Continental TerrainContact AT vs Michelin Defender LTX MS


With symmetric tread pattern designed for maximum grip, both the Continental TerrainContact AT and the Michelin Defender LTX MS are tasked with exhibiting certain attributes. Let’s take a closer look to determine which one is a better fit for you.

Michelin Defender LTX MS
Michelin Defender LTX MS comes in all season category, though it’s one of the most aggressive there.

Being a tire engineer, from my perspective, the Continental TerrainContact A/T is a superior tire to have if you consider dry traction, on-road noise, tread life (only better with LT sizes), and winter performance. Moreover, being A/T it also does better on rugged off-road tracks. On the other side, the Defender LTX MS features better traction on wet asphalts, and supplies you with superior fuel economy. Moreover, comparing non-LT sizes, the tire is considerably better in terms of treadwear (and sand grip).

Sizes Facts

The Continental TerrainContact AT comes in a total of 38 sizes, in 16 to 20 inches with following specs.

  • Speed rating: S, T, H, and V
  • Load ratings: from SL to E
  • Weight Range: 28 to 67 lbs
  • Tread Depth: 12 to 16/32″
  • Tread warranty: 60k miles

Detailed review of this tire:

On the other hand, the Michelin Defender LTX MS comes with 68 total sizes, in 15 to 22 inches. And they have the following specs.

  • Speed ratings: R, T and H
  • Load ratings: SL, XL, C and E
  • Tread depth: 10 to 13/32″
  • Weight range: 25 to 60 lbs
  • Not rated with 3PMSF ratings
  • 70k miles for P metric, and 50k miles for LT sizes.

Detailed review of this tire:

Learn how to read tire sizes.

Tread Design

Let’s take a look at Michelin Defender LTX MS first.

Michelin Defender LTX MS
Michelin Defender LTX MS features straight forward blocky structure of its lugs.

So this tire presents with basic 5 rib design, where in the middle there are 4 longitudinal channels seen.

All these ribs carry similar blocks, with full depth wave-like siping, off-set edges, and their lateral gaps act as in-groove notches.

The shoulder lugs are elongated, but they carry similar features.

Though these lugs don’t have interlocking pattern of the lateral voids they make.

Moreover, being an all-season tire, their outer edges are not staggered. Nor the tire makes any kind of sidewall lugs.

Though the shoulder lugs extend down a little bit and that helps on mild off-road tracks, with lowered air pressure.

On the other hand, the Continental TerrainContact A/T although is more aggressive, it’s still very on-road oriented, especially when you compare it with other all-terrain tires.

Continental TerrainContact A/T
Continental TerrainContact A/T features a more open design, but only form the middle. It’s shoulder lugs are more packed up, comparatively.

It features a very closed up lugs arrangement, especially on the outer ribs (shoulders).

These lugs are very blocky, and their lateral gaps have bold connectors in between.

Moreover, they also don’t feature any staggered edges, though they do extend down a bit more towards the sidewalls.

The middle section of the tread, separated by wider longitudinal grooves, contain 3 ribs.

They carry multiple biters, and make very tough passing pathways of tread voids.

Ride Quality

The overall ride quality depends on a lot of factors, including tread structure, tire sizes, inflation pressure, suspension and so on. And considering all these variables, let me divide this section in to two parts (see below).

Tread Noise

When it comes to all-terrain tires, my testing shows me that the Continental TerrainContact A/T is the quietest of all (in both LT and P metric sizes).

That’s why I ranked it in my list of top all time best all terrain tires, which you can find here:

Noise has to do with air which mostly enters in through the outer area on the tread, and since this tire comes with connectors between the shoulder blocks (see in tread section above), a lot of that air is blocked form coming in and striking the tread walls, generating unwanted sounds.

Moreover, it also provides you with better pitch sequencing technology, so the little air that still manages to come in gets to produce different tones (due to varying geometry of the tread blocks).

And those differences in tones and frequencies cancel out each other to dampen the overall noise level.

The Defender LTX MS, on the other hand, although has packed up shoulder lugs too, the lateral groove are still spacious and allow more air particles to reach the tread voids.

Though the tire does better in second part of overall ride quality (explained below).

Impact Comfort

How well a tire settles the bumps off the ground is also a major part of overall comfort. And here with softer tread composition, the Defender LTX M/S is taking the lead.

It’s structure is better designed to flex and compress when encountering a bumpy surface, whereas in case of Continental AT, its stiffer compound feels more jittery, especially on dirt filled roads.

Side Note: If comfort is your priority, make sure you get tires with lower load ratings.

Dry Performance

Dry traction is although dependent on a lot of factors, the main ones are directional and lateral grip, combined with steering response. This means you need maximum footprint to meet with the road, along with stability.

That’s why the Continental TerrainContact AT offers superior abilities here. It’s shoulder lugs are more blocky and packed up, comparatively, and account for shorter handling times, while it’s central section even with wider tread voids, supply better efficacy, as they have firmer foundational supports.

The Defender LTX MS on the other hand, although offers closed up lug arrangement as well, it’s softer compound makes those blocks wiggle and bend more as the tire corners, or brakes (for example).

This flexing of the lugs result in poorer balance between over and understeering. That’s why the tire could only offer speed ratings up to H, whereas Continental A/T gives you up to V (though its only available on 255/55/R19).

For Your Info: The TerrainContact A/T is the fastest all terrain tire.

Wet Traction

On wet roads, there are two things at play, grip which comes from sipes, and hydroplaning resistance which has to do with tread voids.

Majority of water is escaped out through multiple grooves, while the remaining has to be dealt with sipes, which offer slits, where water gets accumulated/sucked in (and surface is cleared that way).

Out of both tires, although both offer similar resistance to hydroplaning with their wide enough aqua channels, the overall wet traction is still seen better on Michelin Defender LTX MS, as the tire features more siping.

Furthermore, it’s sipes also features a much better structure. They have a wave-like pattern, (like I showed you in the tread section) and so they don’t get stiffer with the tire braking, cornering and accelerating.

In comparison, the TerrainContact A/T comes with a more rigid tread compound and rectilinear siping, so its siping slits aren’t that flexible to create as much suction for the water particles, limiting overall grip. Though it’s overall performance is not too bad, and only lacking by a margin here.

Fuel Consumption

Grip comes at a price, literally. That’s why, where the Continental TerrainContact AT gives you speed ratings up to V, also comes with high rolling resistance baggage.

It’s interlocking central structure, with in-groove notches and full depth sipes, is very sticky on pavements, so its required with more fuel to move, relatively.

The Defender LTX MS on the other side, features a more streamlined structure, with straight-forward longitudinally aligned ribs, providing better fuel efficacy when rolling on highways (where you run straight).

Tread Life

With higher rolling resistance values, the Continental A/T is also lacking here as well.

Besides having a more biting structure, it’s greater weight puts more pressure on it’s comparatively spaced apart lugs, as they burn with the road.

Whereas, each lug on Michelin Defender LTX MS carries a smaller amount of distributed weight on itself.

Though this only goes for non-LT sizes, whereas for LT, the overall tread wear is almost the same for both these boys.

This is because the TerrainContact A/T comes with 16/32″ of tread on its LT sizes, so although it still wears faster, it takes longer to reach down to 2/32″ of legal tread depth limit.

That’s why where this tire comes with 60k miles warranty on all sizes, the Defender gives 70 for P-metrics and only 50k for LT.

Winter Traction

Although both tires offer all-season traction, they don’t get to have 3 peak mountain snowflake ratings.

Nonetheless, they are still not too bad after all, and out of them, the Continental A/T supplies better results. Let me explain why.

When it comes to winter traction, the most important thing is to make snow to snow contact. That’s why TerrainContact offering better snow grabbing abilities, supplies superior traction.

It comes with snow vices on outer longitudinal grooves, and interlocking central voids, with blocks having in-groove notches, and all of them lodge snow particles in with much more ease, contacting the ground with them.

The Michelin LTX MS in comparison, only holds snow with its wave-like siping, which is enough to create as much traction as its counterpart.

Rock Climbing Performance

When climbing rocks, you need a lot of grip, and in all directions. Moreover, as this terrain type is the most puncturing, you also need some solid durability with that as well.

In case of durability although both tires are equal, with their 2 ply polyesters, 2 steel belts, and nylon cap plies, the grip part is seen better on Continental TerrainContact A/T.

The tire’s interlocking central biters, supply grip both longitudinal and lateral angles, whereas it’s sidewall lugs spread out with lowered air pressure to enhance climbing abilities.

On the other hand, in case of Michelin Defender LTX MS, the tire although offers good enough lateral traction and stability, it’s forward momentum during climb is not as impressive. Moreover, its also missing with sidewall lugs, so reducing air PSI doesn’t do much for it on rocks.

Note: Although both tires, don’t offer aggressive enough sidewalls, the LT sizes on TerrainContact A/T have a better sidewall lug design.

Mud Traction

Mud is the greatest enemy of all terrain tires, as they don’t offer enough tread voids. So mud gets easily clogged up, creating a slippery layer, that prevents contact with the surface.

That’s why although both tires aren’t suitable for this type of terrain, you can still expect some grip with Continental TerrainContact A/T (on lighter mud tracks).

The tire’s interlocking structure in the middle supplies more pathways to leave out of the tread, whereas the longitudinally arranged ribs on Defender LTX MS, does not allow mud particles to leave out laterally.

I’ve talked about it in more detail here –
Are A/T tires good on mud?

Sand Performance

On sand you need a light tire which is also capable of offering ample contact patch. Both these features basically result in better floating abilities.

And out of both, the Continental TerrainContact A/T comes out better, but only in LT sizes, where it features thick enough sidewall lugs, which with lowered air pressure, supply escalated rubber to sand exposure.

Though in case of non-LT sizes, the Michelin Defender does better. As those sizes features lighter structures, and softer tread compounds which mold better on sand, and account for less overall digging.

Take Home Points

Although its not recommended that you skip all of the above, for folks in a hurry, let me compile down everything.

The Continental TerrainContact is the quietest all-terrain tire, which also does great in terms of grip on dry roads.

And although it gives out higher rolling resistance with that grip, it’s tread life is still relatively better, if you compare LT sizes. Moreover, these sizes also provide superior off-road traction, in all types of terrains.

On the other side, the Michelin Defender LTX MS supplies superior wet traction, with it’s amazing steering response. And it’s a more comfortable tire to have on-roads, which is also superior in terms of fuel economy (and tread life, considering non-LT sizes).

4 thoughts on “Continental TerrainContact AT vs Michelin Defender LTX MS”

  1. I just switched from the TerrainContact A/T to the Michelin Defender LTX M/S2 (the new version released in October 2023). The updates to the LTX were minor, mostly an updated an more aggressive sidewall and outer lugs and an increase in tread life of 10%. I have never owned any Michelins so I cannot compare them to the previous M/S versions but I can say they ride MUCH better than the Continentals once I got the correct air pressures set in them. The Conti’s never seemed to be 100% balanced and there was always some vibration either from the front or rear. The Michelin’s eliminated all of those vibrations. The Conti’s were 52 lbs in LT245/75R17S and the Michelins are just 46 lbs. This could explain some of the vibrations. The M/S2’s handle great and their lateral stability is amazing. The Conti’s were good too but the steering input was a little vague. It is my understanding that Michelin improved the road communication in the new M/S2 because it was a little lacking in the previous version. The new outer lugs probably help to some degree.

    Overall, I am super pleased with the tires. They handled the rain perfectly yesterday but I have not had them offroad yet or in the snow. I suspect they will do just fine.

    • Hey thanks for sharing, I am testing out the MS2 and it does offer much improved steering response no doubt. Michelin also improved its economy too. I would be posting its detailed review soon.

  2. Got the Faiken AT4W but not a fan of the noise and handling. Looking at going to the Continental Terrain Contact AT/ I mainly do Hwy driving and go on the beach? Don’t you think that the best tire for me?


Leave a Comment