There are too many types of shoes. Shoes for walking, shoes for hiking, shoes for sneaking, shoes for tennis, shoes for running, and even shoes for loafing. There are shoes for lounging about the house while binge-watching Netflix and consuming sequential bags of Doritos, and even shoes that promise you a firmer, more glorious buttocks if worn regularly.
Why all the products? Options. Shoppers love options. They crave and demand them. And with their dollars, they choose which options win and lose in the marketplace.
The same goes for tires: selection, promises and varieties are daunting, and all to create the tremendous level of options shoppers want.
Many tire shoppers drive a light truck or sports utility vehicle (SUV), and a great number of them choose to use one tire, all the time. As a whole, winter tires are largely still a “car” thing in provinces where they’re not legislated, and most folks driving a Dakota or Yukon or Pathfinder choose to run a single tire, 24/7, 365.
In wintery climates, many of these folks decide to run their SUV or pickup on a winter-oriented tire all year, which results in reduced tread life, yucky handling in summer, and reduced safety. Others chose to run an all-season, all-terrain, do-it-all tire instead, firing wintertime grip out the window and turning in dismal stopping distances when there’s snow and ice underfoot.
Enter the Cooper Discoverer A/TW -- an all-terrain tire that Cooper says uses some new technologies and a cutting-edge new rubber recipe to create a tire that SUV and pickup shoppers have been demanding: a year-round, all-terrain tire that’s got winter tire capability.
The gist? If you’ve decided to run a single year-round tire, this one will deliver the traits expected of a good all-terrain tire, as well as winter performance highly comparable to a dedicated winter tire when the snow and temperatures fall.
What’s the catch? Because of a magical white powder called silica, there’s virtually none. Adding silica to the rubber compound of a tire allows that tire to remain more flexible under more conditions, and without giving anything up. So, a top-secret silica-based rubber compound allows the A/TW tires to deliver the flexibility required for winter grip when it’s cold, and working with structural and design implements to perform well on the road and on the trail.
There are some synergies. The silica-enabled flexibility at low temperatures is key to winter grip, but also allowed Cooper’s engineers to build in excellent cut-and-chip resistance, adding durability as the tires travel over sharp rocks and debris in an off-road setting. SnowGroove 2.0 technology and some self-cleaning chevron-shaped grooves in the tread structure use science to capitalize on the uniquely different properties of snow and mud, and create a tread system that flings mud and slop from the treads for off-road use, but traps snow into the treads strategically when its present, capitalizing on the surprisingly good amount of friction between snow and snow.
Some simple tests on varying greasy, snowy and icy surfaces showed the benefits of the Cooper Discoverer A/TW technologies. Driving a Chevrolet Tahoe on a controlled snow and ice surface, with both the A/TW rubber and a competitor winter-only tire, the differences were minimal.
The A/TW tires, despite their all-terrain capability, turned in key traits I admire in a good winter tire. Mainly, these include a good, positive bite under hard braking on snow and ice, with plenty of deceleration before traction limits are exceeded and the ABS system kicks in. Where most all-terrain tires give up traction almost right away when stopping in the snow, these put up a mighty fuss before slipping begins.
Ditto when cornering, and notably, with the snow grooves built into even the very outer edges of the treads, the A/TW tires put up a similar fight before relinquishing their grip in extreme cornering maneuvers, even when the steering is wound tightly up and brakes are applied. In all, overall feel, grip, predictability, and even the ability to regain control from a skid, and to “feel” that skid as it’s about to happen, were all on-par with a full winter tire. Measured braking distances, on this surface, in this vehicle and at the speed I used, were consistently close to that of the winter-only tire, too -- off by perhaps a foot or less each time.
So, the technology works. Shoppers deciding to use a single year-round tire for their SUV or pickup can check out the Cooper Discoverer A/TW tires exclusively at Canadian Tire in a variety of popular sizes, with more on the way.