Following up from their announcement at last year’s SEMA Show, Cooper Tire recently invited us to their test facility near San Antonio, TX, to experience some new products for performance cars. The ZEON RS3-A and RS3-S will be available through Cooper Tire dealers in April, just in time for Spring’s road challenges.
The original ZEON RS3 tire was developed in conjunction with ROUSH Performance for their ROUSH Stage 3 Mustang. Limited sizes were available for other cars, but that issue is being addressed with the new models. The RS3-A high performance, all season tire will be released in 31 sizes, with more to follow. The RS3-S high performance, summer tire will be available in 21 sizes.
The high performance, all season category of tires has emerged over the past three years and has presented a conundrum for many who beileve that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Such tires are typically constructed with “zones,” apparently dedicated to a particular apsect of performance, and the Cooper product is no different. The use of an assymetric (non-symmetrical) tread design breaks the tread into segments having properties to enhance handling and control, cornering stability, winter traction and wet/light snow performance.
Yet, an explanation like this oversimplifies the “mystery” of such tires. For example, the RS3-A tire has a UTQG tread wear rating of 500, which should make it wear like rock and, in relative terms, ride like that as well. This is not the case. While incorporating silica rubber compounds to increase wear resistance and improve wet handling, the tire exhibits a comfortable ride with minimal noise.
We had the opportunity to make back-to-back comparisons on both dry and wet autocross-type courses between the RS3-A and a Korean-sourced UHP all-season tire having a 420 tread wear rating. The choice was a reasonable one and one that you might face the next time you’re looking to replace a set of hi-po tires on your sedan.
Cooper’s test facility has a 14-acre ‘wetpad,’ engineered to provide a constant water depth for testing. A course was marked out with cones that took on the order of 50+ seconds to complete a lap, as measured by timing equipment. While a few cones took more than their fair share of abuse (…by others, of course), it took little effort to shave three seconds off my lap time when on the RS3-A tires. Course learning was not an issue by this portion of the day, as I had already logged at least a dozen laps in the wet.
The difference was impressive and immediately evident. On the issue of tread wear, longer lasting does not necessarily mean a harder compound. Advances in the ability to disperse silica additives (a.k.a. sand, or rock) through the rubber contribute significantly to this lack of trade-off. The increase in abrasion resistance, and therefore tread life, does not come at the cost of ride quality.
Cooper’s RS3-S high performance summer tire displayed similar lap time improvements when compared to a French-made ‘Sport’ tire. Absolute dry grip was clearly superior and, in the wet, the RS3-S showed better results as well – though not to the astonishing levels of the RS3-A. The summer tire uses a combination of wide, blocky tread elements and grooves to deliver a satisfying combination of both wet and dry performance.
If you’ve not heard of Cooper Tire before, now is the time to pay attention. The company has significant R&D investment in these tires and it shows. Unless you live in Arizona and don’t take your car out in the wet, the performance of these new tires is something that you’re going to need… sooner or later.
With headquarters in Findlay, OH, Cooper Tire has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities within its family of companies located in 10 countries around the world.
Findlay, OH 45840