Tire Review: Cooper Zeon RS3 A tire reviews auto product reviews
Cooper Zeon RS3-A. Click image to enlarge

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Cooper Tire

By Michael Schlee

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Cooper Zeon RS3-A

Cooper Tire is ready to make a big impact on the Canadian replacement tire market. Although they may not be the most well-known tire company in Canada, they are set to expand their presence in our country over the next 12 months thanks to marketing promotions with the Weather Network and our beloved Hockey Night in Canada. Cooper’s intention is to let Canadians know about their latest products, which, they are very proud of. How proud? Well, proud enough that Cooper Tire invited us down to San Antonio, Texas to their test facility to try out four of their latest products; the Zeon RS3-A, Zeon RS3-S, Discoverer A/T3 and Discoverer S/T MAXX.

Tire Review: Cooper Zeon RS3 A tire reviews auto product reviews
Cooper Zeon RS3-A. Click image to enlarge

Arguably the most relatable product to the Canadian market will be the new Cooper Zeon RS3-A all season ultra-high performance tire. Available in 38 sizes, Cooper designed this new Zeon to perform in dry, wet and snowy conditions. Using an asymmetrical tread pattern, the Zeon RS-3 focuses on wet and snow traction with the inner tread portion of the tire while the outboard section specializes in dry handling. The large intermediate tread elements found on the outer part of the tread are designed to aid in cornering with reduced noise and works in conjunction with the large shoulder tread. Placed about one-third of the way in on the tread from the outside of the tire is what Cooper refers to as a ‘Continuous Center Rib Precision’ engineered to increase steering response.

Completing this all-season tires footprint are wide, sweeping elliptical grooves with ‘3-D micro gauge sipes’ and lateral grooves for wet and light snow traction. Yes, this is not a dedicated winter tire and isn’t meant for deep snow driving, but it should hold its own in lighter snowfalls. Unfortunately, tire testing in south Texas during the month of June does not lend itself well to snow testing so I did not have a chance to back up this claim.

Being that this tire is intended to be a replacement for a vehicles original OEM tire, Cooper wanted to focus on ensuring the Zeon RS3-A would provide even wear during the life of the tire; even at 50% tire wear, the complete tread pattern is intact, including the winter sipes.

Tire Review: Cooper Zeon RS3 A tire reviews auto product reviews
Tire Review: Cooper Zeon RS3 A tire reviews auto product reviews
Cooper Zeon RS3-A. Click image to enlarge

All of this technical information and performance claims are fine and dandy, but only a real world test would confirm whether or not this tire lives up to all that Cooper made it out to be. The first test of the day involved driving around a autocross-style course set up on Cooper Tire’s 14 acre Wet Vehicle Dynamics Area (VDA). Basically, this area is a giant piece of asphalt covered in a constant stream of water about 3 cm deep. The course was set to replicate everything from emergency lane change maneuvers to decreasing radius corners to panic braking situations.

To show what the Zeon RS3-A is capable of, Cooper brought along a popular competitor for us to cross evaluate; The Toyo Proxes 4. Both sets of tires were attached to a 2013 Ford Mustang V6 with 255/45R18 tires at all four corners. If you were to purchase either tire and drive them alone for their entire tread life, you would probably be happy and never really notice the differences only a back-to-back drive can highlight. However, once driven back-to-back some differences in performance become night and day.

The Mustang wearing the Toyo tires was far quicker to give up front end grip and become prone to understeer. The modulation from understeer to on-gas oversteer was sudden, abrupt and hard to control. The Cooper equipped Mustang on the other hand was more prone to oversteer thanks to the Zeon RS3-As up front just digging in and gripping. This is not to say that the rear Zeon tires were easily giving up grip, but rather the front tires did such a good job biting in that the rear wheels are whipped around as they are forced to follow. If you do enter a corner too fast with the RS3-As, the modulation between understeer and oversteer is easily controlled as are four-wheel drifts. We were being timed during our laps around the course and I was nearly 3 seconds a lap quicker with the Zeon equipped Mustang than with the other Mustang no equipped with Zeon RS3-A tires. The reason being that whereas the Cooper equipped Mustang made the VDA course feel merely damp, the other Mustang felt more like it was driving on a light dusting of snow.

Since this is an all-season, all-weather tire, most of our testing was done in the wet conditions. However, to prove that these tires could hold their own in the dry, racing legend Johnny Unser took us out for hot laps around Cooper tires road course in a modified Ford Mustang GT. Even from the passenger seat, you could feel the grip these tires provided when cornering and the intuitive nature they have with a linear descent from grip to no grip. Even when Mr. Unser was sliding the Mustang around in sideways drifts the transition from straight to sideways was smooth and non-violent; an indicator of a good tire lacking a steep drop off curve. A quick clip of Johnny sliding around the Mustang can be seen at the end of this article.

To ensure the Zeon RS3-A will last, it receives a 500 treadwear rating; not bad for an ultra-high performance tire with AA traction and A temperature ratings. Besides online stores, Cooper Zeons can be found in some retail outlets across Canada. If you are looking for one set of performance tires for your vehicle, this tire is worth considering.


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