Michelin Defender Review & Rating
- Superior dry and wet traction
- Comfortable ride
- Outstanding tread life
- High speed cornering
All season tires make up the vast majority of new tire sales and all the major manufacturers have offerings in this category. That said, Michelin has long been known for their first-class tire lineup, and their new Defender all-season tire has taken things a step higher among all tires in this category. The Defender is designed for drivers of family sedans, coupes, minivans and other vehicles where dependable year-round driving performance and comfort are higher priorities than pavement gripping cornering performance. In other words, it aims to provide a blend of comfort, driveability and fuel economy in all types of road conditions.
The Michelin Defender looks like a direct competitor for the Goodyear Assurance ComforTred, and offers a similar package of good handling, excellent grip and outstanding wear life. Much to our surprise it actually manages to beat the Goodyear on warranty, which says something about Michelin’s confidence in the design.
The Defender features Michelin’s IntelliSipe technology, which uses computer modeling to maximize the number of sipes in the tread pattern. This promotes improved water evacuation and also gives the greatest possible number of cutting edges for better performance on water or snow. Four circumferential grooves and sharply angled lateral ones make the Defender highly efficient at clearing water from its contact area, which assures good traction on wet roads.
When everything’s dry the Defender doesn’t lose any of its grip either. The tread is molded from a high grip silica-enhanced compound that really sticks to the road. Regardless of whether the pavement is hot or cold, this tire sticks to and provides confident grip.
One area where the Defender beats most rivals hands down is in braking performance. Michelin claims that braking distances are reduced by up to 31 feet compared with similar tires. We didn’t test these figures exactly but can confirm that the Defender allows confident, controlled braking with no hint of instability even when the pedal is down hard.
Cornering – Steering
The Defender follows the recent trend of having a continuous center rib; in fact despite their extensive siping the intermediate ribs are close to being continuous as well. This combines with the high-grip compound to give very assured handling and crisp, responsive steering. There’s plenty of grip available when cornering, too. As always, some more would be great but for their performance class these tires are more than adequate.
This tire is an ideal choice for anyone who wants the convenience of all season tires in winter weather climates. We can say that quite confidently, because it isn’t going to let you down in winter weather. A combination of the silica based compound and its clever sipe design adds up to a tire that maintains its grip on wet or icy roads and also performs well in slush. Light or moderate snow is also handled efficiently.
In heavy snow the limits of an all season tire start to show of course, but in any conditions where snow tires aren’t called for the Defender will keep you moving after many other brands have quit. We don’t think it’s quite the best all season tire for driving in snow, but it’s definitely very good.
Ride Comfort – Road Noise
These tires are designed for everyday use, so a real effort has been made to keep them both quiet and comfortable. It seems to have paid off too. Even at highway driving speeds road noise is minimal and ride quality is excellent. We haven’t heard any reports of noise worsening as the tire wears, either. Of course it’s a relatively new model – it was only introduced in early 2012 – and with its amazing tread life there probably aren’t too many worn ones out there yet.
Michelin has worked hard to make the Defender last longer than other competitor tires. It sports an 820 UTQG rating, which means you can expect upwards of 80,000 miles or more out of the tread. The silica compound is a big help here, and the interlocking block design adds some useful rigidity which also helps keep wear to a minimum.
We thought Goodyear’s 80,000 mile warranty would be impossible to beat, but Michelin has stepped up to the challenge and actually done it. The Michelin Defender has a 90,000 mile treadwear warranty for H and T rated tires, and 80,000 miles for V rated, which is absolutely one of the longest among any tire models on the market.