Sometimes you get lucky and stumble into a wheel and tire combo that just clicks for you and your vehicle. The stars shine, stormy seas part, angels sing, and killer traction is yours in every terrain you and your 4x4 frequent. They roll smooth, quiet, and round on the street with no funky treadwear, and they look good to boot. That was the perfect combo we broke up in order to test Mickey Thompson’s new Baja ATZP3 on our ’89 Wrangler. Indeed, it was with more than a little trepidation that we drove our Wrangler to our local Discount Tire store to have our trusty old 31s removed and a quintet of 31x10.50R15LT Mickey Thompson ATZP3s mounted and balanced. However, within the first mile leaving Discount Tire, our fears subsided. And once we got 100 feet down our first trail with the new ATZP3s, we knew we had traded up. Click.
Mickey Thompson claims the ATZP3 is a hybrid design intended to fill the gap between all-terrain and mud-terrain tires. Sure, the voids aren’t huge like a mud-terrain tire, but the tread has “multi-draft” grooves to aid self-cleaning and extended sidewall tread reminiscent of Mickey Thompson’s beloved polyester and fiberglass Baja Belted tires so we got cocky. Some rare SoCal desert rain allowed us to test the limits of the design’s mojo in the muddy, alluvial soil near the Salton Sea. When this dirt gets wet, it takes on a taffy-like consistency and sticks to itself. The end result was the tread blocks struggled to clear themselves and we wound up driving around on huge mud donuts. But based on previous experience in these conditions, the same thing happens to aggressive purpose-built tires like a Swamper TSL or Krawler, so no real lessons learned there other than hammer down every now and then to spin the tires enough to eject mud with centrifugal force.
Having confirmed the obvious—that gnarly mud ain’t the ATZP3’s thing—we moved on to other terrain. For starters, if all you do is rockcrawl and scoot across hard-packed dirt, you really should be looking hard at this tire. At 8 psi, they flat out stick like glue. It’s partially in the tread design (lots of little siped tread blocks like a trials bike tire), but it’s also in the tread compound. In addition to providing very good grip on all kinds of rock from sandstone to slick granite, the new T4 compound is more chip and puncture resistant than previous offerings. Even after some severely rough riding over shale, broken granite, and other tire shredding terrain, we were very impressed to see our tread blocks and sidewalls virtually unmarred. We’ve put other tire types through this same wringer, only to have them come out looking like we did a burnout on top of a huge cheese grater. The T4 compound must be pretty good stuff.
In looser soil, like gravelly hillclimbs and sandy washes, we noted some wheelhop and chatter with the tires at our self-imposed 28-psi street pressure. That said, dropping the pressure for our 3,000-pound four-cylinder Wrangler to 14 psi was all it took to allow the underpowered Jeep to scoot up hill and over dale like some amped-up cartoon character who still said corny stuff like “hill and dale.” The tread didn’t pack with looser soil, and even when brush busting on a buddy’s property, we had no issues with sharp sticks or tree limbs. The ATZP3s proved tough little buggers to the point we began to consider our spare superfluous cargo. On dirt roads back at our street pressure, we found our Jeep now stuck like glue to corners we formerly enjoyed four-wheel-drifting through with our old tires. It wasn’t as much fun, but it definitely was a whole lot safer. So add lateral traction on hard-pack into these tires’ bag of tricks.
It’s always hard to evaluate tire tread noise when your test vehicle is an open-top 4x4 that’s 26 years old, but with some diligent attention (and killing the engine and coasting at opportune moments), we’re fully prepared to officially label these tires “quiet.” And as well as they grip off-road, they grip even better on-road. They’d be perfect for the multipurpose rig in your life, and given Mickey Thompson’s new PowerPly sidewall design that adds load carrying capability and stability, they’d be equally at home on a tow rig that needs to venture down the occasional dirt road or sandy wash. Honestly, about the only negative we can toss their way is that the ATZP3s are about 10 pounds heavier apiece than the old tires they replaced, so we do feel a drop in acceleration with our weak little four-cylinder. However, apples-to-oranges, those tires were two-ply sidewalls that we always worried about off-road. The Mickey Thompson ATZP3s give us a feeling of invincibility when we’re out in the bad stuff, and that’s security that’s worth the weight.
Tire: Mickey Thompson Baja ATZP3
Load range: C
Max load (lbs): 2,270
Sidewall construction: Three-ply polyester
Tread construction: Three-ply polyester, two-ply steel, one-ply nylon
Approved rim width (in): 7-9
Tread depth (in): 18.5⁄32
Tread width (in): 8.4
Section width (in): 11.3
Overall diameter (in): 30.8
Maximum psi: 50
Weight (lbs): 45