OUT­BACK TEST: COOPER TIRES AT3

THE COR­NER COUN­TRY IS BRU­TAL, MAK­ING IT THE PER­FECT LO­CA­TION FOR A FI­NAL TOR­TURE TEST OF THE ALL-NEW AT3 BE­FORE IT HITS THE MAR­KET.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOS JUSTIN WALKER

i T’S BLOODY hot. Even in the shade of the Cameron Cor­ner Store’s ve­randa area, this Fe­bru­ary day’s heat is hard to es­cape. This short respite for lunch in­ter­rupts what has been a rugged four days of pun­ish­ment for not only driv­ers and ve­hi­cles but, most im­por­tantly, for the all-new Cooper Tires AT3 tyre. In fact, that should be plu­ral. Re­spond­ing to con­sumer de­mand – and in a claimed mar­ket first – Cooper Tires is re­leas­ing three vari­ants of the AT3. Yep, off-road tour­ers are se­ri­ously over-in­dulged by the US tyre gi­ant.

“Re­search has re­vealed that con­sumer pref­er­ences for all-ter­rain tyres vary with the size of the tyre,” says An­drew Collings, Ex­clu­sive Tyres’ mar­ket­ing man­ager (Ex­clu­sive is Cooper Tires’ Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor). “Af­ter ex­ten­sive re­search and test­ing, Cooper de­cided to of­fer the AT3 in a lighter duty P-met­ric and heav­ier duty Light Truck con­fig­u­ra­tion, de­pend­ing on the con­sumer’s need.

“The new AT3 line in­cludes three dis­tinct all-sea­son, all-ter­rain con­fig­u­ra­tions; for SUVS (AT34S), utes and heavy-duty 4WDS (AT3 LT and AT3 XLT).”

The AT3 LT of­fers what Cooper Tires dubs Durable-tread Tech­nol­ogy, where its new cou­pled sil­ica tread com­pound – de­signed to op­ti­mise re­sis­tance to cuts and chips, as well as in­crease traction and ex­tend the life of the tyre’s tread – is com­bined with the tyre’s par­tic­u­lar tread pat­tern. The AT3 XLT adds “rugged traction shoul­ders” (read: sideb­iters) in some larger sizes for ex­tra grip in ex­treme off-road ter­rain such as mud-filled ruts, as well as ex­tra punc­ture and stak­ing re­sis­tance.

Bris­bane-based Ex­clu­sive Tyres has brought a big team out here that in­cludes two Cooper Tire & Rub­ber Com­pany’s US en­gi­neers – Ken Reuille, a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to Oz, and first-timer Mar­tin Kauf­man – to see if this lat­est in­car­na­tion of one of the com­pany’s most pop­u­lar hoops is a step up from the pre­vi­ous-gen AT3.

The route en­com­passes a 985km sealed road run to Thar­go­min­dah, then loop­ing through In­nam­incka, Cameron Cor­ner, Bul­loo Downs and Ti­booburra – and will, by week’s end, have to­talled just over 4000km. It means the tyres cop a stern test in coun­try they’ll be used in.

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