|Sweet new tires! Fat - but not ridiculous - lugs!|
This blog has been online for nearly four years. Over that time, I have gotten hundreds of requests for "reviews," ranging from vegan beef jerky to deep sea super-heavy fishing tackle. I answer each one, usually with a "thanks, not interested." Not because I'm ideologically opposed to getting free or discounted gear and reviewing it, but because I'm not going to waste my time or yours reviewing a product that I wouldn't normally use in my scope of outdoor activities (which is pretty broad, mind you).
So about a month ago, I was quite pleased to receive an email from the ad agency representing Cooper Tires. They said they had read the blog (most vendors haven't), noticed that I own a truck (again, most vendors don't spend the 30 seconds needed to figure that out), and that they'd like to send me a set of Cooper's new A/T tire, the Discoverer AT3. They were also sending an HD flip cam (for me to return to them) containing footage of the tire install and the "field tests" we had run the tires through. Ostensibly, the footage will be used in some new ad by this ad agency. And ostensibly, they are sending the flip cam back to me. We'll see.
I told the ad agency point-blank that I am not an off-roader, but that any active sportsman needs good tires, and with that in mind I would test the tires out on the types of off-road conditions most commonly experienced by anglers, hunters, surfers, paddlers, etc. The kind of conditions that a 4WD 1989 S-10 with good tires can easily amble through, but an F-250 King Ranch with stock tires cannot (oh, I've seen it). Specifically, tall wet fields (grass, corn, etc), abandoned timber roads, wet sand, wet gravel, and high speed turns and braking on sand and gravel. And of course, let's be honest - highway ride. Because most of us on the east and west coast are not going to get offroad until we get 20, 30, 60 miles up the highway.
On looks alone, the AT3 is a great looking tire. It doesn't quite have the super aggressive look of the BFG A/T (my offroad tire on my last Tacoma), but has more of that same look than the comparable Yokohamas and Nittos, and most importantly, the tread is pretty darn deep. No beating around the bush there.
Highway ride. This is important because I spend a lot of time on the road inbetween work sites, my office, my home, and outdoor rec sites like the farm. My 2010 Tacoma has the TRD Sport package which means 17" wheels and LS rear diff (vs. the TRD Offroad - 16" and rear locker). 17" means a standard 31-32" tire. Not a small amount of rubber. And with offroad lugs, you can expect some noise. Up to about 65mph on the highway, the AT3s are silent. Around 72mph the noise gets noticeable, and at 80mph it is loud. This is definitely in line with other offroad tires, and actually is a good reminder (to me) to slow down and take my time.
Timber/farm/beach access roads. "Access" is the key - and let's be honest, folks - this is the main use of your offroad tires. Sometimes the roadbed is great material, sometimes it's not, and sometimes there's a giant gully with rushing water, running right down the middle of it. You need a good tire here. We tested breaking and acceleration on several different substrates (packed gravel, loose gravel, wet sand, abandoned clay roadbed). We worked really hard to find a problem with these tires. We couldn't - they performed wonderfully.
The only "realistic" test I haven't yet put these tires through is the loose, deep sand run (i.e. beach access). The AT3's are magical on packed sand, which I hoped and expected. Maybe we'll see soon how they run in deeper sand.
And the only slight concern I've had with these tires yet has been that they need regular inflation, like most truck tires that get "worked." If you run any off-road tire frequently on the highway, you need to keep up with your tire pressure anyway, but I've found that the AT3 is not exempt from this standard.
This is a solid tire. In a way, it's a shame that Cooper didn't get it on the market sooner, because their main competitor, the BFG A/T, wasn't available for many common truck wheel sizes just 18 months ago (and the AT3 is hitting the market in those sizes and several more). However, I think Cooper fans will like this tire, and I think BFG, Nitto, and Yoko folks should take a real hard look at this configuration. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Disclaimer: Courtesy of Cooper Tires and the Zimmerman Ad Agency, I received, at the cost of tire disposal only, a set of Cooper Discoverer AT3 tires to try out and review. However, this review contains no bias. Had I not liked the tires, I would not have even posted a full review on this blog. Had I thought they were mediocre, I'd let you know that too.