It’s one thing to read about new tires and totally another to try them out. By now you’ve probably seen Cooper’s new all-terrain AT3 family of tires. We have the AT3 4S for SUVs and light duty pickups, AT3 LT for conventional commercial sizes, and the AT3 XLT for plus sizing on lifted trucks. Before we go any further, our friend Doby Middleton wants the point made clear, this isn’t confusing as the sizes don’t repeat over the three lines. You pick a size and only one new AT3 is available. The right one with no guesswork. Back to the story - Cooper invited a few of us down to their proving grounds outside of San Antonio to sample the goods. One particular event really stood out -- racing around in the wet. They have a 14 acre piece of flat pavement that they wet down and set up cones on to make an autocross course. Ahead of time, Cooper folks asked distributors what they wanted to test the new AT3s against. Hankook’s ATM were the most requested, and this seemed to be a good choice to me, as the ATMs do really well in Consumer Reports testing. The plan was four laps on the Hankooks to get a feel and set some times, then the same drill with the Coopers. The vehicles were identical full size Chevy Tahoes. It’s funny, after a few laps you quickly figure out how hard you can go into a corner before losing traction and how fast you can get back on the gas while exiting a turn. By the 4th lap you know the story. Then you jump into the other Tahoe with the AT3 4S. Flying into turn 1 you get off the gas, squeeze the brakes and turn in. Hmmmm... the Tahoe didn’t slide. I could have gone in hotter! Your brain thinks it knows the limits after just a few laps and now it needs a reset. My fastest lap was 51 seconds and some change. My average lap was 3.35 seconds quicker on the Coopers, and 3.35 seconds on a 51 second lap is a moon shot of a difference. Of course nobody buys a Tahoe and sticks all-terrain tires on it for racing but think about the safety cushion these tires provide in the rain: braking, turning, accelerating. The difference was massive. I always smile when someone tells me that all tires are the same. But, Cooper can’t sit back, Hankook’s new A/T is coming soon.