There are many aspects of the modern tire industry that we get to enjoy these days. Apart from the levels of technology implemented in the tires, the choice is another aspect available to us.
While having multiple choices is a good thing, it’s also something that can cause a bit of confusion. Too many options mean that some people may have difficulty deciding which is the best option.
Tire manufacturers are separated into 3 categories depending on the price, features, and performance. On the lower end of the spectrum are the cheap ones, with the mid-range being above them and the premium at the top.
A common comparison in the tire industry is putting mid-range and premium tires against each other. The goal of this is to see how big of a difference there is and if it’s worth paying the extra money for the premium tires.
The comparison for today is between Falken and Michelin, a mid-range and a premium tire manufacturer, and will outline which is a better one for which situations.
In a world with tire manufacturers that have been around for over a century and a half, Falken is considered a relatively young one. It was founded in 1983 in Kobe, Japan, as a subsidiary of Sumitomo Rubber Industries. While the larger company deals with various rubber products, Falken deals only with tires.
Despite being a newcomer to the game, Falken managed to make excellent tires which helped it grow very quickly. The success and advancement in technologies enabled it to expand into the US and Europe.
Even in the early days of its existence, Falken has set itself to be a mid-range brand, but it also started to get involved in racing. The result of this is a brand that utilizes the technology put in the racing tires and implements it in the road-going ones. Among the many racing series that this manufacturer is known for is the 24 hours of Nürburgring.
In its lineup, which I’ll get to in a second, there are options that can suit the needs of the many in the form of touring tires. With that said, Falken is a manufacturer known for making excellent performance tires at a more affordable price.
Falken’s tire families
While Falken isn’t very creative with the naming of its models, the families of tires are set up as you’d expect. Each family is distinguished by the performance the tires can offer and the technologies used.
The Azenis lineup of tires is the one that Falken designed as an answer to Michelin’s Pilot series. These tires are designed to deliver maximum grip and traction, so refinement won’t be the best. With that said, some models seem to do a slightly better job than others in terms of usability on a daily basis.
Falken offers the Azenis lineup in 3 models. The RT660 and RT615K+ are tires that can provide improved performance for passenger cars only. On the other hand, the FK510 covers the passenger cars, as well as CUVs and SUVs. One thing to note is that these 3 models are summer ones. For all-season performance, you should be looking at something like the FK001 A/S or the FK450 A/S, but keep in mind that size options may be limited.
The tires that most people would be likely to go for come from the Sincera family. As touring tires, these models are designed to be refined and long-lasting, which, combined with the lower rolling resistance, is what you’d want from this category. Even though it’s not a performance tire, the grip and traction levels are still very good for everyday driving.
There is a positive and a negative side to the Sincera family. On the one hand, these tires can come in smaller sizes, meaning that people with older cars can take advantage of them. On the other, SUV owners will need to look at other families. As for models, as summer tires, you have the SN100 and the SN832EC, while in the all-season corner, Falken offers the SN250 A/S and the SN201 A/S.
It’s common for a tire manufacturer to have tires with similar features across multiple families, which can be said about Falken’s Pro lineup. Like the previous models, these are the tires you’d be looking at if you’re after something that can last longer and be comfortable. These tires have a major advantage because they come in sizes and models for CUVs and SUVs.
The Touring, G5, and G5 Sport are models from the passenger car lineup. As you can guess from the names, the driving characteristics can be different, and there is a model that can offer a bit of sportier performance. In the CUV and SUV segment, Falken has the G4 A/S and the G5 CSV A/S. All available models in this tire family are all-season ones.
Moving slightly away from the touring tires and going towards the performance ones, we come to the Ziex family. Falken designed these tires as a middle-ground between maximum performance and refinement, and as a result, these are decently comfortable but offer a bit better performance when compared to their touring cousins.
The ZE950 A/S and ZE960 A/S are models that are primarily intended for passenger cars, but due to the size options, you may utilize them on some CUVs. On the slightly larger size, we have the CT60 A/S, which covers the CUV and SUV segment, and for the larger SUVs and light trucks, there is the S/TZ05. All models in the Ziex lineup are all-season ones.
As you can probably guess from the name, we’ve come to the winter family of tires, I have some bad news. While this family covers the performance side of winter driving, the flexibility is a bit limited.
Currently, Falken offers only one model in this lineup, and that’s the HS01 which is a tire for passenger cars only. With some retailers, you could find the HS439 and the HS449, but the size options could be limited, and both of those are also for passenger cars only. Due to the types of tires, these are studless ones.
Another family of tires that covers winter performance is the Espia. While they are models designed for snowy conditions, they are more towards touring tires, unlike the performance-oriented ones from the previous family.
While there aren’t too many available models, they cover the range pretty well. On the passenger side of things, we have the EPZ and EPZ II that cover the range very good, including smaller sizes for older cars. The EPZ II also comes in an SUV variant, meaning that CUV and SUV sizes are also available. Like with the previous family, these are the studless models.
Finally, we come to the studdable winter tires, but it’s another area where things aren’t perfect. Even though this family is reserved for tires that can offer the best performance in icy conditions, the options can feel a bit limited.
There is only one model available at the moment, and that’s the F-Ice 1. Falken advertises this as a tire for passenger cars only, but looking at the sizes, you could find one that can fit a CUV or some SUVs. With that said, the larger SUV or light truck segment isn’t covered by this model.
You could say that this is one of the more popular families of tires from Falken. Since mid-range manufacturers cover the off-road segment so well, these are the tires you should be looking at for those driving conditions. The advantage this brand has over Michelin is the available options.
In the highway segment, Falken has the H/T02, which is an all-season touring tire for larger SUVs and light trucks. For the all-terrain segment, you have the A/T3W and the A/T Trail, which cover slightly different sizes, with the first one being for the larger ones. As for mud-terrain options, we have the M/T, which is naturally for the larger SUVs and light trucks.
The last family of tires in Falken’s lineup is the RubiTrek. This is a one-tire show, and it isn’t the most flexible one.
Currently, Falken only offers the A/T, which is an all-terrain tire. Like most of its rivals, this is an all-season model that’s designed for a combined on and off-road performance and can be fitted on light trucks and SUVs
The manufacturer is the one that’s been around for a long time, much longer than Falken. Founded by the Michelin brothers in 1889 in Clermond-Ferrand, the company’s goal was to create a bicycle tire that could be replaced more quickly. Until that point, it took several hours to replace a damaged tire, and the brothers’ product was a solution to that.
Things seemed to work well in those days, putting Michelin on the map as an excellent tire manufacturer. One thing that really kicked things off was entering a long-distance race with one of its products. Thanks to the design and ingenuity, the winning bicycle has Michelin’s tires fitted to it.
One of the many things that Michelin is known for is implementing technologies that have improved the tire industry over the years. As the car industry increased, the manufacturer climbed aboard that train and began making some excellent tires.
A good part of those technologies came from the research and development department dealing with racing tires. Its goal was to develop better racing tires, something which Michelin achieved. This can be verified by the company’s success and the ability to make excellent tires for the road.
Michelin’s tire families
Unlike Falken, Michelin has a pretty standard way of grouping its tires. A family of tires is mainly set based on the driving characteristics of a tire while also covering multiple vehicle types.
Starting off with the performance tires Michelin has on offer, I present to you the Pilot family. These are the tires you’ll be looking at if high levels of grip and traction are the things that are important to you. Refinement isn’t a massive priority here, but there are some decent options as well.
For summer tires, you have models like the Sport 4 and 4S and the previous generation of Sport 3, which cover the passenger car side of the market. For the SUV segment, you have the Sport 4 SUV, which is also a summer tire. There are all-season options like the All-Season 4 and the Sport A/S, but they come in sizes only for passenger cars. The performance winter portion is covered by the Alpin models that come in sizes for passenger cars and SUVs.
For the touring market, Michelin offers the Primacy tires. These are the one you’d be looking at in cases where refinement and longevity is your priority. While they are decent performers, they won’t match the grip and traction levels of the Pilot tires.
There are plenty of options here, but they only come in all-season and summer variants. Here you have older models like the MXM4 and MXV4, as well as the LTX and Tour A/S, which cover the summer and all-season parts. On the summer-only side, there are the HP and Primacy 3 tires designed for passenger cars only.
The Premier lineup of tires covers a similar portion of the market as the Primacy one. It means that you are getting comfortable tires that should last long and don’t make a lot of noise when driving them. Like previously, the highest levels of grip and traction aren’t a priority.
There are only two models in this family of tires – the A/S and LTX. The first one is a tire designed for passenger cars, while the second one is for CUVs and SUVs. Unlike the previous family, both models in this one as all-season only.
Larger vehicles like CUVs and SUVs are already covered with the previous families, but despite that, Michelin also offers the Latitude tires that cover that segment. To ensure that there’s a tire for everyone, the manufacturer has multiple models that offer different features.
To cover all driving aspects, Michelin offers the Sport, Tour, Alpin, and X-Ice as the main models. Each one comes in several variants depending on the weather conditions you plan to drive in. Based on the model you choose means that you’ll get a different set of driving characteristics.
While there are winter tires within the other families, Michelin also has a dedicated one called the X-Ice. Winter performance is what these tires are all about, but unlike the Alpin ones I’ve mentioned, these models’ performance is more towards touring.
You have two options here, tires that can be fitted with studs or without. On the studless side of things, you have the Xi2 and Xi3, which come in sizes that can fit on a passenger car or an SUV. A similar range of vehicles can be covered with the North tire, but unlike the other two, this one can be fitted with studs.
Continuing the trend of touring tires, we come to the Defender family of tires. While the set of features and technologies may be different, the end goal of these tires is the same – refinement and longevity.
Unlike some of the other families in Michelin’s lineup, there are only two models here. For passenger cars, CUVs and SUVs, you have the T+H, while for larger vehicles like SUVs and light trucks, Michelin has the LTX M/S. Both options are tires designed as all-season ones, offering usability in the winter.
As the electrification of cars grows, so does the need for tires that help with increasing range and reducing fuel consumption. This is where the Energy tires come into play. Michelin designed these as touring tires with an emphasis on reducing rolling resistance.
The Saver model is the one that comes in the form of summer and an all-season option, while the LX4 is an all-season only. Unfortunately, the application isn’t something that the Energy family can brag about. For the most part, these tires can be fitted to passenger cars only.
One of the most popular touring all-season options that Michelin offers comes from the CrossClimate family of tires. Using the latest and greatest technologies, these are all-season touring tires, meaning that they cover the essential aspects of their category.
This family currently offers the CrossClimate+ and CrossClimate 2, with the second one being the latest addition to the lineup. Despite not offering tons of models, both of these come in a wide range of size options, meaning that you can fit them on passenger cars, CUVs and SUVs.
The LTX family of tires covers a similar range of vehicles as the Latitude one, but the applications aren’t so identical. While there is a touring model in this family, there is also one that’s capable of doing some off-roading.
In the LTX family, Michelin offers the M/S2 as a highway tire, which is another way of saying touring. On the all-terrain side of the family, there is the A/T2, bringing balance between on and off-road performance. With both models, you have an all-season option capable of some usability in light snow conditions.
Differences between Cooper and Michelin
Michelin is one of the best tire manufacturers in the industry, so you shouldn’t expect Falken to outperform it. With that said, there are some very good models from the Japanese brand that can be comparable.
Mid-range manufacturers like Falken can deliver excellent performance, almost as good as the one that premium brands like Michelin have.
When comparing two UHP summer tires – the Azenis FK510 with the Pilot Sport 4 we can see that difference. The Falken tire is noticeably weaker in dry braking, but it’s very close to the Michelin tire in handling. The Japanese tire is also quite close to the French one in wet conditions.
As for winter tires for SUVs, we have the Eurowinter HS01 SUV and the Pilot Alpin 5 SUV. The Falken tire is again pretty weak in dry conditions, while it’s close or better than the Michelin one in wet conditions, especially in terms of aquaplaning resistance. While the Eurowinter HS01 SUV has decent snow performance, the Pilot Alpin 5 SUV manages to outperform it by a bit.
Another winter models that I’ll compare are the Espia EPZ II and the X-Ice Xi3. The results are very similar to the previous two tires. Dry performance with the Falken tire falls behind the Michelin one but is quite close on a wet road. The biggest difference is in snow performance, where the Espia EPZ II slightly outperforms the X-Ice Xi3.
Finally, in the off-roading category, Falken is a manufacturer that made a better tire, but not in all conditions. On the road, the LXT A/T2 is a slightly better tire, but in off-road conditions, the WildPeak A/T3W is a tire that can perform better.
At first glance, it may seem like both brands are equal, but in reality, Michelin has the edge over Falken.
In the touring and performance sections, Michelin is in the lead over Falken, but not in a way that you think. The number of active models isn’t too different, but the number of available models is. Unlike the Japanese tires, the French ones are available even a decade after they’re released. This gives it an advantage, and with most retailers, you’ll find more Michelin models.
In the winter segment, Falken has plenty of models, but Michelin, on the other hand, has more performance and touring options. It’s not as massive as with touring or performance models, but there is a difference still. As far as studded tires go, the options are quite equal.
The most significant advantage Falken has is in the off-road capable tires. Sure Michelin has a few all-terrain models in its lineup, but the Japanese brand offers a few more than that.
Things are especially leaning towards Falken in the mud-terrain segment. Since Michelin has no models in this category, it’s pointless to make a comparison.
With the specific models aside, a crucial area that puts Michelin ahead of Falken is the size options. Yes, both manufacturers have models for passenger cars, CUVs, SUVs, and light trucks, but Michelin seems to offer more for specific models.
Like with most mid-range versus premium comparisons I’ve done in the past, the mid-range one is the cheaper option. The same can be said about Falken and Michelin.
Since both brands have track-ready models, let’s start with those. When you compare similarly sized 18-inch models from the Pilot Cup 2 and Azenis RT660, you’ll find a $100 price difference between them. A key thing to note here is that the Falken has a W speed rating, while the Michelin has a Y.
UHP all-season tires are a more common sight, so let’s compare the Pilot Sport All-Season 4 and the Azenis FK001 A/S. Looking at a large size like 20-inches gives a much smaller difference than with the previous tires. In this case, the difference is around $50.
Performance tires are also available for SUVs, so we can compare the Pilot Sport 4 SUV and the Azenis FK510A SUV. The price difference is similar to the previous category.
In terms of the sensible options like grand touring all-season tires, we have options like the CrossClimate 2 and the Sincera SN250A A/S. On the smaller side of the spectrum, there is a difference of around $20, which increases slightly for the larger models.
Finally, in the off-road section, specifically all-terrain tires, on the Michelin side of things, we have the LTX A/T2 and from Falken is the WildPeak A/T3W. The price difference in this regard is not as big as with the rest of the tires. 16-inch models from both manufacturers have a price difference of $10, with the fact that the Michelin tire has a slightly lower speed rating.
In terms of warranty, the results are mixed, and despite the lower price tag, there are some cases where Falken has an advantage.
Touring tires are known for longer treadwear warranty, and even though Michelin isn’t a leader, it offers a pretty long one for its models. The CrossClimate 2 comes with a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty, while the Sincera SN201 A/S has 5,000 miles longer one.
Performance tires are ones that don’t come with a treadwear warranty due to their nature. With that said, Michelin is one of the rare manufacturers that offer a treadwear warranty for these types of tires. The Exalto PE2 or Pilot Sport 4 SUV come with a 25,000 and 20,000-mile treadwear warranty. On the other hand, all Falken models in this category have no treadwear warranty.
Despite being driven in off-road conditions, all-terrain tires are models that can come with a treadwear warranty, but in this case, Michelin is ahead. The LTX A/T2 comes with a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty, while the WildPeak A/T3W has 55,000-miles. On the other hand, the WildPeak A/T Trail has a 5,000-miles longer treadwear warranty than the Michelin tire.
Advantages of Falken
- Superior off-road capable tires
- More affordable
- Very good performance
Advantages of Michelin
- More touring and performance models
- A wider range of size options, especially at the higher end
- Performance is better
Which brand to choose?
To sum it up, things are more are less similar to most of the mid-range and premium comparisons I’ve done in the past. While both brands are good, there are situations where one is better than the other for some people.
People that aren’t bound by a strict budget or have a car that can benefit from the extra performance can go for the Michelin tires. While there are some specific conditions where they won’t perform better than the Falken ones, as packages, they are better. In addition to that, for the most part, you have tires with a slightly longer treadwear warranty.
Falken is a manufacturer that offers a better balance between price and performance, so if maximum performance isn’t your priority, it’s an excellent option. You may find these tires slightly better in some cases or equal in others to the Michelin options. The lower price means that you will sacrifice a few things, and apart from a slight drop in performance, you also should expect a slightly less treadwear warranty.