Now that I’ve explained why I decided to upgrade my Bolt EUV’s tires, let’s get into why I chose the Michelin Defender LTX M/S, and then I’ll get into whether that worked out.
Why The Defender LTX M/S?
This will sound silly at first, but I’m a big fan of Discount Tire. Yes, the place that had the ad with an old lady throwing a tire through the window.
(I don’t recommend doing this, and I’m pretty sure Discount wouldn’t like it, either)
When I looked up better tires for the Bolt EUV, the only tire in the “Truck/SUV” category was the Defender LTX M/S. At first, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anything with more aggressive tread, but I decided to at least be fair and learn more about the LTXs before looking at other sources.
And, it turned out, the Defender LTX M/S tires are a lot more capable than they appear at first glance. Michelin’s engineers have been struggling for years to make tires that don’t make a bunch of road noise, don’t cause gas mileage to drop like a rock, and stand up to the record tire-shredding torque numbers that today’s trucks put out. Plus, they had to still be able to stand up to things like ranch roads, forest trails, and other rural challenges. They created a much better tire than previous LTX M/S, and they even felt it was tough enough to get the “Defender” designation.
They were so confident in the new tire’s abilities that they invited journalists out to torture test them a couple years ago when they first came out. Despite their best efforts, none of the journalists were able to get the tires to pop on rocks or get the vehicles stuck in the mud.
This appeared to be exactly what I was looking for (low noise, not too much range hit, better off-road capability), so I reached out to Michelin to see if they could send me a set for testing. Not only did they send me four tires, but they were also cool enough to send me a fifth one so I could have a spare and really test the limits without having to worry about getting stranded.
The Range Hit Wasn’t Terrible
The tires came in and I got them installed just a couple days before I needed to go out of town. I live near El Paso, Texas, and needed to drive almost all the way across Texas. So, I did what any insane person would do and took the Bolt EUV with a fresh set of tires that I wasn’t sure how bad the range hit was going to be.
I measured the range hit using A Better Routeplanner’s OBD-II connection. One of the cool things that software can do is keep an eye on your vehicle’s efficiency and calculate the vehicle’s average power draw at 65 MPH on level ground, good temperatures, etc. The software then uses that reference figure to calculate and plan routes, with very good accuracy. With the stock Energy Saver A/S tires, ABRP figured I was getting approximately 3.4 miles/kWh, or just under 300 watt-hours per mile.
I reset the software several times to get the best figures possible, and all results were within 10-15% range loss compared to stock tires. But, I think the actual figure is about 11% (3.02 miles/kWh 65 MPH reference). The 15% range loss figure emerged only during very hilly segments of I-10 going 80 MPH consistently, and close to sea level. Flatter stretches of interstate at higher altitudes in the desert are a lot closer in condition to where I got the 3.4 miles/kWh “before” figure, so it makes more sense to compare apples to apples.
TL;DR: Range loss was about 11%. Not bad.
Road Handling Wasn’t Affected, Bumps Are Less Pronounced
Compared to the stock Energy Saver tires, I don’t feel much of a difference. I didn’t notice any loss of traction or any trouble going through corners. I’m sure if you compared these to a sticky sport tire, you’d find loss of street performance, but the Energy Savers definitely aren’t that.
The only thing I really noticed was that bumps (which I found in great abundance in Houston) were noticeably less pronounced with the Defender LTX tires. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but my guess is that the tires are heavier and flex a bit more in bumps than the Energy Saver tires.
Off Road Performance Is Much Better
While the on-road performance wasn’t hurt, I noticed far better performance on dirt, rocks, sand, etc. I haven’t tested deep sand yet, because I need someone to be on standby in case I get stuck, but the difference is noticeable on all other off-road surfaces I’ve tested. Rocky trails, sand patches, power line roads, gravel, and mud were all environments where I noticed a lot less wheel slipping.
While the Bolt EUV certainly isn’t a Jeep and I can’t torture test these tires as badly as the journalists did in 2020, I did take it up some really rocky roads in some nearby desert mountains. The uneven rocks were bad enough to scuff up the sidewalls of the tires, but even at 44 PSI they just gripped the rocks and let the Bolt EUV pull itself right up the hills with that nice, controllable low-end torque it has.
Basically, these tires can handle anything the Bolt EUV can handle. Anything bad enough to hurt them would probably total a budget crossover.
Towing Is Better With Truck Tires
Another benefit to going with truck tires instead of car tires is that they’re designed to tow more. These tires are in the XL load range. In other words, they can be aired up more to help keep them from bulging under a heavy load.
I tested this, and found that the limits of what I feel the vehicle can safely do weren’t a problem for these tires. With about 2,000 pounds of trailer and five adults in the car, the suspension of the Bolt EUV was squatting a tiny bit in the back (air bags could easily alleviate this), but the tires were just fine and looked normal with 45 lbs of pressure in them. They even were able to pull the vehicle, trailer, and occupants through some mild sand patches with all of this stress.
Once again, these tires are capable of a lot more than a Bolt EUV can throw at them, and they performed flawlessly. I’ll get more into the hitch setup and how that all worked out in some upcoming articles. Without getting too far off topic of the tires, I can say that the EUV has plenty of torque to tow. Even overloaded like this, it had far less trouble keeping up with traffic than most gas-powered cars would. Plus, regenerative braking makes towing so much more pleasant.
They Look Basically New After 3,000 Miles
After about 3,000 miles of long highway drives, dirt roads, gravel roads, and some trails, I’m noticing that the tires look practically new. No noticeable amount of tread has been used on them. But, when you consider that they’re warranted for 70,000 miles of tread wear, this isn’t surprising. While we all want expensive tires ($250-300 each for these) to last a long time, it’s also important for the environment to not shed so much rubber all over the place. Tires with compounds designed to last longer are better not only for you, but for everyone you share air and roads with.
All in all, I’d say these tires are a real winner if you want to take an EV off pavement. Range losses are minimal, street performance isn’t worse than the Energy Savers, and they do a lot more off pavement and for towing. For me, an 11% range hit is worth these benefits.
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