All-season traction, enhanced fuel economy and the toughness to shrug off punishing abuse are challenges not every tire is up to. Even fewer can deliver all of this along with extended tread life and smooth on-road performance.
Michelin just introduced its brand new Defender LTX M/S, a family of all-season tires designed for crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks, vehicles that can dish out plenty of abuse. They promise enhanced tread life in severe usage without sacrificing efficiency or traction, both on road and off.
Built for Everything
Today’s vehicles are more capable than ever. In fact, Michelin claims light and heavy-duty trucks produce twice as much torque as they did 20 years ago, and in some cases even more. Understandably, this puts tremendous stress on tires, the only parts of a vehicle that should ever touch the road.
The Defender LTX M/S lineup should last 10 percent longer in severe usage than its predecessor, the Michelin LTX M/S. For drivers and fleet operators alike, that’s money in the bank, as they don’t have to be replaced as regularly.
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Offered in both Euro-Metric and Light Truck varieties, the new Defender family can accommodate a huge range of different vehicles with rim sizes from 15 to 22 inches. These tires are on sale in the U.S. right now, but due to production constraints, not all dimensions are offered at this time. Sizes will continually become available until around June of next year when they will all be on sale.
E-metric varieties of the Defender LTX are perfect for crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Toyota RAV4 or Volkswagen Tiguan. Light-duty fleet vehicles such as the Ford Transit Connect are a shoe-in as well.
As for LT variants, they’re geared toward even more severe usage, the kind of abuse dished out by vehicles like a Ram 3500 pickup truck towing a goose-neck trailer, an overloaded Ford Econoline van or a diesel-powered Chevy Silverado with a bed full of crushed stone. These tires feature higher inflation pressures and are designed to support heavier loads.
Better From the Ground Up
“Part of it is the silica we use in the E-Metric tires,” said Tony Marconi, product development manager at Michelin. This allows them to include a denser elastomer for better resistance to chipping and degradation, particularly while driving on gravel surfaces or rough terrain.
Further beefing up the LT range, Marconi said they feature resin instead of oil, which is usually used for the plasticizer. “It gives us a stronger, more durable compound,” he said, tires that are tougher “on a molecular level.”
Tread compounds are mission critical when it comes to developing tires. Bobby McCullough, product development engineer at Michelin said that along with unique sculpturing and fundamental construction, “It’s key, it’s foundational.” In some ways, the Defender family almost looks like a snow tire, with numerous small sipes in each of its tread blocks for enhanced grip.
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Marconi said, “Our product development … we obsess with quality,” so the Defender LTX was thoroughly tested to ensure it lives up to Michelin’s high standards. He also noted that their evaluations are much more rigorous than what the government requires.
Understandably, there are significant differences between E-Metric and LT versions of the Defender LTX range. Still, McCullough said, “The core is very common.” Overall, it took engineers three years to develop this tire family.
On Road and Off
Putting theory into practice, Michelin gave us the opportunity to evaluate these tires in a variety of conditions, both on road and off. We evaluated the new Defender LTX range in several vehicles including a Ford F-350 Super Duty pickup and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Starting in the Jeep on smooth, undulating roads of northern Vermont, one of the first things you notice about these tires is how quiet they are. They don’t sing, hum or make other uncouth noises. On neatly manicured asphalt, they’re about as quiet as you could ever hope.
Driving through corners revealed they have impressive grip, though we were reluctant to push them too hard. A top-heavy truck with live axles front and rear is hardly an ideal vehicle for slicing and dicing circuitous roads. Still, Michelin’s latest offering inspired plenty of confidence, especially when pavement gave way to gravel.
My impressions of the Defender LTX were very similar when behind the wheel of Ford’s Super Duty. This mini big-rig was composed, confidence-inspiring and quiet in all conditions, though, again, it was difficult to push hard.
After an hour or so of on-road evaluation, we eventually found ourselves at the foot of a mountain. In Wranglers once more, we permanently traded concrete and asphalt in for dirt and stone.
And this was a real test for such well-mannered, street-friendly tires. But the Defender LTS M/S was more than up to the challenge, clawing its way up steep grades, slogging through mud and scampering over slippery stones – truly gnarly off-road conditions. They even seemed to laugh at jagged rocks that threatened to slice open their sidewalls like a fisherman gutting his catch.
Our caravan of Jeeps made it to the top of a mountain via a narrow access path leading up a ski slope. We wouldn’t have made it without these Michelins, though, to be fair, the Jeep’s generous ground clearance, skid plates and low-range four-wheel drive deserve credit as well.
The Defender LTX M/S range should be on sale in Canada right now; it’s expected to launch in Mexico imminently. Additionally, this product will be offered around the world but with different branding.
For Canadian customers, LT varieties are backed by an 80,000-kilometer warranty. E-Metric variants are guaranteed for even longer, an impressive 115,000 clicks.
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