As any truck or 4×4 owner knows, a new set of wheels and tires is probably the most dramatic way to upgrade the appearance and performance of a new vehicle. Even if the vehicle’s suspension system hasn’t been upgraded and some lift put in yet, a new set of tires and wheels can surprisingly alter the character of any pickup or SUV.
No tire and wheel manufacturer understands this better than Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels. The company has a complete line of tires, that when matched with a set of the company’s aftermarket wheels, can completely change the look of any vehicle.
Mickey Thompson Tires has been involved in the tire making business about as long as people have been driving cars and trucks in the dirt. And even better, they really know they’re doing when it comes to designing rubber for trucks and SUVs that get dirty.
For those of you who have been living in a cave, Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson was an American off-road racing legend. He won multiple racing championships, and later formed sanctioning bodies “SCORE International” that to this day produce desert off-road races, and “Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group” (MTEG) that more or less invented the concept of indoor off-road vehicle racing shows and competitions bringing the sport from desert terrain into stadiums in metropolitan areas.
During his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to off-road vehicles. He went into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960s and created Mickey Thompson Performance Tires, which developed special tires for racing.
The latest offering from Mickey Thompson is the Baja ATZ P3, a hybrid tire that offers all-terrain and mud-terrain tread designs combined and is ideal for pickups and SUVs. We used the Mickey Metal JK to evaluate a set.
That company has grown exponentially, and today produces tires for the strip, street, trucks and off road, as well as a full line of performance aftermarket wheels. One of its newest truck tires is the Baja ATZ P3 radial that we wanted to put to the test here on Off Road Xtreme.
“This is a next-Gen tire for us and one of the most progressive all-terrain tires Mickey Thompson has ever developed,” said Ken Warner, VP sales and marketing at Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels.
The Baja ATZ P3
The Baja ATZ P3 radial is specifically designed for trucks and sport-utility vehicles, and it features quite an aggressive appearance. The new tire has a unique “hybrid” design that offers a cross between an all-terrain and mud-terrain tread pattern to provide the best of both worlds in one tire choice.
This hybrid design combined with a broad footprint, large tread blocks and open voids helps deliver the traction you need in dry rock and course sand environments as well as muddy ground situations.
The Baja ATZ P3 also features one of Mickey Thompson Tires’ signature construction features that adds to its off-road traction capabilities. Along the top edges of the sidewalls is something that MT calls “Sidebiters.”
Raised lettering identifies this as a Mickey Thompson product and provides tire size, as well as proper wheel size information. A-shaped Sidebiters are clearly seen integrated into the shoulder tread, providing added traction. The Baja ATZ P3 delivers both, all-terrain and mud-terrain performance in a single tire.
These Sidebiters are sharp, aggressive A-shaped ridges formed into the tire carcass that actually “bite” into the inside of a rut created by the tire in sand, mud or other soft earth, and help the tire grab traction and move the vehicle forward through that soil.
For those truck owners who want an aggressive tire on their daily driver, but don’t want the problems associated with using a mud-terrain on the street, the Baja ATZ P3 resolves some of those issues. Its unique tread design helps reduce noise, yet provides the needed traction in rugged terrain and nasty conditions.
As well, the multi-draft grooves enhance the tire’s ability to clean itself; the tread design provides stability and braking performance; and a new rubber compound use in the construction of the tire promotes improved cut and chip protection.
Tire sizes range from 30.8 to 36.7-inches in overall diameter, and fitments are available for wheels from 15 to 20 inches.
Down And Dirty
To try them out, we borrowed the Mickey Thompson Tires’ “Mickey Metal” Project Jeep JK with a new set of 37/12.50/R17 Baja ATZ P3 tires mounted up to 17×9-inch Mickey Metal Series SideBiter wheels.
The 2007 Jeep is powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. It also stands high on a BDS 6-1/2-inch tall, Long Arm Suspension System with Fox 2.0 shocks. The axles carry 5.16:1-ratio ring and pinions to help keep big meats like the 37s the Mikey Metal Jeep was running from bogging down the engine.
The JK Unlimited carries quite a number of other modifications, far too many for us to elaborate on in this tire evaluation. However, stay tuned for the full feature story on the Mickey Metal Project coming soon right here on Off Road Xtreme!
Our first feel for the Baja ATX PZ3s mounted to the shiny red, white and black Mickey Metal Jeep was on the pavement. Around town and on the highway, the 37s ran smooth, and although there was some tread noise at speed, it was subdued by comparison to any mud-terrains we’ve previously driven on.
We could hear the finer notes of the tunes issuing from the Kenwood stereo system inside the vehicle without blasting the speakers. And a conversation could be carried on that didn’t need to be so loud that it seemed like a heated debate.
When we reached our destination and hit some more rugged terrain, we really appreciated that the Baja ATZ P3s had aggressively designed shoulder lugs that in concert with the Sidebiters helped grab the ground, whatever it might be. Special ribs designed into the tire’s grooves assisted in quickly ejecting stones before we got back on the highway, and the wide voids helped keep other debris from loading the tire up and having it become a slick.
Mickey Metal SideBiter wheels made the match for the Baja ATZ P3 tires. The asymmetrical design of the tread blocks hint at the key to their bite and self-cleaning ability. The 37s fit just right on a vehicle such as the Mickey Metal Project with its 6-1/2 inches of suspension lift.
Flotation characteristics of the tire were pretty good, and its performance in course sand was fair, although we were not prepared to venture too low in air pressure and try the dunes, as these wheels were not equipped with bead locks. The Baja ATZ P3s showed outstanding grip-tion on rock surfaces, and we had no trouble crawling up on stones of any size when testing the tires.
Because these particular tires were made for trucks, the load capacity of the tires was an essential part of the design. Load capacities range from 2,270 to 3,750 pounds.
The design of the Baja ATZ P3 tire make it an exceptionally good off-road tire with a more quiet highway ride than expected. — Ken Warner
With the weight of a trailer behind your vehicle, the sidewalls must be sturdy to help prevent the vehicle from squirming, especially during cornering, braking, and during windy conditions. With tall tires such as these 37s, the steering can feel slow to respond.
Although we did not have the opportunity to tow a trailer with the test vehicle, steering with the big tires was responsive, and we feel that the wider-than-typical-OEM tire width that is provided by the Baja ATZ P3 will also deliver a noticeable difference in towing handling.
Pickup truck and 4×4 enthusiasts will also appreciate that the new Mickey Thompson tire is available in sizes ranging from 31×10.50R15LT to 37×12.50R20LT.
Mickey Thompson Tires‘ new Baja ATZ P3 turned out to be a rugged truck tire with good street and off-road credentials. Because of its hybrid features that make it suitable for the highway, dry and wet off-highway terrain, the ATZ P3 can be mounted on a set of smart looking wheels to make your daily driver look good and work great, too. And better yet, they will play nice and keep you rockin’ to your favorite tunes both on and OFF road, which is exactly what we like!
Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme for more down and dirty tire tests firsthand, and the follow up full feature on Project Mickey Metal.