In the world of tires, there is a constant battle between manufacturers. Regardless if we’re talking about the premium or mid-range options, the industry is full of duels. We compare all kinds of tires, so today I’ll be looking into two of the latest touring options for CUVs and SUVs, and some light trucks.
You may think all touring tires are the same, but they’re not. Each manufacturer uses unique technologies and manufacturing processes intending to be the best. This is the main reason tires don’t perform the same in all conditions.
For today’s comparison, I chose two models in this category, one from France and the other one from Japan. In 2021, Bridgestone released the Alenza AS Ultra to compete with Michelin’s LTX M/S.
Both manufacturers make a lot of promises, but which would be better for you? Most importantly, can Michelin’s older model compete with Bridgestone’s latest addition?
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Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra
Touring tires are designed with a specific set of features hoping to deliver the promised performance. The Alenza AS Ultra is no different. Bridgestone designed it as an all-season touring model, meaning that it should deliver a well-refined ride and safe performance throughout the year.
On the refinement side of things, we have my favorite technology, Bridgestone has – QuietTrack. The main purpose of it is to reduce the noise generated by the tire as it rolls. By taking this approach, the Alenza AS Ultra should be silent.
For the year-round performance, Bridgestone went with an all-season rubber compound. Like with most manufacturers, this is crucial as it should help the tire deliver balanced performance in dry, wet, and wintery conditions. As an all-season tire, winter performance will be limited.
Another advantage the compound brings to the table is longevity. A tire’s performance can be excellent, but it won’t matter too much if it’s not a long-lasting tire. Luckily, the Alenza AS Ultra comes with an 80,000-mile treadwear warranty, meaning that it should be long-lasting, as you’d expect from a touring tire.
The tread design features a little something called Snow Vices. Essentially, these are biting edges throughout the pattern, that should help the tire provide decent traction on snowy surfaces. A bonus moment is that they should also help a bit on damp roads.
Michelin Defender LTX M/S
Despite the age difference, the set of features between both tires isn’t too different. Michelin aimed to include all of its touring technologies to make the Defender LTX M/S perform like a true touring tire.
Longevity played a crucial role when designing the tire, and Michelin aimed to deliver on that promise. The EverTread Compound is an excellent choice for delivering a long-lasting tire. Michelin claims that the Defender LTX M/S will outlast several of its tires in this category.
The tread pattern is something that would put off some people. Michelin went with a symmetric pattern, which isn’t the most ideal option for handling or traction. The good news here is that Michelin worked on stabilizing the tread blocks, which should provide stability and lateral grip. This is part of the MaxTouch construction that aims to distribute the forces on the contact patch as evenly as possible.
Combining the tread pattern and the rubber compound allows Michelin to categorize the tire as an excellent wet performer. The full-depth 3D active sipes should do an excellent job of providing traction on damp surfaces. Furthermore, the circumferential and lateral grooves evacuate water more efficiently.
Finally, as an all-season tire, you’d expect the Defender LTX M/S to deliver performance on snow. Michelin designed the pattern with full-depth zig-zag sipes that should help the tire bite into snow. While it won’t be comparable to a proper winter tire, it should be usable in lighter conditions.
The Main Differences
Now that you have seen what both these tires can do, it’s time we put them in a head-to-head matchup. So that you know whether the Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra or the Michelin Defender LTX M/S should go on your vehicle.
Comparing Off-Road Performance
The Bridgestone Alenza As Ultra and the Michelin Defender LTX M/S are road-going tires. As such, you shouldn’t expect to get any off-road performance out of them.
Comparing On-Road Performance
How do they perform in dry conditions?
Whenever you compare the performance of touring tires, it’s important to know their limitations. The Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S aren’t designed for the track, so their application will be on the road.
Most people will be happy with both tires under normal conditions. The grip and traction levels will be excellent and the braking distances will be short. You may think that both are equal, but that isn’t the case.
While normal driving doesn’t show too many drawbacks, in more aggressive scenarios, we see some minor differences. The tires do a good job at remaining planted even when you push them on a twisty road. Naturally, understeer isn’t something that you can avoid, so that’s one thing to keep in mind. One area where some slight difference can be noticed is in the braking distances. In an emergency braking scenario, the Michelin model will still offer marginally shorter braking distances.
The Michelin model proves to be the king of the road when pushed to its limits. Despite being a touring tire, the Defender LTX M/S feels a bit more planted and surefooted when thrown into a corner. The Alenza AS Ultra doesn’t do a poor job at it, as the lateral grip is excellent for the category, but it trails behind the French tire.
Stability doesn’t seem to be an issue for either of the tires, even at highway speeds. The Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S remain stable and planted. You should expect them to become twitchy, but only when the speeds are way higher than the road limits.
Winner: Michelin Defender LTX M/S
How do they perform on wet roads?
Touring all-season tires offer excellent performance in wet conditions. This is true for the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S. As you’d guess, the performance isn’t the same, so let’s look at how they compare.
Starting off with normal driving, both tires are excellent and it’s no wonder why we consider them premium models. The grip and traction levels are excellent and neither tire will struggle when accelerating or in the corners. As long as things are slightly aggressive, most people won’t be able to tell the difference between the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S.
Going in a bit more aggressive scenario like a twisty road reveals some differences. The tires show that they have a different nature, which can be a good and bad thing for some people. Michelin designed the Defender LTX M/S to be planted, and it shows. Despite not being a performance model, the tire claws to the road and keeps the vehicle planted. On the other hand, the Alenza AS Ultra does things differently. While the grip and traction levels are high, it’s easier to get the tire to slip, so some may think of it as the more fun tire.
Both tires are very controllable even at the limit. You can catch them sliding and react to that, so you won’t be caught by surprise. For driving around town, they are easy to drive and everyday drivers will be happy with them.
In terms of braking distances, the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S are closely matched. You may find the Michelin model providing ever so slightly shorter braking distances. The difference is so insignificant I can call it a tie.
Are they good in the handling department?
Touring tires aren’t the best option for handling, which is why enthusiasts rarely look at them. For the rest of the world, a touring tire is more than enough for daily driving.
In the handling department, I’m happy to report that both tires are pretty good. The Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S respond quickly to inputs with minimal lag. Naturally, they aren’t as sharp as a UHP tire but are pretty good in the touring segment. If I had to pick one, I’d probably go for the Michelin model, as it feels just a bit sharper.
As far as the feedback is concerned, there is a more noticeable difference between the Defender LTX M/S and the Alenza AS Ultra. The Michelin model is pretty good at providing feedback through the steering wheel. While I wouldn’t compare it to something from the Pilot Sport lineup, it’s decent as a touring tire. The Alenza AS Ultra, on the other hand, doesn’t do so well. I wouldn’t classify it as the numbest tire in the category, but it feels a bit vague.
Winner: Michelin Defender LTX M/S
Comparing on Snow Performance
When you purchase an all-season tire, you expect some winter performance to be available. The Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S are usable in these conditions, but they have their limitations.
All-season tires are usable in lighter winter conditions, so they aren’t a replacement for winter tires. The tires I’m comparing today are no different. They can provide acceptable grip and traction in lighter snow and that’s as much as you’ll get out of them.
Considering that most people would drive them carefully in these conditions, the Defender LTX M/S and the Alenza AS Ultra will satisfy their needs. Both tires are easy to control, will provide the necessary grip and traction, and will offer decently short braking distances.
As far as differences are concerned, there aren’t that many of those. Only when I pushed both of them to the limits, I noticed the Michelin tire felt a bit more planted. I’m not saying that the Alenza AS Ultra is poor in this situation, but it felt a bit more prone to understeer. Keep in mind that this is something that most people wouldn’t notice.
Ice is an all-season tire’s worst enemy and the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S have a problem with it. You can say that they are acceptable in a pinch, but I wouldn’t rely on them in these conditions. If you live in an area with too much ice on the roads, I’d advise you to look at proper winter tires.
Winner: Michelin Defender LTX M/S
Comparing on Treadwear and Durability
One of the main selling points of a touring tire is its longevity, and we can estimate how long it should last based on the warranty. It’s not the most scientific test, but since I don’t get to drive them for thousands of miles, this will have to do.
In this regard, the Alenza AS Ultra is the clear winner. Bridgestone offers the tire with an 80,000-mile treadwear warranty, while the Defender LTX M/S comes with a 70,000-mile warranty. Keep in mind that this is for the T and H-rated models, and the R-rated ones come with 60,000 miles of warranty.
Winner: Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra
Comparing on Comfort
Touring tires are all about refinement, something that you, as the owner, would expect. In this regard, the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S will deliver, and like in several categories before, there’s a slight difference.
The comfort levels with both tires are excellent. Regardless of which one you go for, anything from smaller bumps to softening up larger holes won’t be an issue. Even when driving on very bad roads full of cracks, the Alenza AS Ultra and the Defender LTX M/S will have no problem keeping the ride as plush as possible. Objectively speaking, I might lean a bit toward the Michelin tire, but that’s just me nitpicking.
When it comes to noise levels, the tires aren’t closely matched. I had high hopes for the Alenza As Ultra since it utilized the QuietTrack technology. Unfortunately, it falls behind the Defender LTX M/S. You won’t notice a difference on smoother roads, but in every other situation, the Bridgestone tire will be slightly noisier than the Michelin one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as quiet as a touring tire should be, but not as quiet as its competitor.
Winner: Michelin Defender LTX M/S
Comparing on Price
Another aspect where Michelin isn’t the best option is the price. While it’s not a massive difference, Bridgestone remains the more affordable option here.
If we compare an 18-inch model, we can see a price difference of around $15, which doesn’t seem like a lot. The problem is that while the dimensions and load ratings are identical, the Defender LTX M/S has a lower speed rating than the Alenza AS Ultra.
Winner: Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra
Pros and Cons
There are a lot of similarities between these two tires, but also a good bit of differences too.
Bridgestone Alenza AS Ultra Pros & Cons
- Balanced perfrormance
- More affordable
- Longer warranty
- Easier to slide on wet roads
- Slightly noisier
Michelin Defender LTX M/S Pros & Cons
- Just a bit sharper handling
- Feels more planted in wet conditions
- LT models are available
- More expencive
- Shorter treadwear warranty
Which Tire Should You Choose?
Depending on how much you’ve paid attention to, you’re probably thinking that I’m going to recommend the Defender LTX M/S as the better tire. Technically it is, but things are rarely as simple as that.
In terms of performance, the differences aren’t as pronounced and both tires will be more than enough for what most people would need from them. Yes, there may be situations where the Defender LTX M/S will outperform the Alenza AS Ultra, but not by a lot. Sure, the noise levels are a bit higher and the wet performance is a bit behind, but neither of these are tires that you’ll be driving on the limit.
When you compared these as a whole, the Alenza AS Ultra is a better option. It’s more affordable, and the performance isn’t that much worse than Michelin to justify throwing the extra cash. With that said, you should probably consider the Defender LTX M/S if you need LT models.