The Michelin Defender LTX M/S highway all-season tire leads off our new Daddy’s Tired section focusing on tire reviews and advice. Tires are the four most important things keeping you and your family on the road, and one size certainly does not fit all. Crossover sport utility vehicles are increasing in popularity by the day, and selecting the right tire for them isn’t always easy. Michelin North America was kind enough to send us a set to test out over the summer driving season and beyond, and expect other tires to be tested and reviewed in the near future.
With at least a couple of automotive enthusiasts amongst the Daddy’s Digest team, there’s no shortage of appropriate test vehicles to use for tire reviews. We’ve got an array of SUVs, pickup trucks, sedans, and sports cars to choose from, and we also have years of experience being tire nerds – participating in motorsports, poring through catalogues and data sheets, and doing deep dives on comparing and contrasting all the choices out there.
Test Bed: The Crossover SUV
The Michelin Defender LTX M/S will be tested on a 2014 Volvo XC90 R-Design, owned by yours truly. As one of the original crossover SUVs when it came out for the 2003 model year, the XC90 is the epitome of the family car and happens to possess several features that will help it evaluate tires better than others. With all-wheel drive, its 4,700-pound curb weight is a porker even by today’s standards that include electrified vehicles. The extra weight accelerates tire wear – that’s good for us to draw conclusions more quickly.
The R-Design package comes with a firmer steering and suspension package compared to its peers, which helps translate more information from the road through the tire and through the steering wheel. A comfortable tire will make itself known with improved ride and refinement, and a less comfortable or noisier one will make the sporty R-Design a little less than bearable on a daily basis. The test tires are in the factory size of 255/50R19, on the original Volvo R-Design wheels. Before testing, a four-wheel alignment was performed by a Volvo dealer.
Michelin Defender LTX M/S: By The Numbers
A Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) treadwear rating of 720 suggests that the Defender LTX M/S is a relatively long-wearing tire. While these ratings aren’t always comparable between different brands or models of tires, a higher number is often associated with tires that last longer. Keep in mind that longer-wearing tires can sometimes come with tradeoffs – the harder rubber compounds can make sacrifices in comfort or performance in order to achieve more miles before wearing out. Michelin markets these tires with their “Evertread” technology, and this aligns with the 720 UTQG rating. With low rolling resistance, fuel economy is also improved, and Michelin states that up to 66 US gallons (250 litres) of fuel can be saved when compared against similar competing tires.
Load and speed ratings offer another clue about the design and construction of a tire. The 255/50R19 tires being tested here are rated at 107H, with 107 meaning a maximum load rating of 2,150 pounds (975 kilograms) per tire, and the H signifying a maximum speed rating of 130 miles per hour (210 kilometres per hour). Higher ratings may be good for performance and load carrying ability but may come at the expense of firmer ride quality due to the tire’s heavy-duty design. In this case, both values are in excess of what’s required for the Volvo XC90. Check your owner’s manual and make sure that your tire’s load and speed ratings are appropriate – it’s not just the size that you should be looking out for when shopping for rubber.
Initial Impressions and Looking Forward
The tread design on the Michelin Defender LTX M/S is relatively classic looking – there isn’t an exotic directional tread pattern going on here. This makes driver-passenger side rotation easier, and the high number of sipes and deep grooves suggest that the tire was designed with rain performance in mind. While the M/S in the tire name signifies a Mud and Snow rating, these tires do not carry the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol. In other words, as a highway all-season, you can be expected to get away with light snowfall, but swapping to and from a dedicated winter tire will always be recommended for colder climates – there just isn’t a comparison there.
The Michelins’ and Volvo XC90’s first task together was a weekend family getaway to attend a wedding. After covering a few hundred miles, the Defenders left an overall good first impression. Ride quality is good, and steering response is relatively soft – they didn’t differ much from the previous set of squidgy winter tires that were being used. Buyers who wish for a sportier tire with better handling might be better suited to a Latitude Tour or Latitude Sport tire within Michelin’s lineup. In terms of noise, the hard-wearing Defender LTX M/S was relatively quiet at highway speeds, and high-speed stability remained rock solid. Of course, it’s too soon to tell in terms of tread wear performance, so expect future updates on these all-season Michelins in the future.
Michelin Defender LTX M/S: Bottom Line
In the coming months, we’ll form more opinions about the Michelin Defender LTX M/S and evaluate more on its handling and wet-weather performance. We’ll do an update on treadwear and compare against its expected service life and warranty of six years and 70,000 miles (115,000 kilometres in Canada). We’ll also line up more tires to test, with our aim of being able to tell you how a certain tire fits into your lifestyle, as well as giving advice on selecting the right tire to suit your family’s needs.