Whenever the time comes to get a new set of tires, some people, myself included, look at the options currently available on the market. You may be fine with the set you have before, but the tire industry is constantly evolving, meaning that what was excellent 5-6 years ago could be average today.
The first thing that most people look at is the price and then compare that with the performance. As I keep mentioning repeatedly, the best performance lies in the premium tires. On the other hand, the mid-range options deliver almost similar performance at a lower price.
With that in mind, today, I’ll be comparing two tires from different segments. Hankook’s Roadhandler is defending the mid-range segment, while the Michelin Defender LTX M/S is on the premium side.
Both tires are designated as an all-season highway, so they’re a form of touring tires designed for CUVs, SUVs, and light trucks.
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Hankook Roadhandler H/T
Even though Hankook is a brand that falls in the mid-range category, it’s not a company that makes bad tires. The lower price point is what makes it so attractive, and the same can be said about the Roadhandler H/T.
The most important thing with any all-season tire is the rubber compound. Hankook used a proprietary rubber designed to be used throughout the year. In wet and snowy conditions, the tread pattern is designed to enable the Roadhandler H/T to bite to the road or snow and offer traction.
Naturally, Hankook paid attention to the pattern for situations with heavier rain. As a result, the Roadhandler H/T features circumferential grooves and lateral sipes, tasked with keeping water away from beneath the tire and should result in excellent aquaplaning resistance.
Another advantage the tread pattern should offer is in the handling department. The Roadhandler H/T features a 5-rib design with an optimized pattern meaning that Hankook put some effort into making the tire responsive.
The symmetric pattern is a feature that Hankook implemented to provide a longer lifespan of the tire. Thanks to that, the Roadhandler H/T is designed to evenly distribute the load, resulting in even wear, making the tire last longer.
On the refinement side of things, the tire is set up to provide a smooth driving experience that you’d expect from a highway tire. For noise, Hankook implemented the variable pitch design, which should reduce the noise levels noticeably.
Michelin Defender LXT M/S
Michelin has a few options in the highway category, and the one I’ve chosen is the Defender LTX M/S. The French brand is known for implementing many of its technologies into the tires, and this one is no exception.
When it comes to the Defender LTX M/S, the main feature is the rubber compound. Michelin used its proprietary Evertread, a compound with the goal of delivering a longer lifespan. Also, as the tire is an all-season one, this compound prevents it from losing its softness in colder temperatures, making it usable in the winter.
Snow and wet conditions are problematic ones, and Michelin worked on improving them by tweaking the tread design. The Defender LTX M/S features 3D sipes throughout the blocks designed to help with traction on damp roads. If you’re driving on water, you have the sipes and circumferential grooves that should help it channel water outward. Finally, the actual pattern I responsible for providing biting edges making the tire usable in snowy conditions.
Even though the Defender LTX M/S isn’t advertised as a performance-oriented tire, Michelin put some magic into it. By applying the Total Performance Package, the company aimed to give the tire some performance-like characteristics, something that some of its competitors lack. This means that you’ll be getting a tire with a bit stiffer blocks, resulting in a more responsive experience.
It’s evident that both tires fall in different categories, so a difference will be noticeable, but how big of a difference is it?
How do they perform in dry conditions?
For the most part, most tires tend to perform well in dry conditions, and the same can be said about the Roadhandler H/T and the Defender LTX M/S. With that said, the tires aren’t equally matched, and there is some difference.
In normal driving conditions, both tires deliver an excellent driving experience, filled with more than enough grip and traction for what most people would need. To be honest, some people may not even notice a difference in terms of how “sticky” the tires are. The differences begin to show once you start pushing them to the limits.
For starters, the limit for the Defender LTX M/S is higher, and you can accelerate more aggressively without too much slip. The same goes for the corners, where you can achieve higher speeds before the tire starts to understeer. I’m not saying that the Roadhandler H/T is terrible, but it doesn’t take too much abuse, and you shouldn’t expect to get as much performance as with the Michelin model.
On a twisty road, you can expect the Michelin tire to be more composed and be the better option, even though both tires aren’t designed for that.
There is also a difference in terms of the braking distances. The Hankook tire isn’t terrible and scores very high within its own class but falls short when compared to the Michelin model.
How do they perform on wet roads?
Tires generally have more issues delivering performance in rainy conditions due to the slippery surface. In this case, there is a difference between both tires, and like in the previous test, there is a better option.
You probably guessed that the better option is the Michelin, as the tire is one of the best highway tires you can find on the market. The 3D sipes in the tread pattern do wonders and enable it to have plenty of grip and traction. This also results in very short braking distances, making the tire very safe.
When you look at the Roadhandler H/T and compare it to the Defender LTX M/S, you will notice why the tire isn’t in the premium segment. To be fair, the tire delivers very high levels of grip and traction, so the slip is minimal, and the tire won’t struggle to change direction in a corner. The problem is that the level of performance isn’t as has as with the Michelin tire, so like in dry conditions, don’t expect wonders.
One area where things are closer is the aquaplaning resistance. The Defender LTX M/S remains fully stable at higher speeds, and even though the Roadhandler H/T cannot achieve the same results, it comes pretty close.
Can they be used on snow?
You’re looking at all-season tires for the snow performance, and I’m happy to report that both tires are usable in these conditions.
The key thing to keep in mind is that I mentioned “usable,” as both of them aren’t something you’d want in harsher conditions. This is another area where the Michelin tire takes the crown, as it proves to be able to handle more.
There is a line where the Roadhandler H/T will start to struggle in winter conditions, and that’s around the lighter ones. As long as the snow is shallow and not too packed, the Hankook tire will provide usable performance. Traction will be decent, and the tire will be controllable in cases where it does start to slip. Performance on packed snow is not terrible, but it is slightly worse than over unpacked.
On the Michelin side of things, the Defender LTX M/S can provide everything the Hankook can and more. The tire handles light conditions effortlessly, and even in some deeper snow, it can remain usable. You can rely on it, as it feels planted and stable, but keep in mind that it’s not a winter tire, so don’t push it too much.
For both tires, ice is something I’d recommend avoiding. You will get away with some smaller patches, but overall the performance isn’t satisfactory.
What is satisfactory are the braking distances, especially on the Michelin model. The Defender LTX M/S stops in a shorter distance than the Roadhandler H/T, which isn’t a surprise. Despite the clear win, the Hankook tire doesn’t fall too much behind.
Will they deliver good off-road performance?
The Defender LTX M/S and Roadhandler H/T are tires that can be fitted to an SUV or a light truck, but that doesn’t make them a good off-road option.
Both of them lack the pattern, design, and rubber compound to offer traction in extremer situations like mud or rocks.
The most you should expect from either of them is some dirt roads, as long as you’re careful. Those surfaces can damage the rubber, leading to premature wear.
Are they good in the handling department?
The tires aren’t designed to deliver the best handling experience, so you shouldn’t expect Pilot Sport experience levels.
On a daily basis, both tires are more than adequate for the task at hand. They are responsive enough and don’t feel numb, meaning that most drivers would be more than fine with what they are offered.
Enthusiasts won’t be too happy with either of the two, but I believe that the Michelin will be a more favorable option. The Defender LTX M/S features the Total Performance Package, making it more responsive and feeling the sportier of the two. This comes with decent feedback through the steering wheel, which isn’t terrible.
The Roadhandler H/T, on the other hand, isn’t as sporty feeling, but also not the worst in this regard. Surprisingly the responsiveness isn’t too terrible, but the feedback could use a bit of work, especially on-center.
How well-refined are the tires for everyday driving?
Refinement is something that people expect from highway tires, and I’m happy to report that both models are well refined, and the difference isn’t massive.
Starting off with the better tire, the Defender LTX M/S is among the best there is. The tire can easily smooth out road imperfections and deliver a very plush ride. Noise is also another area where the Michelin tire gets an A+. I wouldn’t classify it as the quietest, but it’s pretty close.
Hankook deserves some high praises here. The Roadhandler H/T is a tire that manages to be a very quiet one, thanks to the variable pitch design. Yes, there are some differences when compared with the Michelin tire, but they aren’t massive. Comfort levels, on the other hand, are something that I feel Hankook could work a bit more. Even though the tire is comfortable, bigger holes and sudden jolts can upset it a bit, and the tire can transfer some of the vibrations in the cabin.
Do any of them offer a warranty?
Finally, we come to a section where the Hankook is a winner and not by a margin. Highway and touring tires come with a long warranty, and both of these are no exception.
The Roadhandler H/T is a tire that comes with a 100,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is quite a lot for a mid-range option. As a comparison, the Defender LTX M/S has a 70,000-mile warranty. The difference isn’t negligible, and Hankook deserves high praise for this.
Hankook Roadhandler H/T Pros and Cons
- 100,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Very good price per performance ratio
- In some conditions, the performance comes very close to the Michelin tire
- Ride comfort isn’t as smooth
- Will struggle in slightly harsher winter conditions
Michelin Defender LXT M/S Pros and Cons
- Excellent performance in dry and wet conditions
- Well refined
- Slightly sporty characteristics
- Among the more expensive tires
- Less warranty than the Hankook tire
Which of the two is a better option?
At first glance, the choice seems simple enough, the Defender LTX M/S is a better tire, so that’s the one you should get, right? Not exactly.
Yes, the Michelin tire is better than the Hankook one, but the differences aren’t too great, making the Korean tire a good choice. Essentially, with the Roadhandler H/T, you are looking at an excellent package when you consider the performance and price.
If you’re after the better tire and your budget isn’t too limited, then the Michelin will be the better option. Keep in mind that you’re getting a shorter treadwear warranty with it.