Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Michelin LTX Force Tyre Experience: Michelin Malaysia Shows Off The Michelin LTX Force Range of Tyres At The MICHELIN 'OFF-ROAD DAYS' Event

I had the opportunity to participate in the first-ever MICHELIN OFF-ROAD DAYS event here in Malaysia recently. Held from the 20th to the 23rd March of 2018, it was meant to showcase Michelin's current range of Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and 4x4 tyres. This included their latest on-and-off-road tyre, the MICHELIN LTX FORCE. 

The MICHELIN OFF-ROAD DAYS  event catered to a varied group of motoring enthusiasts, Michelin tyre dealers and guests so that they can experience the capabilities of the LTX Force tyre. They had prepared for us an on road dry and wet braking test area, a dry slalom course, a drive by noise comparison as well as a well prepared off-road circuit which included climbs, descents, driving over rocks, into ditches, an elephant walk to show off the tyre. They even actually compared the tyre with a competitor tyre for the on-road exercises and compared the LTX Force with Michelin's own BFGoodrich branded KO2 tyres, which are designed for proper off-roading. 

Now, Michelin states that the MICHELIN LTX Force is designed for on-road and off-road usage with proven shorter than average braking distance. Up to 2 meters shorter and up uo 35% higher durability or lifespan than most tyres.  The tyre is designed to be able to do both different terrains relatively well and the tests were supposed to highlight its features.

For the on-road tests, Michelin shod a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with a Japanese Competitior on-and-off road Tyre (the Brand beginning with the letter 'B') and another Hilux with their LTX Force tyre. We tried out both the wet and dry braking tests, the road noise test and the slalom test which would simulate real world emergency lane changes. The choice of using the Toyota Hilux pickup truck for the on-road surprised a few of us as we would have expected they use the Toyota Fortuner which is seemed to be used more as a recreational vehicle rather than an off-road vehicle. 

So the test basically takes the more rugged Hilux on-road and the more refined Fortuner off-road. Unique. But, we were also a little bit worried about the Hilux's performance through the slalom as most of use remember watching videos about how the Hilux performed during the evasive Elk test maneuvers.  

Anyway, on the my non-scientific findings for the on-road tests of the LTX Force against tyre brand B. The LTX Force is much more refined a tyre. Over planks simulating rough surfaces the LTX Force is quieter. There is less tyre clobber noise generated and is more refined according to my trusty ears. The ride seems to be a tad more composed too. As for braking, I managed to get the LTX Force Hilux to stop three-quarters of a meter shorter a distance than the competitor tyre. In the wet, it is about the same distance. Some managed a shorter stopping distance than others but on average, I can say that the LTX Force brakes slightly better. 

But what was impressive was the slalom course experience. The LTX Force has more grip and makes the Hilux handle better. There was less understeer as the pickup truck resisted ploughing straight on. The tail of the Hilux also wags a lot less and there was less steering wheel twirling by Yours Truly inside. 

Basically there was waaaaaayyyyyy less drama inside then Hilux when shod with the LTX Force. In the competitor tyred Hilux, your hands moved more, you had to concentrate more and you basically worked more. I think in this test, the LTX Force really whooped the crap out of tyre B. It is that extra control that makes it the better tyre. This test, and the noise test really made it for the LTX Force on-road.

As for the off road capability of the LTX Force, Michelin provided a comparison with its in-house brand tyre, the BFGoodrich KO2 tyre (the tyre on the right - pic above). This is a heavy duty, designed for off-road tyre which is more at home in the mud rather than on the highway. So on the off-road track, it basically flattened the off-road test track with ease. There was so much grip that even whilst moving off braking on a very steep incline, the Fortuner just took off with even a smidgen of slip. The KO2 really K. Oed the test track.

The KO2 was a benchmark test tyre for the Michelin LTX Force tyre, a 50% on road tyre and a 50% off-road tyre. I have to report that after trying out the LTX Force, it also performed well. There was almost no slack when moving off on the same incline and even managed all of the obstacles with ease. However, the only real advantage that the BFGoodrich KO2 tyre has over the LTX Force is the ultimate levels of grip the knobby thread pattern the KO2 has over the LTX Force (which was also surprisingly chunky for an all-terrain tyre). 

The heavy duty KO2 allowed more cushioning from the impacts of ruts, rocks and holes. It also allowed better grip due to a more aggressive thread pattern which allows less mud to stick to it and ultimately make it have more grip in the mud. That being said, the LTX Force performed admirably well for something designed to have dual purposes. It is quite a marvelous piece of rubber and it shows that European tyre brands are the leaders in terms of tyre technology these days.

Toyota Fortuner with the BFGoodrich KO2 tyre

I must say that in terms of Michelin and their products, they have to date never disappointed me every time I try out their latest tyres. They have kept on piling their efforts into research & development and the results are actually visible. When I experienced their Pilot Sport 4 at its Malaysian launch in October of 2016 I came away super impressed with its overall performance. This time it's still the same. 

More Details of the MICHELIN OFF-ROAD DAYS Event and the MICHELIN LTX FORCE Tyre Specification and why Michelin are pushing into the SUV & 4X4 market in Malaysia

Mr. Pascal Nouvellon, Managing Director, Michelin Malaysia and a Toyota Hilux fitted with MICHELIN LTX FORCE tyres

Themed “By Passion, By Necessity”, the event was aimed at the SUV and 4x4 market segment which is a growing market globally. The theme also addresses the need of today’s drivers who travel for work and leisure, from the daily worker to the avid adventurer.

Michelin states that in Malaysia, the SUV / 4x4 segment accounts for almost 12% of total Passenger Vehicles sold in 2017, or 61,275 units according to the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). Global Insights estimates that the SUV market is expected to grow at a rate of 9.7% by the year 2022, while the Malaysia Tire Forecast and Opportunity Report projects tyre sales to increase by 6.6% the same period. The SUV market is indeed on the rise and has taken over sales from the C and D segment cars priced between the RM90,000 to around RM250,000. People are taking to SUVs, Crossovers and 4X4 more than ever.

 L-R: Mr. Kuang Boon Keat, Customer Engineering Support, Michelin Malaysia, Mr. Pascal Nouvellon, Managing Director, Michelin Malaysia,  Mr. Duy Pham, Marketing Manager, Michelin Malaysia & Bibendum, The Michelin Man.

MICHELIN Malaysia’s Managing Director, Mr. Pascal Nouvellon said that, “Over the past two years, the SUV tyre segment has outgrown the passenger car tyre segment globally; and will continue to do so for the next five years as more people are seeking safety and versatility in vehicles and would expect the same from their tyres. At MICHELIN, we strive to deliver tyre safety that people deserve.”

The MICHELIN LTX FORCE’s on-road capabilities are enabled by CompacTread Technology, whereby reinforcement between tread blocks increases the contact area with the ground, for better braking and safety; BevelTread Technology, whereby a rounded sloping edge cuts the peaks of noise power at the frequency which is sensitive to human ears, thus providing a peaceful ride; and CushionGuard Technology, which absorbs road imperfections for a more comfortable drive. 

Its off-road toughness is enabled by Extended Sidewall Biting Edge, which improves the sidewall’s cut-chip resistance; plus Deep and Open Shoulder Design for off-road traction. True to its tagline “Whatever The Terrain, One Tyre Handles It”, the MICHELIN LTX FORCE is the best option for drivers who seek the best driving experience on all types of roads.

“Off-road technologies behind the MICHELIN LTX FORCE are derived from the World Rally Championship (WRC), one of the world’s most demanding rallies – thus, providing another example of MICHELIN’s “From Track to Street” philosophy. At the same time, on-road technologies improve braking performance on both wet and dry roads, as well as increases durability. Through a series of tests held at the event, consumers could witness the MICHELIN LTX FORCE braking to an average distance of 2 meters shorter versus its competitors on-road, which is a crucial safety feature. Third party studies also revealed that the tyre delivers 35% more mileage” added Mr. Nouvellon.

With the MICHELIN LTX FORCE, Michelin states that customers can be ensured of safety and versatility with excellent on-road grip and great off-road traction, as well as of longevity and durability with better mileage and a tougher design.

MICHELIN LTX FORCE is available in a wide range of fitments – from 15 to 18 inches – at TYREPLUS car service outlets, MICHELIN EXPERT CENTRE and authorized dealers across the nation. 

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