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# Tire Basics

Can I take my SUV off-road?

Serious off-roaders need 4WD and all-terrain tires

Fast facts

Can I take my SUV off-road?

  • The only SUVs that can go off-road are SUVs that are equipped with 4x4 functionality
  • Only if the road surface is similar to a paved road, your on-road tires are capable of driving on it
  • If you do go off-road, ensure you’re well prepared

In general, most SUVs can go off-road, at least to a certain degree. For serious off-road performance, sport utility vehicles with four-wheel drive and specifically engineered off-road tires can tackle pretty much any terrain. However, if you are only planning on hitting the odd dirt track once in a while, you’ll probably manage in a crossover SUV with all-wheel drive and all-terrain or maybe even on-road tires.

For more background on the difference between four-wheel and all-wheel drive, read this explainer.

Next, make sure you know the conditions well and have the right tires before you choose the road less traveled...

Orange suv parked on the country road near forest in mountains.

Off-roader tire types

You can get away with a certain amount of off-road driving with on-road tires, even if your vehicle only has two-wheel drive, as long as the surface is as close to that of a paved road as possible. For example, a well-compacted dirt track to your weekend mountain hut, the gravel lane that leads to a remote campsite and a forest path to the start of a hike through a national park are all fair game. However, you need to be certain that the condition of the track is good for several reasons:

Off road SUV

  • Two-wheel drive will lose traction as soon as the ground gets too uneven or the surface is shifting and insecure.
  • Sport utility vehicles that aren’t off-road-ready usually have a stiffer suspension, which can break under extreme conditions like a pothole-riddled unpaved road.
  • On-road SUV tires are designed for optimum performance on paved roads. Their smooth tread, low rolling resistance and smaller contact patch contribute to fuel-efficiency on tarmac, but offer reduced grip on unpaved roads.
  • The smaller grooves between the tread blocks are not self-cleaning can become clogged with stones, gravel and mud, reducing grip and traction even further.
  • On-road tire sidewalls are not reinforced the same way off-road tires are, so larger rocks or other obstacles could cause significant damage, leading to a flat tire.

For anything beyond the bare minimum of off-road driving, even if it’s only on unsurfaced roads, all-wheel drive and all-terrain tires designed for on/off-road use are the best choice.

The right tires for serious off-road driving

If you are planning on really going where no roads can find you, only a four-wheel drive with specific engineered off-road tires like multi-terrain, all-terrain or mud-terrain tires will do. Whether you are rock-crawling, dune-bashing, plowing through mud or deep snow, you need a heavy-duty vehicle that is built for the task. Here’s how to choose the right tires for your vehicle with the help of the Continental tire finder: [link to Tire finder]

  • Like all cars, sport utility vehicles require the right tire size, and the right tires for the season.
  • Once you have entered the required tire size and selected summer or winter tires, you will see a list of suitable models. You can choose between the CrossContact™RX and CrossContact™ ATRContiCrossContact™ LX SportContiCrossContact™ LX 2 ranges, which all offer off-roading abilities to varying degrees.
  • Your choice will be determined not only by the type of driving you plan to do, but also by the ratio of off/on-road driving.
  • For example, while the ContiCrossContact™ LX 2 offers outstanding traction in light off-road use while also performing well on paved roads, it isn’t quite as well suited to serious rock crawling.
  • The CrossContact™ ATR , on the other hand, is designed with durability, off-road traction and grip on various off-road surfaces such as gravel and mud, which makes it less fuel-efficient for extended highway driving.
  • Your nearest retailer can help you find a tire that strikes the perfect balance between on-road performance and off-road abilities. [link to Dealer locator]

Dos and don’ts of taking your SUV off-road…

Do not:

  • Don’t go off-road in an SUV that isn’t designed for the conditions.
  • Don’t go off-road with tires that aren’t designed for the conditions.


  • Do your research and make sure you know the conditions, as well as the right tires for the terrain.
  • Find out the condition of the track before setting out (in case it has been affected by recent weather events).
  • Check the tire pressure, which usually needs to be lowered before venturing into rocky, muddy or sandy territory.
  • Check the tire tread and sidewall for damage before and after off-roading.
  • Carry an emergency kit, especially in more remote areas.

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