Tire Showdown: General Altimax RT43 vs Michelin Defender M/S [2023]

Tire buyers have lots of choices when it comes to rubber to put on their wheels. How do the General Altimax RT43 and Michelin Defender M/S do against each other?

Michelin Defender MS Tire
Michelin Defender M/S Tires on my GMC Yukon

The Michelin Defender M/S and General Altimax RT43 are comparable but have different purposes. General’s Altimax RT43 is considered an all-season grand touring tire while the Michelin Defender is a Highway all-season tire. Customer ratings say, however, that the Michelin Defender is more comfortable.

Let me be fully transparent. I absolutely love the Michelin Defender MS tires. I put them on almost everything. This said I am going to be as objective as possible throughout this analysis. I’ll give a detailed comparison of each tire based on the data provided by sites like TireRack.com. We’ll also discuss what to look for in a tire and how you should rate them. I appreciate you trusting me to share my tire experience with you. Let’s get into the showdown of two great tire options!

General Altimax RT43 vs Michelin Defender MS

The General Altimax RT43 and the Michelin Defender LTX MS are similar tires, but they do have unique abilities. Both are considered all season tires, which literally means that they are meant to be very well rounded and able to handle dry conditions while providing good wet traction on light snow or wet surfaces. 

One key difference we’ll start with: The General Altimax RT43 is designed as a Grand Touring tire. Grand touring typically means that the vehicle should offer better handling and traction while cornering, especially with dry traction. The Michelin Defender LTX MS is considered a highway all season tire, meaning it doesn’t necessarily push the limit for dry traction while cornering and is more designed to travel in a good, straight line and offer longer tread life. 

So, let’s compare…

A comparison between Michelin Defender MS and General Altimax RT43:

Since tires don’t tend to have a return policy and you can’t really “test” them yourself by spending hundreds of dollars, we go to a source that does accurate tests: TireRack.com. Their website performs tests that matter.

Tire Rack looks at both subjective ratings like comfort and how a driver “feels” while trying to corner or stop on a wet road, and takes an objective, numbers approach in telling you how long it takes the same vehicle to come to a stop with each tire. Let’s explore what they had to say about our two selected tires:

Comfort: General Altimax RT43 vs Michelin Defender LTX MS

Comfort is a subjective rating provided by users. According to users of Tire Rack, the Michelin Defender scores are just a little higher than the General Altimax RT43 with a 9.2 compared to an 8.6.

Also note that the range of numbers here goes to 5.5 at the lowest across tests, so in comparison to other tires at TireRack, especially cheap tires, both of these are considered superior.

Wet Surfaces and conditions

This rating is also subjective, so far. We have more data to get to later. Michelin Defender takes the edge here, earning a 9.2 rating on wet compared to 8.6 on wet for General. Both are considered excellent, according to TireRack.

Dry Surfaces and conditions

According to drivers, the Michelin Defender does well here too with 9.3 on dry and General hits an 8.8.

Tread life

Here is where Michelin Defender’s purpose starts to shine more. A 9.1 on treadwear is pretty good for a tire and considering that the tire is designed for long highway miles, it’s no surprise.

The General tire gets an 8.4, which is considered good. Tread life, by the way, is an indicator of how many miles the treads on the tire should last before becoming unusable.

Real life tests

In real life tests with trainer drivers who provide a subjective rating, the Michelin Defender outdoes the General Altimax RT43 on dry roads – though not by much.

The Michelin Defender scores on average .25 higher out of 10 across braking behavior, steering, traction, handling, and balance. This is a bit unexpected, considering that the General Altimax RT43 is the all-season grand touring tire that should score higher on higher speed turns.

The Michelin Defender and General Altimax RT43 remain fairly close on wet tests too, with a total of about .3 points separating the two, though the Michelin Defender is more well rounded. The General Altimax RT43 takes a hit in the category of steering on wet surfaces, dropping as low as 6 when most other scores are near 7 out of 10.

Stopping is rather important too. This is also the only test where the General Altimax RT43 really stood out – stopping 8 feet shorter than the Michelin Defender on a wet surface and just a couple on a dry surface.

While this might not sound like a significant margin, if you found yourself driving in the rain on a regular basis, it does help to have a more predictable stop, especially at high speeds.

Our opinion on Michelin Defender LTX against the General AltiMax RT43

Finding the right tire is about combining much of what we discussed with test results versus your actual preferences. We aren’t going to get into pricing here, in part because the price of the tire does depend on the size of your vehicle – let’s assume they are pretty close in price though.

If you happen to live in an area that gets frequent rain or snow, like the Pacific Northwest, midwest, or northeast, we might suggest you try the General AltiMax if only because the stopping distances on wet surfaces were better, though the wet traction was on par with the Michelin Defender.

We could choose the Michelin Defender for most other situations. Given the number of tests the Michelin Defender ‘won’ over the General AltiMax, you can assume that it handles a little better overall and feels better to drive, though it could take a few more feet to stop since it doesn’t have as good of wet traction.

If you are concerned about longevity, the Micheli Defender offers the potential for longer tread life.

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Expert Tip

If you are not sure which tires to buy for a truck or SUV, and if your vehicle is your daily driver, then I strongly suggest you go with the Michelin Defender LTX M/S.
As long as 95% or more of your driving is going to be on the road around town or on the highway, these will be excellent tires.
I have these tires on my daughter’s Lexus GX 460, my wife’s GMC Yukon, my Father’s Toyota Sequoia, my Mother’s Lexus RX350, and my father-in-law’s Mercedes ML350. Needless to say, I am a big fan of this tire for daily driver status.

–Kern Campbell

Are these OEM tires?

The Michelin Defender LTX and the General Altimax RT43 might come with some new vehicles. We wouldn’t suggest that they are enough of an improvement over most OEM tires to prompt immediate replacement though.

How do I know when to replace tires?

Tires like the Michelin Defender LTX M/S and the General Altimax RT43 have built-in indicators that show you when you should start thinking about replacing your tires. Getting a good tread depth gauge is also a good practice in general because it shows the real depth.

Your local tire store should also measure your tires before putting new ones on – unless you arrive with flats – then it’s pretty obvious!

Recommended Reading: Here’s what the Michelin tire warranty covers

Key Takeaways

  • We would choose the General AltiMax for better wet handling and stopping.
  • The Michelin Defender offers better overall handling and better tread life.
  • The tires are both a pleasure to drive with, it’s just up to your needs.
  • The General AltiMax is considered grand touring while Michelin’s Defender is highway.
  • Grand touring tires are often known for better handling, and Altimax doesn’t fit this.