Toyo Open Country vs Michelin Defender

Picking a new tire for your car can be a daunting task. Not only are there a multitude of options available in this saturated market; the mere prospect of reading a tire size, choosing the brand and the size that perfectly fits your vehicle is very challenging. Ultimately, the tire you choose can make or break the experience you get while driving your vehicle.

Tire users do not always leave reviews and to add to the perplexity, users of various tire brands often leave contrasting and contradicting reviews on the web. Ultimately you’re left doubting the reliability of what you do manage to read. Luckily for you, we do the arduous task of making in-depth and authentic reviews and comparisons about the various tire models the industry has to offer.

This article focuses on the side-by-side comparison of two popular tire models out in the market.

Michelin Defender has been a popular model among tire enthusiasts worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. It has been marketed as the new all-weather Michelin tire that makes use of the latest technology the French company has to offer- Michelin’s IntelliSipe technology. Packed with Michelin’s MaxTouch and Green X Technology, and a warranty of a whopping 90,000 miles, the Defender has been rolled out for a diverse range of vehicles such as family sedans, SUV’s, coupes, and minivans.

The unique interlocking mechanism of IntelliSipe and Green X technology utilized by these tires ensures decreased rolling resistance which translates into better fuel economy.

On dry surfaces, the increased number of sipes help with the handling and grip whereas on wet surfaces, the performance is enhanced by the use of multiple circumferential and lateral grooves.

Among the other unique features that make up the interior of the tire’s design are the two steel belts coupled with a polyester cord body and Michelin’s MaxTouch technology.

This particular design augments the strength and durability of the tires by optimizing the contact of the tire with the road while braking, accelerating or cornering.

Catering to the diverse variety of vehicles, the tire comes in multiple ranges from 13” to 18”. Michelin also provides the buyers with a 60-day buy and try guarantee and 3 years of roadside assistance.  For our testing, we chose the 225/65R17 102H BSW size variant installed on Ford Explorer 219 model.

Another popular choice; the Toyo Open Country ATII is an all-terrain, all-season touring tire that aims to provide exceptional traction, stability, handling and long tread life. The tire is built to fit a wide range of CUV’s and SUV’s and it also includes advanced features that result in a much smoother, comfortable and quieter ride.

Some of these advanced features are Toyo’s aggressive sidewall and open tread block design, wear resistant tread compound, deep tread grooves with stone ejecting blocks, polygonal and zigzag sipes and bars between the blocks.

The aggressive sidewall and open tread block design delivers excellent performance in rough terrain like snow, mud and dirt while keeping the noise levels to a minimum.

The wear resistant tread compound comes into play while maintaining the durability of these tires and extending tread life. The deep tread grooves with stone ejecting blocks help in stone removal and yield smooth braking and handling on snowy and muddy surfaces.

Similarly, the addition of bars between the blocks improves dry traction by stabilizing tread blocks and also reduces irregular wear; prolonging the tread life of these tires.

The tire is available in three distinct shoulder designs- Mid scalloped shoulder for P-Metric and Metric sizes, scalloped shoulder for LT-Metric and Flotation sizes and deep scalloped shoulder for Xtreme sizes.

The size range of this tire varies from 15” to 22” and it comes with a 65,000-mile warranty, backed by Toyo’s 500-miles / 45-days trial offer.

Just like the Michelin Defender, we chose the 225/65R17 102H BSW size variant installed on Ford Explorer 2019 model. The shoulder design we chose was mid scalloped.

Comparison of Toyo Open Country and Michelin Defender

For our in-depth analysis, we made a list of 11 different categories and then proceeded to perform a side-by-side comparison in each different category.

The results our analysis gave us in each of the 11 categories have been summarized in the bar chart below, followed by an in-depth review of how each tire performed in each of the categories.

Dry traction comparison

Both these tires have been marketed as all-season tires; so you’d expect them to deliver exceptional performance on dry tracks particularly- and they do, although the ATII came out as the clear winner.

Sporting some especially incorporated features such as the open tread block and aggressive side wall design, Toyo’s ATII gave exceptionally smooth braking and handling experience and were particularly impressive while turning corners. On a dry track, with the Ford Explorer running at 60mph, the ATII gave a braking distance of 22m, at least 6% better than Michelin’s Defender.

The Defender didn’t lag behind too far though. The results it gave were, for most part, on par with its competitor and the difference in the handling, braking and accelerating we got would be more than satisfactory for the average user. When subjected to the same test at 60mph, the braking distance for Michelin Defender came out to be 24m.

Wet traction comparison

Carrying on in the same fashion, the Toyo Open Country ATII once again outperform its competitor and delivered wet traction results at least 8% better than Michelin’s Defender according to our testing and customer reviews.

With advanced design features like deep tread grooves and tie bars between blocks, the water evacuation mechanism of ATII gave an impressive performance on wet surfaces and it culminated in a substantially smoother accelerating and braking experience on wet roads when compared with the Defender.

Michelin’s Defender fell short while turning corners on wet roads. Under light rain with less than 2mm of water on the road, the results it gave were mostly comparable to those of Toyo’s ATII. The four circumferential grooves and multiple lateral grooves work together to substantially enhance the tire’s grip on wet surfaces.

However, factoring in the overall response of these tires on wet roads, the Toyo Open Country ATII emerged as the winner.

Snow traction comparison

By winning in this category, the ATII established itself as the traction champion out of these two tire models. The difference between the traction results both these tires gave was significantly greater in this category- at least 10%. Since neither of these tires can be called a specialist snow-tire, we did our testing on roads with light snow of less than 2 inches.

Once again, the superior design of the Toyo Open Country ATII, specifically tailored to improve traction on all kinds of terrain, shone to give results that rightfully live up to the “all-terrain” tag that comes with this tire. Design features like polygonal blocks, zig zag sipes and deep tread grooves made these tires more than usable on light snowy roads

Michelin’s tire was more prone to slipping and losing control, based on our testing. The smaller width between sipes on this tire rendered it substantially less useful than its competitor under snowy conditions.

Hydroplaning comparison

The term hydroplaning refers to the phenomena that occurs when, due to the presence of water on the road, the tire loses its contact with the road effectively nullifying any traction there is to offer.

This phenomenon comes into play when driving on a flooded road or under torrential rains and constitutes an important category in our comparison due to the associated hazards. With improved traction under wet conditions, hydroplaning gets significantly reduced.

As you would expect judging by the water traction comparison, the ATII once again came out on top owing to its aggressive side wall and open tread block design. The improved water evacuation they offered meant that the tire rarely lost its contact with the road and gave impressive control on wet and flooded roads.

The Defender on the other hand, while still retaining impressive control on wet roads thanks to its four circumferential and hundreds of lateral grooves, it did suffer the occasional loss of contact with the road.

Ride comfort comparison

Both these tires were equally comfortable to ride and their performance, especially on highways, could not be significantly distinguished from the other. Hence, no clear winner was chosen in this category.

The Defenders, with their MaxTouch construction, steel belts and polyester cord body gave comfort results that would be well-suited for driving long distances on highways. The only decline in performance came on rougher roads, which can be expected as these are not all-terrain tires.

The Toyo Open Country ATII utilized the tie bars between blocks and open tread block design to give an equally smooth driving experience on highways and much a better experience (when compared with the Defender) on rougher surfaces.

Comparison of rolling resistance and fuel consumption

Rolling resistance of a tire is the energy that it needs to maintain movement at a consistent speed over a surface or it is the effort required to keep a tire rolling. Greater rolling resistance implies that the engine must spend greater energy to keep the tire rolling and results in greater fuel consumption.

In this category, the Michelin Defender stood out as the clear winner. The tire, equipped with Michelin’s MaxTouch and IntelliSipe technology, made use of an effective interlocking action to lower the increase the rigidity of the tread block, lower the starting tread depth and enhance fuel efficiency without compromising longevity. The efficiency was at least 8% better than its competitor’s during our testing.

As evident by the features and design of the Toyo Open Country ATII, the improved all-terrain traction took precedent over the overall rolling resistance and fuel consumption and the results it gave in this category were depictive of that.

Comparison of noise levels

When comparing the noise levels, both these tires gave equally quiet rides. At lower speeds, the noise levels were indistinguishable for both the Defender and the ATII but at speeds higher than 80mph, the Defender’s performance suffered for some users.

Once again the impressive open tread block design of Toyo’s Open Country ATII came into play to deliver a quiet and comfortable ride. For the Michelin tire the increased number of sipes and unique tread pattern allowed for a quieter and more comfortable drive. Whatever noise was encountered, started to be noticeable at around 65mph and substantially loud at 80mph.

Comparison of off-road driving experience

The Toyo Open Country ATII won by a landslide in this category, and that is understandable based on the fact that it is an all-terrain tire manufactured by a company that specializes in making tires built for off-road driving.

The aggressive sidewall, open tread block design and deep tread grooves with stone ejecting blocks ensured that these tires gave impressive traction on control whether it be sand or mud. Though for prolonged off-road driving, you’d be better off with some of Toyo’s other impressive options such as the Open Country R/T or the Open Country M/T.

Michelin’s Defender, since not specifically tailored for off-road driving, suffered on rough terrain such as sand, gravel and dirt. With occasional off-road use, these tires seem to give satisfactory performance based on customer reviews. However, if you’re looking for tires tailor made for off-road driving, Toyo’s ATII crush the Defender.

Comparison of steering responsiveness

This was another category where no clear winner could be chosen. Both the tires gave equally admirable handling and control and were deemed equally responsive based on our testing.

Michelin’s breakthrough IntelliSipe technology combined with the increased number of sipes these tires had to offer were the main driving force behind the crisp braking and handling the Defender had to offer. Cutting corners was, in particular, a surprisingly pleasant experience owing to the exceptional tread block rigidity that made sure the tire maximized its contact with the road.

For the Toyo Open Country ATII, the addition of features such as the tie bars between blocks and the new optimized bead design served the same purpose of ensuring smooth handling and turning corners.

Comparison of environment-friendliness

The environment friendliness of the tires was judged by their fuel economy, which was tied in with their rolling resistance. Hence it was no surprise that the tire with the lower rolling resistance and better fuel mileage was chosen to leave a smaller carbon footprint and be more environment friendly than the other.

The Michelin Defender was the better tire in this category by quite a margin. With IntelliSipe and MaxTouch technology and the interlocking action it used, the rolling resistance was much lower and fuel mileage was much higher and thus, this tire was deemed substantially eco-friendlier than its rival.

The ATII, as evident by its low fuel economy scores, suffered in this category and hence there was no attempt made by the company, Toyo Open Country, to market it as an environment-friendly option.

Comparison of treadwear

Although the Michelin Defender comes with a warranty of 90,000 miles, the actual results obtained by various customers spoke otherwise.

Most users reported a significant decline in the tire’s condition at 40,000 miles with the tire being practically unusable after 65,000 miles.

Toyo Open Country ATII, on the other hand, it seemed was better at both making promises and living up to them. The tire came equipped with a new wear-resistant tread compound that provided excellent durability and enhanced the tread life by at least 40%.

The ATII tire was warranted for 65,000 miles by Toyo and most users reported getting more or less the same mileage out of their tires before signs of tread wear started to appear.

Therefore, although both tires technically gave the same tread wear results on paper, based on the virtue of better keeping its tread wear promise and warranty, this became another category where Toyo Open Country ATII emerged as the clear victor.

Final thoughts

Under the criteria that we used for the side by side analysis if these two tire models, the Toyo Open Country was clearly the better choice. It won most of the categories (6 out of 11) and won especially impressive victories in two categories: Off-road driving experience and tread wear. Furthermore, it outperformed the Michelin Defender in all categories of traction (Dry, wet and snow), clearly making it your go-to tire if you want to buy either of them based on traction. The ATII comes with a 45 days’ trial offer during which you can test out its impressive features for yourself.

The Michelin Defender, for most part, felt like it was competing against a tire that was out of its league. Surely the traction and off-road driving experience would not have been on par with a tire that comes with the all-terrain and all-season tag, but where it particularly faltered and failed to impress was the substandard longevity of the tire as reported by many users.

It still delivers impressive all-weather results and would not be a bad option if you prefer in-city and on-road driving. The tire comes with a buy and try guarantee of 60 days, which is ample time to check if what the tire has meets your preferences.


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