WHAT GOES ON TOUR
AUSSIE CUSTOMERS KNOW THEY’RE PAYING THEIR HARD EARNED FOR A TYRE THAT IS OUTBACK PROVEN
FOR EXCLUSIVE Tyres, local tyre testing is a boon. Exclusive promotes this Australian testing heavily in its marketing and retail outlets and backs it up with first-hand experience during these weeks away, so Aussie customers know they’re paying their hard-earned for a tyre that is outback-proven. This confidence is reflected in mileage warranties of 80,000km for the heavy-duty, light truck tyre and 70,000km for the light-duty P-metric tyre.
Of course, this isn’t the only test of the tyres; by the time they lob Down Under, they’ve already undergone many hours and been driven on many different terrain types, as Andrew Collings explains.
“When we get the tyres to test,” he says. “We know they have already gone through a variety of rigorous tests looking at tread designs, the carcass and compounds, as well as extreme real-life testing at their purpose-built 1000-acre tyre and vehicle test track in Pearsall, Texas, offering both on- and off-road testing facilities.”
It’s a bloody busy week out here; as much as where we are is spectacular in terms of a destination, it’s all business each day, with plenty of driving over varied terrain, accompanied by numerous stops to check the aforementioned pressures, temperatures and the tyres’ overall condition in terms of chipping, slices, etc.
It is not until the fourth day I get in a Troopy shod with the allnew AT3 LT. Driving the two control Troopys with the competitor rubber onboard was followed by a spin in the vehicle with the previous-gen AT3. In other words, the perfect scenario in regards to seeing how much improvement there has been between the two tyres.
Of course, it’s easy to think something newer simply has to be better, but that was never the case here. Over the course of the week, as I had progressed through different vehicles (with their different tyres) I noticed the previous-gen AT3 had been a step up from the two competitor tyres (one of these was, in fact, seriously scary on rock-strewn tracks) and this new model offered even more ‘track feel’. With a lot of the tracks we drove being the classic loose-over-hard (i.e. small/large rocks or sand/ dirt over a solid base) surface, allowing for plenty of intended (and unintended) ‘drifting’ in and out of corners. The new AT3 LT was brilliant at cutting through that loose and unstable top layer and biting into the solid and more tractive base, with the result a more direct and confident feel when steering, as well as all-round stability.
A part of this could be the addition of ‘stone-ejector ledges’, located at the bottom of the tyre groove channels, to the new AT3. These are designed to shift rocks/pebbles, etc., out of the tread and away from the tyre, keeping the tread open/clear and thus getting maximum tread surface to bite into the track surface. The tyres were checked daily for chipping to see if the new chip-resistant compound was doing its job, and even by this late stage – and after plenty of serious punishment – the new rubber was holding up well.
One of the other things Ken mentioned was Cooper Tires endeavouring to reduce tyre noise in the new AT3, with the introduction of what the company calls Whisper Grooves, with the result being a claimed 20 per cent reduction in tyre noise. Again swapping between the two generations of AT3 – and taking into account the varying ‘quality’ and type of road-seal used – the new model seemed slightly quieter. I wouldn’t bet my life on it being hugely different in regards to the volume of tyre-noise transferred in-cabin (we were in Troopys, remember, which ain’t the quietest rigs), but it seemed quieter, just the same.