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- Outstanding braking on dry roads
- Excellent lateral grip and balanced handling in dry conditions
- Precise and quick steering
- Very good traction and surefooted handling on light snow
- Smooth and refined ride over any road type
- Very quiet, even at highway speeds
- Outstanding longevity and a long 80,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Wet traction is average when compared to its premium rivals
- It’s by far the most expensive touring all-season tire
Michelin’s Defender family of all-season tires has claimed class honors ever since it first launched. All models provide class-leading traction in many categories, accompanied by outstanding treadlife and good comfort.
So, when the French tiremaker launched the latest model from the lineup, the Defender2, I was interested in trying it as soon as possible. The predecessor of this tire, the Defender T+H, was a model I already liked, as it provided good year-round traction and was tremendously durable.
But the competition didn’t stand still in the meantime. Continental, for instance, launched the TrueContact Tour, a tire that set a new benchmark on what is possible from a standard touring all-season tire. In most areas, Continental’s competitor drives similarly to a grand-touring tire, which is high praise indeed.
So, the Michelin Defender2 has big shoes to fill to compete. Thus, Michelin worked on improving the traction on dry and wet roads, but like its predecessor, Defender2’s main attraction is still the treadlife.
Namely, the manufacturer says that the new model leads its competitors in treadlife by more than 25,000 miles, which equates to two more years of driving. Now, I always take these comparisons with a grain of salt since they are based on calculations, i.e., the testers drive the tires for, say, 1,000 miles, and then engineers extrapolate the wear based on the most worn groove.
Another issue with Michelin’s testing is that it compares the Defender2 to tire from a different category, the Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra, which simply grips the road better. The other tire in the test was the Continental TrueContact Tour, Defender2’s biggest competitor, which fared much worse regarding treadlife.
I spent so much time on that test because it’s important for context, as I’ll be mentioning the TrueContact Tour quite a lot when talking about the Defender2. So, without further ado, let’s have a closer look at Michelin’s latest standard touring all-season tire.
What are the features of the Michelin Defender2?
The Michelin Defender2 is a standard touring all-season tire designed to fit most passenger cars and crossover/SUVs on the road today. It features Michelin’s latest EverTreadTM 2.0 all-season compound designed to improve the wear characteristics while increasing traction in dry, wet, and snowy conditions.
Like its predecessor, the Defender2 features a regular symmetric tread pattern that offers balanced performance on dry, wet, and snow-covered roads. Notably, the interconnected tread elements, part of the MaxTouchTM 2.0 technology, ensure a stable footprint for higher grip on dry and wet roads while reducing noise for a quieter ride.
Meanwhile, the four circumferential grooves channel water from the tread to the lateral notches, pushing the water to the side. These limit hydroplaning, ensuring the rubber is always in contact with the road.
Like most modern all-season tires, the Defender2 also features quite a lot of sipes to increase the biting edges, both longitudinal and lateral. The idea here is that the longitudinal sipes provide added grip during cornering, while the lateral sipes are there to increase traction while accelerating or braking.
The internal construction of the Defender2 is standard for the category and features a single-ply casing with twin steel belts reinforced by a polyamide cap ply.
Interestingly, Michelin rated every Defender2 size with at least an H-speed rating, meaning the tire is designed to function up to 130 mph (210 km/h). Most of its competitors also come in T-speed ratings in the smaller sizes; how that translates to the real world, I can’t say because I haven’t tried every size, but it does give peace of mind.
What are the Michelin Defender2 maintenance indicators?
The Michelin Defender2 features the industry-standard tread wear indicators, which are narrow rubber bars that sit recessed in the circumferential grooves of the tire.
These indicators can only show the owner when the tire reaches the end of its lifespan, i.e., the tread is 2/32 inches (1.6 mm) deep. Numerous tests have shown this is the minimum depth for safe wet traction, so it’s the minimum legally required in most countries worldwide.
However, in my experience, you might want to replace the tires even sooner to be on the safe side. Tire manufacturers don’t recommend going below 4/32 inches (3.2 mm)of tread depth, and I tend to agree with that. Unfortunately, unless you have a tread depth gauge, there is no way to tell when the Defender2 tires reach that point. Moreover, the tire won’t show you the 5/32 inches of tread depth legally required in the winter in most countries.
Currently, no other tire in the standard touring all-season category has wear indicators that can tell the driver when they reach the minimum required for driving on snow. However, Continental uses its excellent “D, W, and S” wear indicators in its higher-end tires, and they work great.
What is the Michelin Defender2 warranty?
The Michelin Defender2 comes with a 6-year/80,000-mile treadwear warranty on all sizes, which is among the best in its category.
However, while this would’ve been class-leading a few years ago, some manufacturers offer longer warranties on their standard touring all-season tires today. For instance, the Yokohama AVID Ascend LX comes with a 5-year/85,000-mile warranty while costing less than the Defender2.
Still, Defender2’s closest rival, the Continental TrueContact Tour, comes with an 80,000-mile warranty on T-speed and H-speed rated tires and a 70,000-mile warranty on V-speed rated tires.
But regardless of the warranty, Michelin promises the Defender2 is the longest-lasting tire in the category after testing it against its rivals. What is more important, though, is that Michelin tires continue to work great when worn down, even in rainy conditions. I know that because I mostly put Michelins on my car, and they never stop gripping the road well.
How does the Michelin Defender2 behave on dry roads?
The Defender2 provides excellent overall performance in dry conditions, with class-leading longitudinal traction and very good lateral grip.
This is not something you wouldn’t expect from a Michelin tire – each of their products excels in dry conditions. What impressed me more was the steering, which felt quick off-center but linear and precise. And it was never twitchy – I could always position the car where I wanted.
As for the traction, it’s no surprise that the Defender2 is among the class-leading tires. In terms of acceleration and braking, it beats all its premium competitors while providing a strong grip in the corners.
The Defender2 is easy to correct at the limit because it exhibits slight understeer, a behavior that most drivers are accustomed to, especially those buying these tires. Sure, that kills the fun a bit, but if you want to enjoy driving, Michelin offers many performance tires.
You also won’t have issues on the highway – the Defender2 provides excellent straight-line tracking. Hence, you can easily keep your vehicle in the lane even by holding the steering wheel with one hand; not that I justify that, but it’s a testament to how stable your vehicle will feel at speed.
So, overall, the Defender2 doesn’t disappoint on dry tarmac, just like I expected. But what about rainy conditions?
How is the Michelin Defender2 on wet and slippery roads?
The Defender2 performs admirably in rainy conditions, with solid traction and good behavior at the limit. However, some of its rivals, like the Continental TrueContact Tour, provide better longitudinal and lateral wet traction.
This is interesting because Michelin claims its tire has the best wet traction in the category, even better than the TrueContact Tour. Maybe the French giant tested the tires in different temperature conditions or somehow set it up to suit its tires more.
What I found, though, is that the Continental TrueContact Tour is by far the best rain tire in the standard touring all-season category. The Defender2 is not bad – it is still very safe on wet tarmac. Still, the stopping distances will be longer, and you’ll have less lateral grip in the corners, even when compared to the Goodyear Assurance MaxLife, for example.
On a more positive note, the Defender2 behaves well at the limit, again exhibiting safe understeer. Thus, you should have no issue controlling your vehicle when trying to avoid an accident. Also, the hydroplaning resistance is excellent – I didn’t have an issue with instability when hitting large puddles of water.
But back to that traction deficit compared to the TrueContact Tour – does it matter? Well, if you live in areas where it rains frequently, you might want to choose the Continental.
However, Michelin’s touring all-season tire is still better than 90% of its competitors and satisfactory on wet tarmac. Besides, the differences are only noticeable when you deliberately push the tires to their limit, meaning most drivers will never notice the difference.
With that being said, how is the Michelin Defender2 on snowy roads?
The Defender2 provides good traction on snow-covered roads and even works on ice. It’s also easy to drive on snow, with good steering and balanced handling.
Thus, for most people, the Michelin Defender2 can be the only tire they need for each season. It works very well on light snow, with solid braking and acceleration and good lateral grip. You’ll also have no issues controlling your vehicle, as when the Defender2 tires lose traction progressively, giving you more time to react. There is even some ice traction on offer, which is not something you could say for most all-season tires.
Still, it’s important to note that the Defender2 can’t replace a proper winter tire in harsh wintry conditions. You could get stuck more easily with the Defender2 in winter storms than with any winter tire, and you’ll experience much worse traction in deep, unpacked snow and over ice. So, winter tires are still the best choice for people living in areas where it snows frequently.
Is the Michelin Defender2 suitable for off-road driving?
The Michelin Defender2 isn’t designed for off-roading. Its tread design lacks enough depth and doesn’t feature aggressive blocks that would give you traction on loose and soft surfaces, and you might get stuck more easily.
Furthermore, Defender2’s construction doesn’t have any additional reinforcements to help with puncture resistance, and its tread compound isn’t very resilient and can get chipped more easily. In other words, prolonged off-roading sessions could damage these tires and leave you with only one option – to replace them.
Is the Michelin Defender2 a run-flat tire?
No, the Michelin Defender2 isn’t a run-flat tire. Michelin rates all its run-flat models with the abbreviation “ZP,” meaning “Zero Pressure.”
Currently, the French tiremaker doesn’t offer a run-flat standard touring all-season tire, and your only option is to look for Bridgestone’s offerings, like the Turanza EL400-02 RFT. Still, you could purchase a grand-touring run-flat tire from Michelin, the Primacy MXM4 ZP, which offers better grip, but much lower treadlife (30,000-mile treadwear warranty).
How are the Michelin Defender2’s road noise and comfort performance?
The Michelin Defender2 is one of the quietest and most comfortable touring all-season tires. Therefore, it’s a fantastic companion on longer journeys, keeping the passengers isolated from the road.
But this behavior didn’t surprise me – the French automotive scene is famous for emphasizing comfort, and Michelin was always at the forefront here. Most of the tiremaker’s products are comfortable, and the Defender2 is no exception, as it glides over smaller and larger imperfections without disturbing the cabin.
What always impresses me with Michelin tires is that the ride isn’t soft, as such tires are usually bad at dealing with repetitive impacts. The Defender2 strikes the right balance between soft and taut, providing an excellent ride on smoother roads and broken pavement. It just shows how good Michelin is at developing comfortable tires.
The noise comfort is also excellent. While the Defender2 is audible at speed, the tones are not high-pitched and mix well with the wind noise. I didn’t mind it, especially since it’s quieter than most of its rivals, including the Continental TrueContact Tour.
Should I buy the Michelin Defender2?
The Michelin Defender2 is a high-quality tire that won’t disappoint you with its performance. It performs excellently in dry conditions, works well on wet and snowy tarmac, provides a super comfortable ride, and it’s one of the most durable tires on the market. However, it is also the most expensive tire in its category, and some competitors offer similar performance for less money.
For instance, the Continental TrueContact Tour gives up just a bit of treadlife for much better wet traction and handling, a sacrifice I’d be ready to make. Continental’s touring all-season tire is also slightly better on snow and matches the Defender2 in dry conditions. Crucially, it costs less than the Defender2!
Goodyear’s excellent Assurance MaxLife also outperforms the Defender2 in rainy conditions and comes with an even longer 85,000-mile treadwear warranty while costing less.
So, in summary, it’s not a clear win for the Defender2 like it was for its predecessor. The competition has caught up with Michelin, offering strong products at lower prices, which makes it hard to recommend the Defender2. It’s still an excellent tire – no doubt about it, but it should be less expensive.
What sizes does the Michelin Defender2 come in?
The Michelin Defender2 is available in 38 sizes, ranging from 16-inch to 20-inch wheel diameters. Each size has at least an H-speed rating, which is higher than what the competition offers. With the dimensions on offer, Michelin covers many popular compact cars and crossovers, but also mid-size sedans, crossovers, and SUVs.