Nitto Recon Grappler vs Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT

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The Nitto Recon Grappler and the Cooper Discoverer AT3 are both although all-terrain tires, the Recon is slightly higher up on the aggressive scale, just shy of getting added in the rugged terrain category (which is another term for hybrid tires).

Nitto Recon Grappler
Nitto Recon Grappler offers triangular shaped sidewall lugs.

Being a tire engineer, my takeaway is that the Nitto Recon Grappler provides you with a great off road traction comparatively, where it’s self cleaning lugs with interconnected lateral and longitudinal grooves, offer better dirt evacuation, and it’s sharp biters yields better results on rocky terrains, as well. Cooper Discoverer AT3 on the other hand, is superior on smooth pavements, in both wet and dry environments, and yes, it also offers superior fuel economy, comfort and tread longevity.

Side Note: Feeling lost, with so many all terrain options? Well, I’ve got a prefect place for you to start here, check this out:


Internal construction tells about the tire’s durability, and it’s important to know as it really helps understanding how a tire performs, especially when it comes to steering response.

The Nitto Recon Grappler is a tougher tire having 3 ply polyester casing with 2 steel belts and 2 cap plies of nylon.

So it offers 3 ply sidewalls compared to Cooper AT3 which also has 2 ply polyester casing underneath the sidewalls.

Moreover, this tire is also not as strong from the middle of the tread as well, as there, it offers just a single cap ply of nylon, though it’s rubber is cut resistant just like the Recon Grappler.

Tread Difference

Let’s start things off with a better looking tire (though looks are subjective).

Nitto Recon Grappler
Nitto Recon Grappler has dual sidewall design and this side is less aggressive in comparison.

Nitto Recon Grappler offers a staggered shoulder lugs, with dual sidewall design. Though it’s shoulder could use some tread features, as they have a very minimalist design.

Though you still get full depth siping and small notches on corners.

The tire also makes wider lateral grooves between these lugs as well, though all shoulder blocks are joined together with secondary rubber layer running underneath.

Things are not so boring in the middle though, where triangular shaped ribs have deep notches rectilinear siping and vigorous off set edges in all directions.

They also make slanted lateral channels connecting the outer circumferential grooves, offer sufficient self cleaning of the tread.

Though with all those grooves, no stone ejectors are seen anywhere, which could have helped this tire further.

Detailed Review of Recon Grappler:

The Cooper Discoverer AT3 on the other hand, offers a very well optimized design for highways.

Cooper AT3 XLT
The joined up lugs (in pairs) of Cooper AT3 can be seen with wear.

I added the image of the tire, which I used for 25k miles approx, so that you can check out how the blocks run in pairs.

The central most rib is connected by supporting foundations underneath, whereas the ribs on sides have connectors in between.

And all lugs have full depth wave-like siping pattern.

Moving towards shoulders, the lugs have similar design, though they are staggered on outer margins, and make good enough lugs on sidewalls.

Moreover, these shoulder lugs have ridges in between them as well (connecting each other with the help of tie bars).

They also have foundational supports of secondary tread layer running underneath all lugs as well.

And yes although it’s not clearly visible in the image, these lugs have saw-tooth edges towards inner edges for snow traction (that’s why their technical term is “snow vices”).

Detailed Review of Cooper AT3 XLT:

Sizes Info

Nitto Recon Grappler comes in a total of 98 sizes, ranging from 16 to 24 inches. These sizes have following specs.

  • They are seen with speed ratings of either R or S.
  • Load ratings are seen with XL, D, E and F (no size is available with C).
  • The weight range of the tire goes from 40 lbs (seen in 265/50R20) to 83 lbs (seen in 37×13.50R24LT).
  • All sizes vary in tread depth where the least you’d find would be having at least 13/32″ and the most with 17/32″, though on average, most sizes you’d find would have 16/32″.
  • All sizes come with 55k miles warranty for LT sizes (65k for others).

Moving towards the Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT, this tire comes with 32 sizes in total (15″ to 20″ rim sizes) and they have following specs.

  • They have speed ratings of either R or S.
  • Load range: C to F.
  • Weight range: 44 lbs to 70 lbs.
  • Tread depth is seen to be either 16.5 or 17/32″ in all sizes.
  • All sizes have 60k miles warranty.

Off Road Traction

Off road you need tires with huge cleaning abilities. You also need durability to move confidently on all types of terrains, let’s see all these types of lands.

Rock climbing

Rocky terrains demand a lot of biters a long with durability.

And Recon Grappler has gotten both of these covered. It’s 3 ply sidewalls supplies you with a confidence inspiring ride, and the dual sidewall lugs on top offers better traction efficacy with lowered air pressures.

The Cooper Discoverer AT3, comparatively, offers less biters, where it’s sidewall lugs also need improvements, and it’s paired blocks in the middle with simplistic squared off design also need more biters, as they don’t grip as much.

Sandy Dunes

Sand is a soft terrain that requires a lot of driving skills as well as some tread features which include being lighter in weight, having a softer composition and thicker sidewalls which can act as traction scoops.

With 10 pounds lighter (comparing heaviest sizes on both), the Cooper Discoverer AT3 does better on slopes. It’s sides also have less sharpness to them, so they don’t try to dig in too much.

Nitto Recon Grappler on the other side with 3 ply polyester casing and extra cap ply yields a heavier construction, and on top of that, it’s sides have sharp staggered lugs which are not so capable of providing the forward momentum needed.

Muddy Terrains

Mud has a thick composition and it needs a lot of room to leave. That’s why tires with bigger grooves do good here.

All-terrain tires are less aggressive and they are not able to evacuate the mud out in time, causing them to get packed and stuck. So its best that you stay with them on lighter terrains.

Having said that, the Nitto Recon Grappler offers slightly wider grooves in comparison so its able to generate better evacuation capabilities.

It’s lateral and longitudinal grooves join together with the wider shoulder gaps and allow mud to escape in multiple directions at once, (meanwhile its sharp biters in the middle (of the tread), breakdown the mud particles so they can escape more easily).

Cooper Discoverer AT3, on the other side is very compacted up and it only offers longitudinal channels, restricting mud to leave out on sides.

Wet Performance

The Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT has superior wet traction due to its soft rubber tread compound and wave-like sipes.

It’s soaking rubber of the tread allows it to stretch and flex easily, which helps the sipes to effectively remove water coming underneath.

The tire’s 3D interlocking sipe structure also helps to maintain flexibility and prevent rigidity under heavy pressure.

In contrast, the Nitto Recon Grappler has fewer sipes (which are not even interlocking), and it yields a stiffer tread compound, which may not provide the same level of elasticity and water-wiping capabilities.

Another part contributing to wet traction is hydroplaning, and here both tires are quite similar presenting very similar float speeds.

Dry Performance

When it comes to dry highways, there are 3 things that you have to look, which includes grip, handling and the tire’s overall feedback to inputs.

Let’s talk about all of these.

Directional Grip

Directional grip simply put is a grip of the tire when it moves straight. It’s measured with braking capability and acceleration times.

Moving straight, the middle area of the tread get to have the most pressure, so how much contact a tire makes over there is very crucial.

And in comparison, the Cooper Discoverer AT3 gives you a lot more foot print, so it’s braking distances are shorter.

Steering Response

How well the tire responds to steering inputs tells you about the overall responsiveness.

Some tires are just vocal then the others, and here weight and sidewalls of the tire play a crucial role, they basically decide the continuity of contact (of lugs) with the road. The better the continuity, the better the tire’s feedback.

Nitto Recon Grappler lacks here in comparison, due to it’s heavier construction which takes more energy to change directions.

Whereas, Cooper Discoverer AT3, on the other hand, offers a more streamlined pattern, offering less resistance and under-steering.

Lateral Traction

Lateral traction of a tire is credited to it’s shoulder lugs. The tread structure and composition over there decides how well the shoulders are able to stick on roads when a tire corners.

(If you wondering why shoulders are considered here, the reason is, because while turning they have to bear the most weight of the vehicle, and they meet up with the road with a stronger bond).

Although the Nitto Recon Grappler lacks here slightly, its only by a small margin. The tire has a very on-road oriented shoulder design (with least amount of tread features), so it makes firm contact with the surface while cornering.

Fuel Consumption

How much fuel a tire uses depends on the rolling resistance of the tire. The more the resistance to “roll”, the more the energy required to move the tire, so more fuel is needed.

Nitto Recon Grappler having more mass requires more energy to maneuver. It’s lugs are pressured by its heavier weight, and they produce more rolling resistance, and as a result the tire consumes more fuel.

In comparison, the Cooper Discoverer AT3 gives you a more streamlined design with 4 longitudinal channels, so even though it’s softer rubber sticks on the surface, it still produces better fuel efficiency.

Tread Life

The overall mileage a tire gives, although depends on rolling resistance as well, it’s not directly related.

This is because there are other variables as well, including compound composition, and tread depth, being the two most significant ones.

Nitto Recon Grappler although yields a harder rubber composition in its tread, it still does not last as longer.

This is because the tire has almost similar tread depth compered to Cooper AT3, and its heavier structure puts more pressure on it’s lugs which rubs off with larger force and burn it off quicker.

Comfort and Noise

Both comfort and noise decide how much of the ride quality a tire can bring.

Noise is just air striking around the tread. That’ why passenger tires which are not as voided as all-terrain tires, do so good.

Having said that, the Cooper Discoverer AT3 generates far superior results as it offer Whisper Groove Technology.

With this the shoulder grooves are closed up with tie bars/connectors in between. These restrict the air movement (prevents it to go in), and so less air hits the tread and less noise is produced.

Nitto Recon Grappler on the other side, has open shoulder voids and there’s no stopping air there, though it offers a decent pitch sequencing values, which Nitto calls variable ptich technology.

And it reduces the noise by producing different pitches across the tread as air hits, (with this, different tone frequencies are generated and they cancel out each other to dampen the noise levels). Though its still louder in comparison.

Winter Performance

Winter performance has a lot of variables. And considering off road tires, some of them do better on lighter terrains (snowy roads), while others are great in dealing with deeper snow. But these tires are usually not so great with ice though.

Having said that, the Cooper AT3 is a better tire for lighter snowy terrains, where it’s full depth siping and snow vices come in to action. Moreover, this is the only tire here with 3pmsf rating, which makes sense.

The tire also has the benefit of flexible tread, so it stays soft even with freezing negative temperatures.

In comparison, Recon Grappler has bigger notches and biters which trap in the snow better on deeper terrains. With this tire is able to make a good snow to snow contact, while the extra snow leaves out of the tire, so it does not becomes a giant snowball.

Key Takeaway

Nitto Recon Grappler and the Cooper Discoverer AT3 are although both all-terrain tires, they are the very ends of the all-terrain spectrum.

Meaning Cooper AT3 is better on roads, whereas with more aggressive structure (both internally and externally), the Nitto Recon Grappler is able to handle tougher tracks off-road.

Though it’s shoulder lugs are very on road optimized as well, and because of it it’s handling performance is considerable, though the tire needs wet handling grip badly.

But it’s amazing how to see how this tire with so little siping have 3 peak mountain snowflake ratings (like the Cooper AT3), despite not having multiple sipes like winter tires.

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