Cooper Evolution M/T (35X12.50R17) Initial Impressions on the 5th Gen 4Runner
After putting 20K miles on the Toyo Xtreme AT 2s (285/75R17 – 33.8″), I was ready for something bigger, and more specifically a Mud-Terrain (M/T). Although the ATs have performed extremely well under the circumstances I put them through, they were never going to perform like a true MT.
After a recent trip wheeling, I saw a few 3rd Gens all equipped with MTs getting over obstacles much easier than me with the ATs. The conditions were slick, muddy, and wet – composed of large loose rocks, moguls, ledges all with steep ascents. Aired down to 18 psi – I had no chance of producing Mud-Terrain tire results with All-Terrain tires.
My other Mud Terrains
After I put about 3K miles on the Tread Wright Guard Dogs (our MGM 2016 TEP), they started to get a bit loud on the freeway. Nothing a little music can’t fix but for a daily driver they are on the loud side. With this in mind, I was hesitant at first to run Mud-Terrains on the white 4Runner (our 2014 TEP). And with all respect, noise is to be expected with most Mud Terrain tires, especially after a few thousand miles, it comes with the territory.
After owning three 5th Gen 4Runners, I have run the Michelin Defenders, Bridgestone Duelers, Toyo AT 2 Extreme, BFG KO2s, Nitto Terra Grapplers, and the Tread Wright Guard Dogs. All of these tires have a place of their own – all with a different purpose. Today though, we are talking about a high-quality brand name Mud-Terrain tire, the Cooper Evolution M/T.
How did we end up on the Cooper Evolution M/T?
- 315/70/17 or 35×12.5×17
- Light Weight
- Mud Terrain
- M+S or 3PMSF Certification
- Great off-road performance
- Decent road manners
- Minimal road noise
In my decision of moving from 34″ to 35″ tires, my two main points to keep in mind; weight and road noise. I wanted a true 35″ Mud-Terrain that was on the lighter end of the spectrum all while having good road manners.
An added bonus would be that they were more affordable than the competition I was considering; BFG and Toyo. At the end of the day, the Cooper Evolution M/T checked all the boxes.
Why 35″ Tires?
The saying really does apply here, bigger is usually better. Not in all cases, but in the case of wheeling, the larger tires are worth the on-road sacrifice.
With an upgrade of tires – many changes occur. From the way the 4Runner accelerates and brakes to its general road manners and cornering – the new unsprung mass and newly found rotational mass takes some getting used to. Keep in mind, there is a difference between unsprung mass and rotational mass, however in this case, the two are related.
I have run everything from a 31″ to a 35″ on the 5th Gen now and can honestly say there is no better upgrade (aside from a locked differential) than a large tire. Yes – they are larger and heavier than most commonly run 33″ tires but the benefit you will see off-road is well worth the time and energy to get there.
Larger tires are the difference in making it over that one rock, or not. With more surface area and increased flotation, your efforts off-road over obstacles become easier and more comfortable.
Why Stop at 35″ Tires?
Making the move to 35″ tires is a good place for most 5th Gen 4Runners on extended travel shocks looking to take it as far as possible. If you want to run anything over 35″ tires, I recommend a long-travel suspension. There are guys out there running 36″ and 37″ tires on IFS but with that, comes long-travel suspension kits.
If I were to consider larger than 35″ tires, I would look at the Marlin Crawler RCLT (Rock Crawling Long Travel). That is about a strong as you can get for a long travel kit while keeping IFS intact.
Going with 35″ tires is actually pretty easy in the grand scheme of the build. Yes, you need to make many modifications in order for them to fit, and on top of that, you should regear your truck. But at the end of the day, it’s worth every second and penny once you get to the trail.
A fellow author on the blog, Max Sheehan has written a few overviews of their products. First their Discoverer AT3 XLT™ (a true all-terrain yet highly on-road focused) along with their Discoverer S/T MAXX™ (built for heavy off-road use with the road in mind).
After reading through multiple detailed first-hand experiences – I was sold on Cooper. Max is not the only one who runs Cooper. Many other guys have written articles on Cooper Tires here.
Just use the search bar on the website and type in “cooper” to see more. That should take you here.
KM3 Vs. Open Country Vs. Cooper Evolution M/T
I looked at the Toyo MTs along with the BFG KM3s but heard from guys personally that both can be quite loud. The BFG KM3s have great reviews all the way around but are more expensive and heavier than the Cooper Evolution M/T.
They are both pretty close when it comes to a well-designed, aggressive Mud-Terrain with good road manners but Cooper flat out wins on weight, tread depth, and price.
The Cooper Evolution M/T sits at almost $50-$75/tire less than the KM3 per tire. For weight, the Cooper Evolution MT comes in at over 10lbs less per than the KM3 and the Toyo Open County MT. That’s a total of almost 40lbs in weight reduction, which when thrown into a rotational mass formula will equate to much more.
To me, it’s almost a no-brainer to make the move on Coopers over BFG or Toyo. They are lighter, more affordable, have more aggressive shoulders, a deeper tread depth, and backed by a brand name that owns Dick Cepek and Mickey Thompson; two of the most trusted off-road tire brands in the industry.
To top all of it off, most reviews claimed they were very quiet for an MT.
Why Cooper Evolution M/T?
This is what the Cooper tire performance ratings are for this tire (out of 10 – with 10 being the best).
- Dry Performance: 6
- Wet Performance: 6
- Tread Wear: 4
- Quiet Ride: 3
- Handling: 5
- Off-Road: 6
- Price: Check Price
Cooper is being really modest here because most of these numbers should reflect higher ratings to me. To start, the off-road, dry, and wet performance should all be at least a point higher and the quiet ride should be at least 3 points higher.
Keep in mind this is an initial impression review – not a 5k or 10k mile review so that quiet ride number may go back down but for now, it gets a 6 in my book. This was one of my most important deciding factors on an MT so I am stoked that this is such a mild MT on-road while being super capable off-road.
Dry Performance / Quiet Ride / On-Road
Impressive to say the least.
The on-road performance during dry conditions has been impressive so far. When fully aired up (37 psi) from the tire shop, these EVO MTs are very quiet, almost whisper quiet. However, with that much pressure in a set of MTs, you will see a bit of steering wheel shake at speeds of 50-70. In order to find my happy medium, I let about 4 psi out of each tire. The noise level went up a bit but the steering wheel shake stopped completely.
When aired to 34 psi, you have less noise than the STT Pro which I have heard on other trucks from inside the cabin. And, the STT Pro is not a loud tire, I am just comparing something similar. I am actually looking at running the STT Pro on Jade (our 2016 TEP) in order to compare the tires back to back.
On the highway at 50-70, these EVO MTs are really well mannered in terms of noise. Once the psi is dropped a bit, they don’t sound like your traditional mud-terrain at all.
On-road and around town, these tires are great. They are very mellow and offer a very comfortable ride.
You will feel the sluggishness off the line if you are not geared down to a lower gear ratio. I will be going with 4.88s from Nitro here soon and that should help get us back to that “factory feeling” of power.
General Off-Road Performance
- Earth Diggers: Large lugs (tread blocks) at the edge of the tire with the alternating scoops at every other tread block. These are massive lugs with a reinforced rubber compound that is designed to grip and claw at whatever terrain you are on.
- Mud Slingers: Massive grooves in between the large earth diggers lugs. This tread pattern is designed to sling mud, sand, or snow from in between the lugs in order to give you a fresh contact point. Be careful because these mud slingers will sling/throw rocks and mud all over.
- Trail Grip Sidewall: When aired down at low psi and or rock crawling, this sidewall helps keep good traction through sand, snow, rock, and loose gravel.
- Stone Ejectors: Little grooves in between the lugs that help prevent rocks from getting stuck in between the lugs. Be careful once you get back on the road. If you fail to remove the rocks that did get stuck, they can come out fast.
From what these tires have seen so far, they have done very well. I have put them through the last of the winter season, so everything from melting snow runoff and mild rain to severe storms. The EVO MT has well defined siping in the lugs to improve wet and slick road traction. They have performed as expected on steep downgrades when braking hard.
Although, I am not a huge fan of the mud, sometimes you have to go through it. And when push comes to shove, these EVO MTs will perform. We put them through a day of mud and boy do these tires have some serious traction, it’s impressive really. But, you would expect nothing less from true mud-terrain tires.
Aired way down to a 12-14 psi, the floatation on these tires is unbelievable. We were driving through 1.5′ – 2′ drifts keeping up with SAS built 1st gens and JKs on 37s. Literally, I have never felt more capable and confident in my truck until now. Especially in terms of keeping up with the big boys. We pushed through everything from fresh powder to tight-packed snowbanks, to drifts and slushy patches. This tread pattern kicks ass in the snow, especially deep drifts, powder, and making fresh lines.
It’s also a studdable tire so if you are in a climate calling for studs, this is a great option for you. Growing up in Quincy, CA – all of my parent’s trucks had studded tires. They make a huge difference, especially when you’re hitting steep grades and shaded portions of the road where ice freezes corner-patches.
All in all I would give this tire an A+ or 10/10 in the snow category for a mud terrain.
Most mud terrains are not typically great in the snow, they tend to fill up with snow instead of ejecting it. With that said, the Cooper Evo MTs still threw snow left and right. Maybe it’s their “stone ejector” or “mud slinger” design. Whatever it is, the EVO MT does quite well when it comes to self-cleaning lugs in the snow.
Crawling up sections of rocks has never been easier. The EVO MTs are true rock tires. They crawl, claw and grip at rocks with ease. This section was fun. I maybe did crawled up this 4-5 times.
What I was unable to do with a set of All Terrains, I am now able to do with these Evolution Mud Terrains and likely so much more. Being able to air down to a lower psi while increasing my approach angle has given me more confidence to crawl through challenging sections.
I can’t wait for this summer and crawling through sections I was never able to before.
In the grand scheme of 35″ tires, the Cooper Evolution MTs are competitively priced. When you look at Cooper in general, they own some of the most dependable tires in the game. From all-terrains to mud-terrains, Cooper is quickly becoming one of the more popular brands that guys are running.
Again, the Cooper Evolution M/T sits at almost $50-$75/tire less than the KM3 per tire.
- Price: Check Price
If you have any questions, let me know.