Cooper’s latest hybrid terrain tire combines aggressive looks with on-road refinement.
North American light-truck and Jeep drivers are increasingly opting for aggressive-looking tires for their modified rides, but full-blown mud-terrain (M/T) rubber isn’t suited to everyday highway use. Tire makers are responding with products like the Cooper Discoverer Rugged Trek, a hybrid-terrain product that was launched earlier this year and has just been 3PMSF winter certified in eight of its 18 available sizes.
“Our enthusiast M/T product, the Discoverer STT Pro, is great for going to Moab and doing extreme off-roading, but we saw that we were losing some customers because we didn’t have the M/T look with a quiet ride and long tread life,” explains Jenny Paige, product manager at Cooper Tire. “People were unwilling to pay the price for the extreme [M/T] performance. The Rugged Trek is a hybrid tire with the mud look but which is quiet and wears evenly.”
The newcomer incorporates a couple of firsts for Cooper. The first is a Nitto-style choice of two sidewall designs to give customers the option of customizing their truck: the aggressive, boulder-like Mountain Pass design, or the sleeker Knife Edge pattern. Staying with the sidewall, Cooper has responded to market trends by moving away from white lettering and instead raising the all-black letters proud of the sidewall to help them stand out.
“Another first for Cooper are the circular ends to the sipes,” says Paige. “These spread the stress and fight the spider-cracking that you sometimes get on off-road products, which can make the tire look old and worn before it really is.”
The tread compound has a level of natural rubber to help resist cut-and-chip wear when the tire does hit the trail. But the main focus was a compound that delivers good wet-grip and wear performance – backed by a 60,000 mile (96,000km) warranty – to make the tire usable every day, including resistance to heel-and-toe wear. “Some of that is compound, some of it is tread design,” says Paige. “You have to manage the interaction.”
Other features include ‘Whisper Grooves’ between the lugs – small barriers to hamper the amplification of sound waves as they pass through the tread by creating turbulent airflow. ‘Stone Blockades’ on the lug edges keep larger stones from bedding down between the lugs and drilling into the under-tread. Sipes oriented in multiple directions enhance on-road stability to help fight the sway that can be a problem on lifted trucks.
The Rugged Trek was tested – including off-road – at Cooper’s proving ground in Pearsall, Texas. Ford F-150s and Jeep Wrangler formed the bulk of the test fleet, supplemented by rental vehicles that reflect the target markets of SUVs, light trucks and Jeeps. According to the tire maker, the Rugged Trek outperformed the Nitto Ridge Grappler, Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac and Toyo Open Country R/T in internally conducted, wet-road testing.
Meanwhile the STT Pro, which debuted back in 2015, will be enhanced in 2022 by the arrival of two new sizes: 33×12.50 R20 and 35×12.50 R22. Both feature the innovative ‘Flex Groove’, a reinforced hinge point in the sidewall that absorbs stress in the rubber and polyester when off-road users air-down, helping to reduce fatigue and lower the risk of a blowout on the trail.
Looking further ahead, Paine reveals that Cooper is already discussing a replacement for the STT Pro but that there’s no confirmed time frame yet.