Cooper Discoverer AT3 Review: XLT or 4S – Which Tire is Better?

Even in the wake of the high-mpg craze, trucks are still the most popular vehicle type in the US. Most of the buyers want them because they need them, thanks to the outstanding hauling and towing capabilities, and off-road prowess. But, in all honesty, there are a lot of people that buy trucks only because they like the visual appeal and the masculinity they bring with them. There is something about a full-size pickup truck and a meaty V8 in the front, I admit.

There is also something about having fat tires with rugged tread design on your pickup. They not only provide better traction in off-road condition but in combination with the right wheels, tires can significantly improve on the looks of a pickup truck. Or SUV for that matter.

One of those series of tires is the Cooper Discoverer AT3. Cooper Tire designed not just one AT3 model, but three of them. But, why are there three different models you ask? Well, the obvious answer is that not every buyer has the same needs, not the same vehicle. All three tires offer a combination of proper on-road handling and comfort and advanced off-road capabilities, but some are better than the others in one category or another.

cooper discoverer at3 review 6

To help you choose between the different Cooper Discoverer AT3 tires, I prepared a comparison between the AT3 4S and AT3 XLS. Due to the reason that everything that needs to be said about these tires will be outlined in this article, there is no need for separate Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT review or Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S review. Consider this text as both a Cooper Discoverer AT3 review and comparison.

To better understand how these tires work and who they are designed for, first, we will take a look about what the manufacturer says about them, and then put them through our rigorous test that consists of dry, wet, snowy, and off-road performance evaluation, comfort and quietness evaluation, and durability evaluation.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 Tire Overview

Cooper Discoverer AT3 Review - 2

Both tires are of the all-terrain type and should fit a variety of SUVs and light trucks with rim sizes between 15 and 20 inches. Sadly, larger models are not available, so some owners of custom heavy-duty trucks may be out of luck. Now, in this Cooper Discoverer AT3 Review, let’s see what the nuances that make the Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT and Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S different are.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S Review of Specification

According to Cooper Tire, the AT3 4S is specifically designed to grip rocky or smooth surface, under the most severe weather, rain or shine. Then, they continue with saying that this tire offers a blend of off-road performance and on-road comfort, with traction on every type of surface. Even though it is not a snow tire, Cooper promises that it delivers confident traction in light snow – it even has the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol (3PMSF) for severe snow service. That said, this is still not a winter tire, and you shouldn’t consider it as a replacement for one.

Perhaps the most critical technology used in the AT3 4S is the Adaptive-Traction TechnologyTM that combines a silica-based tread compound into a Secure-Grip pattern for optimal all-terrain performance. More precisely, Cooper opted for a five-rib design that provides a combo of wet and dry performance, and off-road traction. Cooper’s proprietary Aqua Vac Channels and wide lateral notches help in severe rain by evacuating the water and lowering hydroplaning, while the Micro-Gauge zig-zag sipes provide additional biting edges for better traction in slippery conditions. The Snow Groove Technology is here to improve traction in the snow by utilizing saw-tooth block edges in the outboard grooves.

In the end, durability is covered with a robust internal construction of a durable, two-ply polyester casing, helped by a single-ply nylon reinforcement situated above two high-strength steel belts. The Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S is available in 37 sizes ranging from 15- to 20-inch rim diameter and comes with a 65,000-mile tread warranty.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT Review of Specification

The main difference between the 4S and XLT tires seems to be durability, with the latter equipped with the Durable Tread TechnologyTM that helps the tire haul heavy loads with less wear. The Cooper Discoverer XLT is also specially designed for more extreme off-road surfaces, such as dirt, mud, and gravel. Apart from that, this tire is also engineered to provide enjoyable on-road comfort and traction in dry and wet conditions. Cooper Tire promises traction on light snow as well, but the XLT is not 3PMSF rated like its less-tough brother.

cooper discoverer at3 xlt review

The Discoverer XLT also has a silica compound, but this time it is engineered to be shred-resistant thanks to the previously mentioned Durable Tread TechnologyTM. The tread pattern is still all-terrain, but it looks more prominent and offers better off-road abilities. Still, Cooper incorporated their Even Wear Arc Technology, that optimizes the shape of the footprint for steady pressure of the contact patch. This tech not only helps for even wear, but it also provides the driver with additional grip in the corners. Despite the aggressive tread pattern, Cooper also incorporated their Whisper Grooves design that quietens the tire on higher speeds, even as it wears down.

Back to off-road for a bit – the Discoverer XLT has stone ejectors that prevent punctures, and Rugged Traction Shoulders that grip on rock, in thick mud or loose soil. The deep circumferential channels and wide lateral notches help the tire resist hydroplaning, aided by multiple zigzag sipes and independent tread blocks. Like with the 4S, the Snow Groove Technology is here to improve traction in the snow by utilizing saw-tooth block edges in the outboard grooves.

Durability is covered with a two-ply polyester casing, helped by a single-ply nylon reinforcement situated above two high-strength steel belts. The Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT is available in 30 sizes ranging from 15- to 20-inch rim diameter and comes with a 60,000-mile tread warranty.

Please note that there is a third Discoverer AT3 tire, the LT, which is closer to the 4S in terms of performance, and closer to the XLT in terms of towing and hauling ability.

Cooper Discoverer AT3: Detailed Review

Treadwear and Durability

Treadwear and durability are intertwined in some tires, but not in every one of them. The Discoverer AT3 4S and Discoverer AT3 XLT are the best examples of that. The former is built for longer treadlife, while the latter is built to be resistant to extreme off-road conditions.

In numbers, they seem close when it comes to warranty. The Discoverer AT3 4S gets 65,000-miles, which is pretty long for a tire in the all-terrain category, while the Discoverer AT3 XLT has 60,000-mile tread warranty, again pretty good by class standards. This translates into the real world, where the 4S lasts longer if driven on roads, with the XLT in a close second.

However, things change if you use the tires in off-road conditions most of the time. Here the XLT shows much better results, which is no surprise really. This tire is built to withstand the most extreme conditions, like rocky terrain for example. The specially designed tread is resistant to shredding, while the rugged biting edges give extra resistance to punctures. In other words, while the tread might not last as long when compared to the Discoverer AT3 4S, the XLT is a much better choice for off-road enthusiasts.

Given the fact that the XLT is a tougher tire overall, I’ll give it one point more over the 4S. That said, if you don’t use your truck or SUV in off-road conditions often, you might still be better off with the Discoverer AT3 4S.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 7

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 8

Dry Traction and Grip

Both tires are of the all-terrain variety, so excellent dry performance is out of the question. Seriously, if you only use your truck or SUV on the street, you will be much better served by a touring or highway tire. They are designed only for the road and will offer a much more focused and safe driving experience. With that said, there are all-terrain tires that offer very good performance in dry conditions, and the Discoverer AT3 4S seems to be one of them.

cooper discoverer at3 review 3

The 4S offers a surprising amount of grip in the corners for an all-terrain tire. Traction is also very good, even when the tire is installed on a more powerful truck or SUV. Braking distances are also very short – up there with the best tires in this category. Handling is as good as you can expect from a tire in this class – responsive enough for most drivers, but certainly not razor sharp.

The Discoverer AT3 XLT, on the other hand, is designed to offer better performance in off-road conditions. Responsiveness certainly suffers due to this decision on Cooper’s part. Your vehicle will feel more cumbersome in the corners, with less grip and traction. However, I must stress that the differences are pretty small and perhaps only measurable when you put both models side-by-side. In the real world, the XLT model will still offer a safe driving experience, no doubt about it.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 5

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 4

Hauling and Towing

The Discoverer AT3 4S might be better on the road, but how does it fare if you haul heavier cargo or tow a trailer with your truck or SUV? While it is certainly no slouch and can be used for light hauling or towing, the 4S is not even close to the capabilities of the XLT, with SL (standard load) and XL (extra load) load ratings. If you own bigger trailer or want to use the maximum capacity of your full-size truck, you might be out of luck with the Discoverer AT3 4S.

The Discoverer AT3 XLT is built to withstand much more weight on its shoulders. It can haul much heavier loads and sustain less wear while doing that. It is also available in Load Range C, D and E configurations, enough for towing even the heaviest and biggest trailers. Here your truck might be the limiting factor, and not the tires themselves.

This is another big difference between both tires which shows that they are really meant for different types of buyers. If you use your truck or SUV with limited cargo on board, the Discoverer AT3 4S might be the perfect tire, but if you plan to haul more cargo or tow with your vehicle, the XLT is really a no-brainer. It comfortably takes the win here.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 6

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 8

Wet Traction and Grip

All-terrain tires fair a bit better in wet conditions than in dry conditions when compared to highway tires, but they are still not the perfect solution. The reason is the tread design – the focus with all-terrain tires is better traction in off-road conditions and not in wet on-road conditions. That said, Cooper Tire has paid a lot of attention on wet performance with this generation of the Discoverer AT3, and both tires show a measurable advantage over their predecessors, and over some competitors in this category.

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While I wouldn’t consider them the best-in-class, they are very close to that title. Both offer safe and reliable traction in wet conditions, high levels of grip and very short braking distances. The last part may be the most impressive – both tires stop almost like highway tires. The qualities they possess work both in very wet conditions and in damp conditions or light rain, which is another plus for the Discoverer AT3 4S and XLT.

Still, if you want the best possible wet performance, you should opt for the Discoverer AT3 4S. This tire offers better traction when exiting a corner, more grip into a corner, and even better braking performance – up to 10 feet at 70 mph. The Discoverer AT3 4S is better both in heavy rain and light rain, and you can feel that behind the steering wheel. The Discoverer AT3 XLT, in comparison, suffers from less traction, with even less grip in the corners. Braking distances are still very short for an all-terrain tire, but overall, this tire is not nearly as good as its brother in wet conditions.

If you live in areas where it often rains, the 4S is a much better choice, again showing that it is a model that’s focused more on on-road performance, compared to the XLT, which is an off-road focused all-terrain tire.

Snow Traction and Braking Performance

Almost every all-terrain tire offers some traction on snow, due to the aggressive tread design. However, performance in cold weather is often limited by the compound used and not the design of the tire. Happily, both tires have silica-enriched compound, which works well in warm and cold conditions. In other words, the rubber still remains pliable in very cold weather, which is very important for grip.

Thanks to this, both tires offer surprisingly good traction in the snow when compared to other tires in this category, and also shorter braking distances. I would still prefer a proper winter tire for deeper snow or areas with harsh winters, but for some owners, a pair of Discoverer AT3 4S or XLT might be all they need for the winter (provided they live in areas where it doesn’t snow often).

Both tires are rated for snow, but the Discoverer AT3 4S gets a higher 3PMSF rating, while the XLT is only M+S. This translates into the real world – the 4S offers better traction and shorter braking distances and can be used in slightly deeper snow. Not that the XLT is bad, mind you. Even though it is only M+S rated, it offers very good traction in snow, almost at the level of its brother.

Whatever model you choose, at least you can be sure that you won’t be surprised by sudden snow on the road. Just drive carefully, and you should have no problem tackling snowy roads with both tires. An excellent result for Cooper Tire!

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 7

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 6

Off-road Performance

We’ve come to the part the most of you were probably waiting for. While all-terrain tires are not the best type for off-road driving, they are certainly the most versatile. This makes them the best choice for most SUV and truck owners, especially for those who often venture in the wild. Happily, if you’re into that sort of stuff, both the Discoverer AT3 4S and the Discoverer AT3 XLT will offer very good off-road performance in every condition.

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That said, the XLT model is much better when used in the wild. It is not only tougher when driven over extreme surfaces, such as big rocks, but it also offers much better traction. This tire is close to a true off-road or mud-terrain tire in its qualities, making driving through the wild much more pleasurable experience. It is one of the best off-road tires in its category, which is why it gets an excellent score here.

But, what about the Discoverer AT3 4S? While it is not even close to its brother, the 4S still offers good off-road traction and ability. I think that most buyers will be perfectly fine with a set of these tires, especially those who don’t venture out of the road much (but still do that). Again, a very good showing by Cooper when compared to other “light” all-terrain tires.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 6

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 8

Comfort & Noise

Cooper Tire has paid a lot of attention to quietness with the new generation of Discoverer AT3 tires, and we should applaud that. Sure, all-terrain tires were never known for quietness and comfort, but that doesn’t mean that your ear should bleed every time you travel on the highway. Between the 4S and XLT, the former is quieter on the road, which can be felt at 70mph. The XLT is not loud by any means, but it is still louder than its brother, and certainly louder than the best all-terrain tires. It’s the same with comfort – the 4S deals with bumps like a highway tire, while the XLT feels harsher due to the tougher sidewalls and higher load ratings.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S – 6

Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT – 4

Design

This category might not be important to some buyers, but tire manufacturers still pay attention to the design of their products, and there are truck owners who value that. As a matter of fact, the Discoverer AT3 XLT is designed to give full-size truck owners sporty and rugged appearance, and I think it succeeds in doing that. Sure, the Discoverer AT3 4S is not an ugly tire by any means, but if you care about giving your truck even more robust appearance, then the XLT should be your choice. It looks outstanding in my opinion. That said, the design is a very subjective thing and comparing this is only my personal opinion, so keep that in mind before attacking me for that decision.

Comparison with other tires

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. Cooper Discoverer ATP

Both the AT3 and ATP series of tires are of the all-terrain variety, and also work in most weather conditions. However, the AT3 model line is much better on the road. It not only offers better traction and grip in dry and wet conditions, but it is also better in snow. Most importantly, AT3 tires are much quieter and comfortable on the road.

Cooper Discoverer ATP
Cooper Discoverer ATP

Cooper ATP offers some advantages in off-road conditions when compared to the AT3 4S and LT, but the XLT is very close and perhaps better in dry weather. In the end, the ATP has much shorter treadlife when compared to the AT3 series of tires, which is the final nail in the coffin for this model line. In my opinion, the AT3 series tires are a better choice for almost everybody.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. Mastercraft Courser AXT

In case you didn’t know, Cooper Tire makes Mastercraft tires. This brand is like a budget brand for the firm, attracting buyers with tighter budgets. So, the Mastercraft Courser is cheaper and can save you around $100 for a set of four tires, but is it worth going that road? The short answer is: No.

Mastercraft Courser AXT
Mastercraft Courser AXT

The more detailed answer is that the Cooper Discoverer AT3 tires simply offer better performance in every category. First, they will last longer than Courser AXT tires, and that’s especially true for tread wear, which will be more excessive on Mastercraft. Then, performance on the road is much better, both in dry and wet conditions. The Cooper tires are also better in the snow and offer a much quieter and more compliant ride. Mastercraft Courser AXT is close only in off-road conditions, but still not at the level of Discoverer AT3 XLT.

Mastercraft Courser AXT may still be a good choice if you’re very limited by budget, but I strongly recommend going for the Discoverer AT3 line.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. BFGoodrich A/T KO2

I have often said, and I will say it again here – the BFGoodrich A/T KO2 is one of the best all-terrain tires on the market due to its combination of excellent off-road abilities, on-road performance, quietness, and comfort. That said, it is a much more expensive tire than all of the Cooper Discoverer AT3 models, including the closely-matched XLT. 

BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2

The price difference may be very high for some people, and that’s why I would recommend the A/T KO2 only to those who really want the best possible combination of off-road and on-road performance. For those on a budget, the Discoverer AT3 line is still a great choice – it offers a unique blend of high-tech solutions and low price.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. General Grabber AT2

Cooper Tire and General Tire are closely matched in almost every category, and it’s the same here. Both the AT3 line of tires and the Grabber AT2 offer comparable performance on the road and in off-road conditions, but the former is better when it comes to comfort and quietness. 

General Tire Grabber AT2
General Grabber AT2​

The price is very comparable between the two and mainly depends on where you buy them. Still, if it was my decision, I think that Cooper has the upper hand right now – their models are newer and have several technologies that give it the edge over the Grabber AT2. Still, if you decide on the General product, you will still be very satisfied with your purchase.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. Cooper Discoverer A/TW

The main difference between the AT3 and A/TW line is the advanced snow capabilities of the latter. For people that live in areas with harsh winters, the decision to buy the Discoverer A/TW is a no-brainer – it will offer better traction and shorter braking distances in both light and deep snow. The A/TW also offers much better grip in very cold weather, dry or wet. If you don’t believe me, look at the fine print – it is Severe Weather Rated.

Cooper Discoverer A/TW​
Cooper Discoverer A/TW​

That said, the Discoverer AT3 line is better in most other categories. This line of tires offers more comfortable driving experience and much less noise on the highway, better handling, and traction in dry and wet conditions, and in the case of AT3 XLT, better off-road performance. AT3 tires will also last much longer – the A/TW line has only 50,000-mile tread warranty. Suffice to say, if it doesn’t often snow in your area, then the AT3 is a better choice.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. Hercules Terra Trac AT2

Hercules Terra Trac AT2​
Hercules Terra Trac AT2​

Discoverer AT3 and Terra Trac AT2 are pretty comparable when it comes to price, and the same can be said for performance. I still prefer the Cooper Discoverer AT3 line in terms of overall capabilities, especially on the road, but the Terra Trac AT2 is a very good tire on its own for off-road conditions. Choose according to your needs – the price of the Hercules is lower than the comparable Discoverer AT3 XLT, so if you want to save a few bucks, it might be a smart choice. If you have a deeper pocket, the Cooper tires are still a better choice though.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 vs. Cooper Discoverer RTX

The Discoverer RTX is a tire that’s more off-road focused than the Discoverer AT3 line, although the XLT model comes pretty close to the capabilities of the RTX. The main difference here is very soft surfaces, such as mud terrain, where the RTX provides additional traction and grip. Still, the differences are pretty small and perhaps only noticeable by the most hardcore off-road enthusiasts.

Cooper Discoverer RTX​
Cooper Discoverer RTX​

Perhaps much more important for most buyers, the AT3 line offers universally better performance on the road, in dry, wet and snowy conditions, and it is on another level when it comes to quietness and comfort. The AT3 model line also has longer treadlife than the RTX line, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

In the end, if you want advanced off-road performance, I think that overall the Discoverer AT3 XLT is a smarter solution than the Discoverer RTX.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Cooper Discoverer AT3 tires snow rated?

All Discoverer AT3 tires are snow rated, but they have different ratings. The 4S model gets a 3PMSF rating, while the LT and XLT models get M+S rating. The Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol (3PMSF) is higher than the M+S rating.

Are Cooper Tires Made in the USA?

Yes, Cooper Tire designs and manufactures their products only in the USA. They have four plants: Albany (Georgia), Tupelo (Mississippi), Findlay (Ohio), and Texarkana (Arkansas).

What is the recommended tire pressure of Discoverer AT3 tires?

The tire pressure depends on the specifications provided by the manufacturer of your SUV or truck, and not by the manufacturer of the tires. It also differs greatly from one size to another. That’s why always follow the data imprinted on your vehicle.

Cooper Discoverer AT3 Review: Final Words

Fact is, both the Discoverer AT3 4s and Discoverer AT3 XLT are great tires. However, they are aimed at a different type of customer. The 4S model offers good off-road traction in most conditions, but its main forte is the quiet and comfortable ride quality, coupled with excellent performance in dry and wet conditions. The 4S is also slightly better in snowy conditions, and it has a longer treadlife.

On the other hand, the Discoverer AT3 XLT is a much better choice for drivers who want better off-road performance. This tire not only offers better traction on every type of surface, but it is also much tougher and can’t be easily punctured. You can also tow bigger trailers with the XLT, and put a lot more stuff in your truck bed, which makes it a better choice for working trucks. That said, on-road performance will suffer, and the treadlife is slightly shorter when compared to the 4S.

Whatever model you choose, you will not be disappointed – Cooper Tire really designed great products here and should be proud of them, especially given the price!

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this Cooper Discoverer AT3 review helpful. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

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