Gear Reviews Reviews

Tarmac, mud, dirt and rock. These tyres can handle it all

Could the Cooper AT3 LTs be the tyres you’ve been looking for?

Cooper Tires has just released its new range of all-terrain tyres, the AT3 series. Now, just to clarify here, these are not to be confused with the previous version, dubbed the A/T 3. The new iteration is dubbed the AT3 – easily confused. In the range are three variants, the 4S, LT and XLT.

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If you do your research on the new tyre, you will find the following: an 80,000km mileage warranty on the LT and XLT and a 70,000km mileage warranty on the 4S; Durable-Tread Technology (which features silica-based shred resistant construction); Adaptive-traction Technology, along with tread enhancements for snow, water dispersion, stone ejection and
wet/dry all-terrain traction.

While we cannot yet tell you if the tyre has lived up to its mileage claim, we can tell you that we have driven over 15,000km with the new AT3 LT over every conceivable type of terrain in Australia, with about 50 percent of that being driven while towing a camper-trailer of some sort. We have travelled through Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia tackling mud, sandstone rock, sharp rock, loose dirt, wet/dry tarmac and even metre-deep snow. We have developed a very acute sense of the tyre’s attributes. What do we think? Read on for a comprehensive review …

On-Road Performance

Grip on the tarmac in both dry and wet conditions is good, and in line with the best in class. Braking, acceleration and lateral grip provides plenty of confidence behind the wheel. Road noise is minimal too, for an all-terrain, and even with some decent wear-in, the noise level has not noticeably increased.

Dirt Road Performance

This has been an area in which we have been pleasantly surprised. Provided you are running the correct reduced tyre pressure to suit the terrain, the amount of grip experienced is exceptional. Braking, acceleration and cornering are carried out with a good level of confidence, and the tyres are well at home on loose scrabbly dirt roads.

Mud Performance

For what looks like a fairly road-biased all-terrain pattern, the tyres actually perform decently in mud. While not offering the grip levels of a muddie, they still do well, expelling mud from the tread voids nicely when throttle is applied. The serrated grooves lining the good-sized voids along with stepped tread blocks seem to help loosen sticky mud. Once again, if you run into mud at highway pressure, you cannot expect any tyre to perform at its best. We always aired down to suit conditions and were happy with the traction offered.

Rock Performance

We have driven a great variety of rocky terrain. On several trips we encountered particularly tricky and technical terrain. At one point, we aired down to 12psi. The tyres bagged out well and provided excellent traction on rock. Despite some serious punishment from one of our cameramen in the camera vehicle, who misjudged several obstacles, the tyres remained firmly planted on the beads. Overall, the tyres handle rock driving well.

Snow

While we do not drive enough snow over a year to call ourselves experts, what we can say is this. We drove some very icy tracks, some very slushy ones and fresh powder covered tracks. We used 12psi as our starting point when we hit the deep stuff, and in one vehicle ran at 9psi toward the summit of a tall climb. We were able to travel nearly everywhere we wanted to go – except near the summit, where the powder was too thick and the cars bellied out completely. We fitted diamond-pattern chains for one leg, and ran without for another. At the point where, once again, we could not proceed we stopped to fit chains; interestingly, we did not gain a single metre more uphill with chains fitted …

Initial Wear

With only about 15,000km on the tyres, it is way too early to judge wear. What we can say, is that there are no areas for concern yet; wear seems as expected from a modern 4X4 tyre incorporating the latest silicone technology. There is zero chipping anywhere on the carcass. We have not suffered any punctures nor bead separations – despite being pushed hard.

Overall

Cooper Tires has done a good job with the latest iteration of its all-terrain, the AT3. While it is too early to determine tyre life, there are no indicators that would cast doubt over the manufacturer’s impressive mileage guarantee. We have driven some serious terrain and plenty of easy stuff in-between and have, at many times, seen the tyres pleasantly exceed our expectations. Construction seems on-point and in-line with what you would expect today from one of the biggest manufacturers.

The AT3, so far, seems like a very solid tyre – an all-terrain that we are very impressed with.