Michelin Defender LTX MS Review

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Launched in 2015, the Michelin Defender LTX MS still provides pretty decent tread compound which provides decent combination of durability and traction, along with tread longevity. But is this really for you? Let’s find out.

Michelin Defender LTX MS Grooves
The 4 wide circumferential grooves of Michelin Defender LTX MS provide decent resistance to hydroplaning.

As a tire designer, my view is that the Michelin Defender LTX M/S excels as an all-around performer within the highway-terrain, all-season category. This tire delivers substantial traction on wet surfaces and performs adequately in snowy conditions and on light off-road trails. Its composition includes a softer compound that ensures a comfortable ride. Additionally, the integration of specialized polymers not only fortifies the tire against wear but also reduces rolling resistance, contributing to improved fuel efficiency.

However, this reduction in rolling resistance comes with a trade-off, as it somewhat compromises the tire’s grip on dry roads. This aspect of performance is the only notable area where this tire LTX M/S could see enhancement.

For Your Info: The tire has been replaced by new Defender LTX M/S2, compare both tires here.

Info on Sizes

The Michelin Defender LTX MS currently offers 73 total sizes ranging from 15 to 22 inches, the smallest being 215/75R15 100T and the largest 305/45R22 118H.

Average weight of the tire is 39 lbs where it ranges from 25 to 60 lbs. (35X12.5R20 121R is the heaviest)

The tire also offers good enough tread depth on all sizes which varies from 10 to 13, averaging to about 12/32″ if we speak for all sizes.

If we talk about the speed rating, the tire ranges from T to H. Whereas Load ratings are in SL, XL, C and E.

For Your Info: Speed ratings are just maximum speeds the tires are rated for. You can read all about speed ratings here.

Compare Defender LTX MS With:

Durability

Michelin Defender is known for it’s toughness, that’s why the tire is named “Defender”.

So the company focuses on it’s durability a lot.

The tire is built tough enough and has a strong inner construction of a 2 ply polyester casing (the inner most layer inside the tire).

The polyester casing then is layered with 2 belts, which are made out of steel cords. These belts cover the tread area underneath and is reinforced with a single layer of nylon (on which the tire rubber sits).

The nylon also only covers the tread area, so the tire has 2 ply sidewalls. And considering they are made for mostly on road use, it’s enough. The tire give you speed rating up to H and Load rating up to E, (which is pretty common with other highway all season tires out there).

For Your Info: If you’re wondering, there are 4 different types of all-season tires. Learn more here: https://tiredriver.com/different-types-of-all-season-tires/

Tread Appearance

Michelin Defender LTX MS All Season tire
Michelin Defender LTX M/S is only slightly a step back from all terrain tires with it’s aggressive grooves.

When it comes to tire design, there are 2 main major categories to look at. The first being the middle tread area of the tire, while the other includes the sides of the tire, also called shoulders or shoulder blocks. Let’s start with the central part of the tread.

The Michelin Defender LTX MS features 4 longitudinal channels which are inter connected by lateral gaps between blocks.

All blocks have full depth 3D siping which have an interlocking pattern (aids a lot in wet).

Overall, all these blocks form a uniform design as they all are equipped with similar features.

The lateral gaps between all these blocks have an interlocking design and because of this, they act as groove notches (which I believe is the technical term for this design). These provide the tire with biters.

Speaking of biters, also note how, all blocks have off set edges on their sides, this helps with notches and makes it capable of going off road (on less harsher terrains). I’ll discuss it in “off-road performance” section.

Michelin Defender LTX MS side
Michelin Defender’s shoulder blocks extend on to the sidewall with a similar pattern of interlocking sipes.

If we look at the shoulder blocks of this tire. All of them have ridges in between.

You can call these ridges connectors as well, they help in tires stability.

The lateral gaps here are wider and they don’t form groove notches as they do in the middle.

But same kind of siping is seen which is elongated by a rectilinear pattern, as the tire extends down to the sidewall a little bit.

These aid the tire a little bit when you run them with low air pressure.

But of course, needless to say, they are not going to provide as much bite as say an all terrain tire.

Dry Performance

When it comes to dry performance, although there are a lot of factors, the most important one is the grip and handling values.

The grip is mostly calculated by stopping distances, while the handling is related to cornering and lateral traction, measured by g forces.

Dry Traction

Michelin Defender LTX MS with it’s high silica compound offers a soft yet elastic compound which stick on roads, but the tire has a slightly aggressive design compared to other all season tires. Meaning, it does not offer a good rubber to road contact, as the tire’ has wider grooves.

These grooves or tread voids take away the rubber space which would have otherwise been in contact with the road, so naturally the loss of grip occurs.

The tire actually compromises on dry roads as it’s optimized for better tread life. The tire offers less rolling resistance, so with that the dry grip of the tire is a traded off.

But still, the tire isn’t too far off, and besides, these tires are aggressive, you can say they are only a small step back from AT tires, so keeping that in mind, it’s dry traction is satisfactory.

Wet Performance

Wet performance is the expertise of Michelin Defender LTX MS. As the tire focused on this area a little more than dry it seems.

Two things are fairly important when it comes to wet performance of the tire, the overall traction (grip and handling) and hydroplaning. Let’s evaluate both.

Wet Traction

On wet roads, the tire has a lot of aid. It’s equipped with full depth sipes, which have a wave like pattern.

With the wave like design, the sipes get to have more flexibility as they don’t stiffen up with handling. They have an interlocking pattern, which allow them to contract and expand at various places according the surface they are on and g forces they are facing.

And being full depth further make them systematic, as these sipes create a good deal of vacuum when they meet the surface and suck away the water underneath them efficiently.

Hydroplaning Resistance

The 4 equally wide aqua channels of Michelin Defender LTX M/S are very sufficient to provide decent float speeds. All these channels are also cross linked with lateral groove notches (explained in the tread section).

So water get a clear path to flow on sides in to circumferential grooves and out of the tire.

Moreover, another factor helping this tire is it’s tread depth. These tires offer 12/32″ depth of these blocks on average, so with this more volume of water can be escaped out of the tire in the given time.

That’s why when tire wear down, the first thing that suffers is hydroplaning resistance, as water does not get the same flow rate then.

Other Performance Factors

In case of Michelin Defender LTX MS, there are some more on road factors related to steering response and conferring stability, that you should know.

Steering Response

The tire isn’t too responsive but its still satisfactory. The steering input has a slight delay, and you feel there is not a proper under-steer balance.

This is because these tires provides a very soft compound and it feels the car is sitting on them, so steering response is slowed down a little and tires feel slightly harder to steer compared to other premium all season tires in the same price range.

But with a full air pressure these tires do good in this area. Also with higher speed rating, the steering response is improved as well.

Also these tires are much more communicative on wet roads compared to dry.

Cornering Stability

The factors affecting the steering response also affect the lateral traction component of Michelin Defender LTX MS, which happens to be although, above average but not impressive.

The tire being spongy and having less overall grip (because of wide lateral shoulder spacing), does not provide you with a better cornering stability.

But still to deal with this, Michelin Defender LTX MS provides connectors between the shoulder blocks which keep the soft blocks in place and resist their movement, and handling is improved that way.

Note: If dry traction is more important to you, go with the tire with H rated. As it would provide you with more grip and rolling resistance, and going to provide you a good balance between dry and wet roads.

Overall Ride Quality

The overall comfort experienced while driving is greatly influenced by a tire’s ability to absorb road vibrations and minimize noise. These two factors play a pivotal role in the perception of ride quality.

Vibrations Comfort

Road vibrations are transmitted through the tires to the vehicle’s suspension system and ultimately to the cabin. A tire designed with effective vibration dampening can absorb the irregularities of the road surface, leading to a smoother ride.

Now, Michelin Defender LTX MS is really impressive here with it’s pliant tread, which yields a very smooth on road experience.

Even on bumpier asphalts, the tier’s thick rubber (with tread depth of up to 12/32″), soak up the road imperfections, by providing them with enough room so they can be dispersed off easily.

Noise Comfort

In terms of tread noise, the tire exhibits a level of tread noise that is somewhat higher than one might expect for its price range.

Though, Michelin has made significant advances over its predecessor with the tire, introducing unique features that enhance its performance.

Noise in tires is primarily caused by air particles hitting the tread, often entering through the shoulder blocks. The Michelin Defender, as mentioned in the earlier tread section, incorporates connectors between these shoulder blocks. These connectors not only enhance the tire’s handling by adding stability but also play a crucial role in noise reduction by restricting the influx of air.

Furthermore, like many tires on the market, the Michelin Defender utilizes variable pitch technology. This design features ribs of differing dimensions that produce a range of sound frequencies which intermingle and effectively cancel each other out, further dampening the road noise.

Tread Life

Michelin Defender LTX MS is one of the best all season tires in terms of tread wear. The tire offers two technologies here which helps it a lot.

First one is Max Touch, which is just a fancy way of saying, the tire wear off uniformly as all parts of the tread get to have even pressure points.

The second, is it’s EverTread compound which is actually the composition of the tread that contains resins, silica and other polymers enhancing the tire’s elasticity and making it’s tread cut/chip resistant.

The tread depth of the tire is also quite sufficient, which averages to about 12/32″, so with this thicker layer of rubber, it takes more time to wear. Most of all season tires on average provide 2/32″ less compared to Michelin Defender LTX.

Michelin offers 70k miles warranty for P metric sizes and 50k for LT. All sizes have UTQG rating of either 720 of 800.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency is dependent on tread composition, weight, and how much rolling resistance a tire has.

Now when it comes to Michelin Defender LTX MS, the tire as I explained above, lacked in the dry road compared to wet. That’s because it’s tread is better optimized for rolling resistance where it offer slightly less grip.

So with less rolling resistance, the tire needs less energy to “roll” and this provides better fuel economy.

Winter Performance

Winter traction of Michelin Defender is above average, and it’s going to be fine with light snow. The tire does not offer 3 peak mountain snowflake rating but it’s still rated with M+S.

The major advantage of this tire is it’s spongy rubber compound which does not harden up with freezing temperatures. In other words it stays soft in winters and provides flexibility to it’s tread which is very crucial for this type of terrain. That’s why winter tires are so soft.

Furthermore, the full depth of sipes also work with the tire as these combined with groove notches are very effective in holding on to the snow, and provide optimized snow to snow contact.

Rubber contact is not as efficient as the snow to snow contact, if you can picture a snowflake, they have arms which interlock with each other, that’s why we also have the term the snowball affect, as snow attracts more snow.

Off Road Performance

When discussing off-road capabilities, it’s important to note that all-season tires typically don’t provide the aggressive tread necessary for challenging terrains. However, the Michelin Defender LTX M/S is an exception, well to some extent.

It features groove notches that act as biters, offering just enough grip for handling gravel, sand, and very light rocky terrain, along with a modest amount of mud.

That being said, it’s crucial to remember that these tires are not designed to match the performance of dedicated all-terrain tires.

What stands out positively is the robust durability of the Michelin Defender LTX M/S tires and their “E load rating”, which speaks to their strength and capacity for handling heavier loads.

Take Home Points

Michelin Defender LTX MS is a overall good pick for all season tire. But keep in mind that the tire is more inclined to performing better on wet roads than on dry.

The dry grip of the tire is not as impressive, as it does provide you with higher rolling resistance but this helps the tire in other ways, as having a lower rolling resistance makes it a very good candidate for saving on fuel, and it also helps in the tread wear department.

That’s why the tire takes so long to wear off.

Also if dry grip is important to you, go with higher speed rating. Defender offers speed ratings of T, R and H, so go with the highest, H.

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