I recently wrote an article entitled “Going Ugly On Purpose.” This was a piece about how automakers are intentionally uglifying their base-level vehicles so people pay more for nicer models. Many of you read this story from start to finish, absorbed the facts, perused the nuances, and then scrolled straight to the comments where you got into a fight about California versus Texas.
I watched this fight with great interest. I’ve been to both California and Texas, and I’ve never lived in either, which puts me in the highly unique position of being one of those guys on the Internet who takes a position without any firsthand knowledge. But I didn’t take a position, and I won’t take one now, though I will say that California, to its credit, does not have to share a border with Arkansas.
The other thing that came out of that article was that some people, and I won’t name names because I don’t want to embarrass Compaq Deskpro, thought the wheels on that SL350 looked good. Actually, it wasn’t just him. My girlfriend texted after the article went up, not to say that she found it informative, or well-written, or humorous, but to announce that she, too, thought the wheels looked good.
Of course, this is a mistaken viewpoint. On an objective basis, those wheels look awful, and Mercedes-Benz executives are currently on vacation in Monaco from the money they’ve made off people who couldn’t upgrade fast enough.
The good news is that everyone else – or at least, those who weren’t fighting about Texas and California – agreed those wheels were awful. This got me thinking: if we agree the SL’s wheel is so bad, could we possibly agree on a wheel that’s good?
My personal favorite wheel comes from the 1995 Ferrari F512M. This was the final iteration of the Testarossa, a car that came out more than a decade earlier. Because the TR was so hopelessly outclassed, even by Lamborghini products (at the time, this was a considerable feat), Ferrari had to do something cool. And that cool thing was this unusual five-spoke wheel design.
I’m not entirely sure what Ferrari calls it, but I believe it looks sort of like a starfish dancing with a brake caliper. In other words: with these wheels, Ferrari had retaken its position as a leader of modern automotive design.
The Volvo S60R wears another handsome wheel. Although it’s just a simple five-spoke alloy with an “R” on one of the spokes, the S60R’s wheel somehow managed to transform a mundane Volvo into an aggressive sport sedan.
The only problem with the S60R’s wheel is the same issue most “performance car” wheels had in the 2000s: it sticks out beyond the tire. That means every S60R wheel in existence is covered in curb rash thanks to careless owners who thought the “R” model just added more features.
So those are my choices. What are yours? I’d like to take the responses and create an article in the coming days about what makes a wheel attractive. Assuming, of course, that we don’t get into another fight about Texas and California.
@DougDeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.