Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
September 30, 2016
Photos By: Courtesy of Cooper Tire

It’s fairly obvious that tires don’t seem to last very long on Mustangs. Sure, burnouts and parking lot donuts don’t help, but in all fairness the typical Mustang GT is shod with Ultra High Performance (UHP) tires, which historically do not have a long tread life. UHP tires traditionally give up tread life for traction ability and can often have Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) treadwear ratings of just 100 in some cases (the higher the number the longer the tread life). That soft tread compound is what makes the tire sticky and grip the road, but that same soft compound wears at a much higher rate than other passenger car tires and often is no match for heavy rains and light snow situations that the typical all-season tire can handle with aplomb.

While a “summer” UHP is capable of water evacuation to maintain handling in wet weather, the tread design often will not handle extremes of water, such as heavy rains and standing water all that well; and forget about snowy conditions all together. Adding an all-season tire to a performance car like the Mustang might sound counter-productive, but if you live in a climate where you see heavy torrential rains or drive your Mustang all year long and see light snow driving, then yes, an all-season tread compound would be more fitting. But what if you could combine the benefits of a UHP performance tire and the wet/snow handling and higher treadwear of an all-season tire into one product? The lab coats at Cooper Tire have done just that with its new Cooper Zeon RS3-G1; a UHP all-season tire with a 500 treadwear rating that is capable of supporting 1g in cornering!

The Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 is the perfect replacement tire for late-model Mustangs that want to maintain great dry traction and improve on wet and snow traction capabilities while lasting up to 50,000 miles.
When our Race Red Mustang GT pulled up at the arrivals curb at the airport we spotted the Zeon RS3-G1 logo next to the chrome 5.0 emblem and we knew were in for a fun ride to the hotel!

Cooper Tire has been in the rubber business for over 100 years and is one of just a few manufacturers founded and still in the United States. Their current Zeon RS3-S, which can be found as the OE tire on Roush Mustangs, is certainly capable of 1g in cornering as well, but is a UHP summer tire with but a 20,000 mile treadwear warranty. The Cooper Zeon RS3-A, the all-season option in the Zeon RS3 line, offers increased wet weather handling and a 45,000 mile treadwear warranty. The new Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 captures the best of these two tires with increased dry and wet traction, and even light snow usage, with a 50,000 mile treadwear warranty!

The Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 is designed with a new silica tread compound that provides for optimum all-season performance, improves braking, and offers lower rolling resistance to improve fuel economy. The 3D Micro-Gauge sipes built into the tread blocks reduce tread squirm under extreme handling and braking by locking the tread blocks together. For light snow use the Winter-Edge of the tread block locks in snow to increase snow-on-snow traction. You’ll also find such features as Cooper’s Wear Square, a square indicator in the center rib of the tire that shows remaining tread life by changing shape as the tire wears. A five-rib asymmetrical tire tread pattern also means that the tires have a more robust outside shoulder block design for enhanced cornering traction. On the inboard side of the tread pattern a higher sipe density provides better traction in wet and light snow conditions as well. The Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 is currently available in 37 popular fitments from 16-20 inches that will fit everything from Fox era on up to the S550 Mustang for OE replacement.

The 3D Micro-Gauge sipes are a series of convex and concave mold marks made in the tire that help the tread blocks lock together for enhanced stability. In the first photo is a typical tread block with its smooth sipe. The second photo shows the 3D Micro-Gauge sipe and how the blocks lock together when pushed together during cornering.

Thanks to an invite from Cooper Tire, we were recently given the chance to try out the new Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 ourselves. Cooper graciously had a 2017 Mustang GT waiting for us upon arrival at the airport fitted with the new RS3-G1 in the OE size on the factory Mustang wheels. Being south Florida in the end of summer it was no surprise that afternoon rain showers made several roads barely navigable with standing water and heavy rainfall. A bit of a white knuckle ride in a 435 horsepower Mustang GT, but the new RS3-G1s shed the water amazingly well and we never once felt unsure of the wet handling or felt any loss of traction/hydroplaning during our drive.

On our second day of evaluation we were strapped into one of the Ray Formula cars of the Lucas Oil School of Racing at Palm Beach International Raceway. Cooper is the official tire of the driving school and all of the school cars were fitted with Zeon RS3-G1s for our day of track use. We were quite surprised, pushing the school cars to our limits (and sadly a little beyond, check out the video for more!), that the tires held up so well under track day conditions and showed such little wear at the end of the track session. They never got greasy and they gave off just enough noise to let you know where the limits were in braking and cornering. We were so impressed with the new Zeon RS3-G1, especially for wet weather we have here in Florida, that we ordered a set of them for our Fox Mustang. We’ll be installing them soon and will follow up with some real world daily driving reports on the Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 right here on, so stay tuned!

Cooper’s Visual Wear Indicator (VWI) on the Zeon RS3-G1 is called the Wear Square. This indicator is found on the center rib of the tread and changes shape as the tire wears. Traditional wear bars are also found across the tread face as well.
Outside tread blocks on the asymmetrical pattern of the Zeon RS3-G1 help with cornering and provide extra grip.
Don’t let the small size of the Rays Formula fool you. These are full on race machines with 2.0L EFI engines, sequential transmissions controlled by paddle shifters (they’ll even blip the throttle on down shifts!), and go like mad. We saw upwards of 115 mph on Palm Beach International Raceway’s big stretch and were amazed at the cornering and braking abilities with full tread depth street tires mounted. If you’ve never driven an open wheel race car before we highly suggest you check out the Lucas Oil School of Racing!