BUYERS GUIDE - SOFT-ROADERS
Nearly all European soft-roaders now come with temporary spare wheels, run-flat tyres or no spare and a can of tyre inflation gas and sealant.
There is simply no place for soft-roaders with temporary spares, run-flat tyres or the spare-less vehicle with a can of sealant and a supposed tyre inflation gas charge.
None of these ‘solutions’ to the spare tyre problem works in the Australian environment.
We’ve tested temporary spares, run-flats and gas cans and none of them can be relied upon in the Australian-distance context – not even on freeways and major highways.
It’s a great shame, because there are some wonderful European machines in the marketplace. Renault has had the good sense to include a proper spare wheel and tyre in the Koleos specification.
A shining example of an excellent vehicle ruined by stupid tyres is the Mercedes-Benz GL-A 250 SUV. This vehicle is beautifully made, goes very well, handles like a sports car, bristles with all the expected electronic gadgetry and would make an ideal easy-trail and gravel-road touring machine – except that it rolls on run-flat tyres.
Lift the cargo floor and you discover a shallow spare wheel well that is fitted with a jack (why?) and a Harmon Kardon stereo amplifier, but no spare wheel and tyre.
It’s even more frustrating that the very bush-capable All Terrain ‘Benz comes on run-flat 20s. The only concession to Aussie off-roading is a 19-inch wheel option to allow chain fitment.
Like all ‘solutions’ to the issue of having to carry and change a flat tyre, run-flats have inadequate driving range to allow safe transport to a tyre centre. Also, the chance of that rural centre having a replacement tyre is zero, necessitating at least a 24-hour stay until a tyre can be flown in. Read about our run-flat experience.
We had the new ‘Benz for a week’s test, but it spent all its time on the bitumen and we had to ensure we were never more than 80 kilometres from a Mercedes-Benz dealer, just in case we scored a flat. How bloody stupid is that?
Fortunately, there are a few good European vehicles with proper spares – notably Renault’s Koleos and Peugeot’s 2008 2WD – and several spare-wheel-equipped Japanese and Korean SUVs for us to evaluate.