like Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and TFLTruck, plus advertisers, dealers, YouTubers, and a couple people that introduced themselves with totally straight faces as “influencers.”
Oh, and there was a monster truck, for some reason.
The Off-Road Experience
The next morning we hopped on a bus and headed to Overland Experts in Orange, VA. A trainer showed us the proper way to two-foot drive and how not to die, and then we split up into pairs and loaded into the Jeep Rubicons. I was paired with the YouTuber Boored at Work who will likely have a much-better-than-mine video up shorty. He was a cool guy with a fascinating background, and I was glad it was also his first time, and that he started off behind the wheel.
We started on an easy course, that still had it’s share of “what the heck are we doing” moments, including driving through a door-high creek and going straight up some pretty steep hills.
I took the wheel and was surprised at just how smooth it was. Sure, there were large rocks and ruts, but the Rubicon and Destination M/T2 tires handled it like it was nothing. Even going through that water felt like no big deal. I never slid or lost any kind of control, even on the steep ditch climbs where there was a lot of mud.
After a quick lunch, we switched Jeeps and took on the more challenging course. Our Rubicon was equip with the M/T2’s competitor, from BFG. We took on a rock course, then a long, difficult mud section, which ended with a tough section where we went down into water and then up an extremely muddy hill. This is the one spot we got stuck, and took a few tries at. Although when it was my turn, we took a different approach and made it up on the first try, which was a highlight of the day. That feeling of hitting the throttle hard and launching to the top was pretty awesome.
When we switched to the Destination M/T2, there was a noticeable difference right away. Even though the trail was much worse from 12 Jeeps running through it twice, the handling was improved. A turn where I had slid with the BFGs, I handled with no problem with the Firestones. The rocky areas seemed similar but it was the mud where the performance had the biggest difference.
More about the tires after the picture dump.
The pictures and videos don’t do it justice, but this was an absolute blast. Now, about the tire.
Firestone Destination M/T2
The original Firestone Destination M/T has been around since 2001 and was due for an upgrade. There’s been a lot of new technology since ’01 (just think of the original ipod), so Firestone started working on its predecessor in 2015. The presentation we went to was a bit hyped with marketing speak about how they’re focusing on the BRAND™ and a lot of things about what consumers are looking for. I’ll spare you that and try to give you the facts.
Who is the Destination M/T2 for?
They were pretty clear that this tire is not for everybody. Their official target audience was the “work hard/play hard” and “hobbyist” group. Basically, people who are going to use their Jeeps or trucks to do more than drive to the mall. It’s pretty clear that the point of these tires is for off-roading. We didn’t get a chance to take them on the street, so I don’t have any sort of review of how they sound/feel on pavement. I’m curious to find that out in the future.
Another thing they stressed is that these are not only good for the mud, they’re also good for snow. A lot of times you get one or the other, but the M/T2 performed the best in snow out of any tire they tested.
Ok, so what makes this tire so different? For one, they’re tougher than anything they’ve built. They put it through some harsh testing that usually beats their tires to a pulp, and this one came out with zero lugs being torn out. Normally it’s at least 5 or 6, according to the guys trying to sell us on these.
There’s a 3-ply sidewall construction that is pretty aggressive and creates more traction. It also has a whopping 29 different sizes, including three 37-inch sizes, if that’s your thing.
The most impressive thing about the M/T2 tire was the cleanability, a term they made up but is extremely fitting. One of them snapped a picture of the mud on the BGF tire and the mud on the M/T2, and the difference is night and day. The BFG leaves pretty much everything caked on, and the M/T2 is as clean as you can get after driving through a creek. I will track down that image as soon as I can.
I’m obviously not an off-road or tire expert, and I don’t claim to be. But two things are clear:
- The Destination M/T2 tires far out performed the competitors, even to someone who has no experience and doesn’t know what to look for.
- Firestone is taking this seriously.
That second point was what impressed me the most. This event was not cheap. They went as all-out as they could go, and it will probably pay off. I didn’t hear one complaint from anybody about anything the whole time I was there. It got me excited about tires, and I don’t really care about tires. Obviously their goal was to have me come home and write about it, which I’m doing now. But I’m not writing just to talk them up, and they’re not paying me anything for this review. It was just an outstanding event and turned me into a fan.
BF Goodrich, if you want to change my mind, hit me up.
The Firestone Destination M/T2 launches July 1, 2017.
Update 5/18/2017 with Press Release
Firestone just sent over this press release about the new tire. Here it is if you’re into that sort of thing:
Firestone Launches Aggressive Off-Road Tire for 4X4s, Pickup Trucks and SUVs
Firestone Destination M/T2 tire features new tread design for increased traction in demanding off-road conditions
NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Bridgestone today announced the release of the next-generation Firestone Destination M/T2 tire for 4X4 vehicles, pickup trucks and SUVs. Featuring an all-new tread compound and aggressive tread design, the Destination M/T2 tire from Firestone delivers increased traction in the most demanding off-road conditions.*
“The Firestone Destination M/T2 tire is the ultimate tire for adventure-seekers looking to get the most performance out of their truck or Jeep,” said Erik Seidel, president, consumer replacement tire sales, U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “Overlanders and weekend warriors expect their tires to perform across a wide range of intense conditions, and the Destination M/T2 delivers an incredible off-road driving experience. We built a tough tire that attacks the terrain.”
Designed for and tested in deep mud, rock and sand, the Firestone Destination M/T2 tire delivers trusted traction with dependability and durability. Stone and mud rejectors help keep the tread clear of debris, and 23-degree attack angles give the tire strong pulling power.
An all-new tread compound, 3-ply sidewall construction and more aggressive upper sidewall design give the Destination M/T2 increased traction in mud and offer stronger resistance to chips and tears. Additionally, the Firestone Destination M/T2 tire has 20 percent more biting edges for better grip on slick, wet surfaces and in snow conditions.*
Available in 29 sizes for 15″ to 22″ wheels, the Firestone Destination M/T2 tire will replace the Firestone Destination M/T tire and offers increased size coverage compared to the first-generation product offering. Known for strong performance, the Firestone Destination M/T2 tire is backed by a Gold Pledge Limited Warranty and the Firestone 30-Day Buy & Try Guarantee.**
The Firestone Destination M/T2 tire can be purchased at any authorized Firestone tire dealer as early as July 2017.
*As compared to the Firestone Destination M/T tire.
**Certain conditions and limitations apply. See a Bridgestone representative or warranty manual for details.
So there you have it.
Update 6/20/2017 with Video Transcript
Here’s the transcript of the video above, for those who prefer reading vs video:
Hi, I’m Scott Huntington from Off The Throttle. You might know me from [footage not found].
For some reason, Firestone decided to fly me down to a 5 star resort in Virginia to off-road some Jeep Rubicons and test out their new Destination MT2 tires.
Now honestly, I almost didn’t go. I have NO experience with offroading. I mean, this would be like a vegan getting asked to review a steakhouse. And until I was actually out there driving, I half expected the whole thing to be some sort of set up to get me to buy a time share. But I went, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.
First off, the place we stayed at was insane. I’m the kind of person who stays at a Super 8 if I’m feeling fancy, so this blew me away.
There were about 20 of us invited. It ranged from people who write for Car and Driver or Motortrend to advertisers, tire dealers, and someone that introduced themselves with a straight face as an “influencer.”
We started with a presentation that consisted of Firestone marketing reps talking about their “industry-leading brand building” and “mission” of “offering the best for our customers and society.” They kept referring to THIS with the word “fun”, which I’m guessing is why they flew out people like this, and this, and uh, me.
The next day, we were bused over to Orange Virginia, where the folks at Overland Experts taught us how to drive these things without killing ourselves. It was pretty simple. Keep the left foot on the brake, right on the gas, and use the brake to control your speed. Then hold the bottom of the steerling wheel and make very slight hand movements, never crossing over each other. We each had an instructor in the car, and there were several spotters at each obstacle to show us what to do.
I was first amazed at how smooth everything was. We’d go through 12-inch deep mud like it was nothing, and went through water halfway up to the door without slowing down. Now, there were some challenging parts. I had no idea what I was doing through the rock sections, and there was a huge difference between coming off a rock hard and slowly easing it down. We also drove on almost a 45 degree tilt in a few spots, which got a little stressful.
The mail goal of the day was to test the Firestone Destination MT2s against a competitor, BF Goodrich. I’m again obviously no expert, but even I could tell a noticeable difference. I slid a lot more in the BGFs, and even fishtailed a corner, which was odd at 5mph. Even though we took the MT2s out later in the day when the course was beat up, they had better traction and handling. So good job, Firestone, you’ll have a customer out of me if ever have money to blow on a Rubicon.