One of the trick features and specifications on our funky little Project Panda 4×4 from the Fiat factory is a set of winter tyres –helping it gain the richly deserved reputation as the vehicle of choice for North Italian hill famers, capable of ploughing up 30-degrees of mud, ice and snow, 24:7:365. And they were pretty good on conventional roads and in normal operating temperatures and weather too, if a tad noisier than regular rubber choices.
What Fiat don’t tell you however is what a complete rarity and PITA they are to get hold of, mid-Winter, when one of them suffers a catastrophic blow-out, thanks to a nasty bit of Norfolk flint. Cue hours of time I’ll never get back on tyre supplying websites, calling local tyre centres and even the press office of the chosen tyre manufacturer, not to mention Fiat.
Net gain? “Nothing until late January mate.” WTF?!
Still, we’re all for turning mishap into adventure and problems into opportunities here at Road HQ… and we thought, yeah, Winters are good, in Winter, and in far colder countries, with actual snow and ice issues (where they are a legal requirement), or indeed if you are indeed a remote Italian hill farmer, or indeed an Italian hill farmer in a remote location.
But is Winter rubber really ideal for daily use here in the UK? Probably not. Then again, we know that conventional (Summer) rubber is no good on ice, in snow or even cold conditions. Dilemma.
The solution? All season rubber; offering the best of both worlds and good levels of grip, all year round, whatever the temperature, weather or indeed road conditions. Great.
Enter the absolute all-rounder from our favoured tyre manufacturer – king of the ‘Ring and off-road racing – Falken Tyres, and their Auto Blid test winning (2013) Euroall Season AS200, which is said to “provide good traction all year and short braking distances on snow… and deliver convincing performance through its comfortable steering feel, stable directional control on wet race tracks, quiet tyre noise and a high level of comfort.” Could we ask for more?
In short, no.
Most helpfully too (unlike Fiat’s choice of the more expensive Continental tyres), the Falken AS200’s were actually available to purchase, in the peak demand depths of Winter and were on their merry way to a fitting centre of our choosing within a matter of hours of ordering them, and on the car a few hours after arrival. Simples.
First things first… they look the nuts, with just the right wavy, narrow, multi-cut pattern you should get on Winter rubber. Second impression? They are quiet. So much quieter than the OEM spec tyres and, best of all, they worked perfectly well in standard road conditions and felt great from the get go.
Even better from a testing POV, it snowed and was blooming freezing days after fitting the tyres… and here’s where the Euroall Season AS200’s shone brightest of all: The grip levels on offer, driving on sub-zero temperature, untreated roads, covered in quite a deep layer of snow around where I live (and in a few wet, slushy, snowy, icy, muddy fields) are just sensational. And that’s whether you are hard on the power, diving on the brakes heavily or changing direction. Quite phenomenal: Partly down to the Panda 4×4’s immense, giant killing off-road capability we know, but still, you’re only able to go as far as the grip levels of the tyres will take you…
After establishing these tyres really were good, and superbly safe. I then attempted to drive like I’d stolen the car and entered Rally Sweden, expecting my lack of snow driving talent to very quickly emerge and tip me and Project Panda into a ditch, invoking the wrath of my dear wife, Bonnie. But no. Even deliberately provoking the car slamming on the brakes on hill crests, whilst simultaneously adding steering and random, hard acceleration inputs failed to upset the grip levels, or the missus. Remarkable.
Having never had all season tyres before, I’m literally amazed. They seem to have all of the foul weather grip a Winter tyre offers, with none of the hassle and cost of changing/storing Winter tyres and wheel changes etc. And if they act just as responsibly in the warmer months, they literally are the absolute all-rounder. We can’t recommend them highly enough – keeping my most precious of cargo safe when the roads are at their most treacherous. Hoorah for Falken and yet another fantastic product they offer.
That’s three Road project cars all on Falken tyres now and with nothing negative to say about any of them. First class rubber, at second class prices. What’s not to love?