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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...

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:

  • 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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