Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2009   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

Northern Latitude

Michelin's Latitude Tour aims at the Canadian SUV/Crossover market with an eco-friendly spin

How do you select the “right” tire for your customer? Do you choose by vehicle type; driving style; performance or value? All these attributes are part of the selection process and as the lines between light truck and car, four-wheel- drive and all-wheel-drive and performance versus utility blur, the process gets tougher. Is the BMW X5 a truck, a sports sedan? Is off-road grip and durability important? As crossovers and high-end SUVs now deliver performance at both the light-truck and passenger car ends of the spectrum, there is no such thing as a universal tire, making the sales process more difficult than ever.

Tire manufacturers, however, are building products that

give dealers the latitude to fit a tire to an end user’s

driving style. Michelin’s Latitude Tour is an example of a purpose-built CUV/SUV tire that’s intended for a specific driver, namely the thousands of crossover and truck owners who are predominantly paved road drivers, but occasionally venture onto gravel or dirt secondary routes.

While crossovers are clearly intended for pavement driving and often

wear passenger car replacement rubber, there is a good

argument for pavement-optimized crossover/SUV tires. The Latitude Tour is designed around a non-lugged but heavily siped street tread pattern and a carcass with low rolling resistance, addressing the primary market triggers for the majority of urban/suburban drivers: ride comfort, wet grip and fuel efficiency.

The radial’s tread is dominated by five circumferential grooves flanked by gently scalloped shoulder lugs which are divided by interlocking sipes. The tread breaks gently at the shoulder and extends marginally into the sidewall leaving the impression of a broad, flat contact patch.

Michelin declares superior wear and rolling resistance performance to the Goodyear Fortera SA and Bridgestone Dueler HL Alenza (tested in the P265/70R17 size on a Chevrolet Tahoe) and greater wet weather performance than any light truck tire in the Michelin lineup, some five per cent better than similarly sized Michelin Cross Terrain product. Available in 28 SKU’s from P235/75R15 toP255/60R19, the Latitude Tour carries OE fitments for Hyundai, Kia, GM and Ford. Service descriptions range from 105T to 108S with UTQG ratings between 600 and 720 with all at traction/temperature ratings of A B. Many popular sizes such as P235/70R16 are available in black wall and outline raised white letter sidewalls. The raised white letter is an outline “Michelin” that’s understated enough to satisfy conservative buyers who want to avoid the rock-crawler image of in-your-face LT sidewall branding. Michelin has identified typical SUV replacement fitments as the Buick Enclave, Ford Escape, Honda CRV and Nissan Murano. The Latitude Tour carries a limited tread wear warranty of 110,000 km, by using a proprietary tread compound and “MaxTouch” construction to optimize the contact patch for long wear. Combined with the lowered rolling resistance, Michelin labels the Latitude Tour as a “Green X” tire, tapping into the popular eco-friendly marketing opportunity driven by climate change/CO2 issues and media criticism of the auto industry in general. Where does the Michelin Latitude fit into the firm’s marketing scheme? Essentially, it’s at the top for SUV/crossover fitments with list prices from C$210 to C$367, which isn’t cheap, but represents value on an appropriate fitment like the Buick Enclave…. here the Latitude’s OE presence should help dealers in the aftermarket, as manufacturers like GM and Ford have set the bar high for replacement rubber. How does it drive?


For Jim’s driving impressions, log onto www.ssgm.comand go to the VideoPicks section.

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