4 x 4 Australia - - Gear -


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.

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