The Truth About Cars » Wheels The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 13 Jul 2014 22:36:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Wheels What’s The Best Wheel? Fri, 12 Jul 2013 17:33:43 +0000
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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?

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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.

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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 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.

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Toyobaru Hype: We’ve Hit Peak Bullshit Fri, 20 Jul 2012 15:06:42 +0000

As if the absurdly hyperbolic headline “The day the world changed” wasn’t enough of a tip-off , the hype machine for the Toyobaru twins has officially reached its zenith, with Wheels magazine’s Peter Robinson declaring the Japanese-spec Toyota 86 to be superior to the Porsche Cayman.

Reading Robinson’s article, it’s as if I’d experienced a different car than the two FR-S’ I’d already driven. Robinson rhetorically muses on whether the transmission is “…the best manual gearchange ever” (Not a chance) and praises the Toyobaru’s steering as being better than the Cayman’s. If you want to feel like you’re driving Polyphony Digital’s approximation of what a Miata feels like, then yes, it’s wonderful. Reading the rest of the article, you’d think that this car could cure cancer, re-ignite the spark in your floundering marriage and make your hairline stop receding.

When I wrote my first article on the hype surrounding this car, I was partly dismayed because I was prepared to go and buy one, with my own money – not as some corporate (or freebie) long-term tester. The reviews I’d read beforehand led me to believe that this was the one we had all been waiting for, the affordable sports car that would set the competition on fire and usher in a new era of focused, rear-drive machines that a punk like me could realistically afford. I tempered my expectations, hoping it was merely a blast to drive, rather than the Second Coming of Christ, but even then, the experience left something to be desired.

Make no mistake; it’s a good car. We need cars like this, badly. It really is light, nimble and engaging, it looks sharp and it’s priced accessibly. And yet, I couldn’t really connect with the car. I began to empathize with the reviewers who felt that the original Lexus LS400 was a well-made simulacrum of a European luxury sedan, but without the essential intangibles that make the car a superlative experience rather than just “good”.

Some people seem to think that I have a particular axe to grind with this car, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My issue is that the breathless praise of the Toyobaru is harmful to the car itself. The Toyobaru has numerous flaws that keep it from being truly great, but there’s no honor in obscuring them. The engine is a dud, there are instances of embarrassing corner-cutting evident in places that most people don’t look and the dynamics of the car feel more digital than analog – something that may be unavoidable in this era, but it remains a sore spot as long as the MX-5, with its hydraulic steering, frenetic I4 engine and unassailable manual gearbox exists in its current form. Even Randy Pobst, in his recent Motor Trend comparo, felt that the twins lagged behind the MX-5 in subjective driving pleasure.

From that vantage point, comparing it to a Cayman is asinine. The Cayman is better in every single respect, period. It’s also exponentially more expensive, built to a much higher standard and therefore, should be better. Robinson’s insistence to the contrary is disingenuous, and no amount of “everyone has their own opinion” is going to convince me otherwise. It’s a blatant falsehood, like assertions that the Hyundai Equus is superior to the Lexus LS. Both are fine vehicles, but one is simply better than the other, and I can’t ignore it. Would I go and buy the Equus to save some money and get an almost-as-capable car? You bet. But I wouldn’t delude myself into thinking I bought a superior car. Instead I’d be satisfied with the value proposition and the anonymity, and leave it at that. Nobody is cross-shopping the Toyobaru and the Cayman the same way – the car is a stepping stone to Porsche ownership, one that’s been sorely missed in the market. Why pretend otherwise? I’m perfectly content with accepting the Toyobaru on that premise, with all the compromises it entails. But trying to portray it as a “giant killer” or whatever hyperbolic turn-of-phrase is en vogue right now will only induce eye-rolls and lead to unmet expectations. Lest we forget the Camaro and how opinions changed once the rose-tinted glasses came off  a year later.

Fanboyism always plays out the same way. Lacking any concrete or meaningful pursuits to identify with, people hitch their emotional and even spiritual well-being to manufactured brands and entities. They invest themselves in them with literally a religious fervor, and any attack on their chosen entity is taken as blasphemy. Movie critics are getting death threats over poor reviews of the newest Batman flick, and auto journalists are unwilling to give a sober analysis of this car, save for the lads at Evo magazine. Nonwithstanding all the insinuations about being blackballed, my experience has shown me that few journalists (but many readers) are willing to stand up and say “The Emperor has no clothes” when a car doesn’t live up to the hype.

The Toyobaru, at least, isn’t naked.

Postscript: I’ve seen comments on various forums alleging this review was bought and paid for – I promise you, dear reader, it’s not. This is the work of an overly enthusiastic journalist who is either using hyperbole as a literary crutch, or is so self-deluded that they have the gall to run this story without a hint of irony.

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Project $1500 Volvo: A Big Thanks To The B&B As I Seek Your Counsel Again Thu, 31 May 2012 14:20:23 +0000

Between the comments, private messages and emails, you, the readers, sent over 100 comments on how to get the smoke smell out of Project Volvo. Thank you for providing me one of the rare opportunities to harness “crowdsourcing” in a way that isn’t some nebulous social-media pie-in-the-sky frivolity. I’ve made great strides with shampoo and vinegar/water solutions, and will be moving on to coffee grounds and other tactics. In the mean time, something else has caught my attention.

“Are those alloy wheels corroding?” That was the question, asked incredulously, by my father. I let him drive Project Volvo so he could compare the old dog with his shiny new XC60 (he liked the seats a lot). After giving it a once over, he flicked some paint flakes off the rim, and I noticed that after giving the car a good power wash, all four wheels were in a bad state.

The paint is flaking and bubbling, which means I need to do something or risk having them turn to utter crap by January. I don’t want to throw any money into buying new rims, so sanding and painting looks to be the way to go. The question is, should I keep them silver, or do something different. My initial thought was gunmetal, to look slightly more aggressive and to hide the brake dust. If you have a better idea (for re-finishing or for a different color) then let me know in the comments.

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Wheels Make the Van! Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:30:03 +0000
As the Dodge A100 Hell Project proceeds in fits and starts, I’ve been so wrapped up in making the thing streetworhy that haven’t gotten around to doing anything about the external appearance… until now!

Yes, that’s a full set of Cragar S/S clones, in the proper anachronistic 14″ diameter and shod with big fat Grand Am Radial GTs (225s in front, 245s in back).

I got them from the owner of the cleanest ’74 AMC Javelin AMX I’ve ever seen; they came with the car and he decided he wanted to go with real Cragars.

The van looks so much better than it did with the white steel spokes that I may have to jump right to the Cherry Bomb exhaust upgrade, because a van that looks this mean needs to sound mean!

The Grand Ams are pretty old and I don’t quite trust them on the highway, so I’ll be shopping for some Mickey Thompsons in the near future; there’s room in the rear wheelwells to go to at least 255s out back. And for you aficionados of annoyingly vintage features, left-hand-thread wheel studs are right up there with mercury-based syphillis treatments and radium-enhanced toothpaste when it comes to the “dumb stuff they did in the old days” department. To make things even more fun on my van, only the left rear wheel has lefty studs; either the previous owner upgraded to righties all the way around and then did a rear axle swap, or he replaced the front studs and then lost motivation for the project.

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Trade War Watch 16: Hot Wheels Just Got Hotter Mon, 25 Oct 2010 12:30:45 +0000

It’s been some time since since we had a “Trade War Watch” on mounting trade tensions in the auto industry, and thank goodness for that. In this economic climate of cuts, currency swings and bankruptcies, what we need are things which will make the situation worse, right? In May I reported about how the EU put a 20.6 percent tariff on aluminium wheels from China. The EU did this in response to complaints from domestic manufacturers. Naturally, this left a sour taste in China’s mouth. Well, over 5 months later, you’d think that the EU would have calmed down and this nasty business would be swept under the carpet, right? Erm, not quite….

Bloomberg reports that the EU have not only turned the temporary tariff into a 5 year tariff but increased it from 20.6 percent to 22.3 percent. Chinese exporters like YHI Manufacturing (Shanghai) Co. and Zhejiang Wanfeng Auto Wheel Co. will get hit by this new tariff. But not only will they get stung, but also BMW and Renault will because they buy these wheels from Chinese suppliers. Thus, the price of their cars will rise. The tariff is expected to be imposed by November the 11th.

Naturally, the EU defended this move by claiming that the benefits of this duty outweigh the disadvantages which come on the carmakers. Aluminium wheels are about 1 percent of the total cost of a car, therefore, the cost increase can’t be no more that 0.22 percent according to the EU. “Even this maximum cost impact appears limited in the view of the turnover achieved by car makers,” said the EU. Some automakers have threatened that this move would force them to move production abroad, but the EU dismissed this threat as “disproportionate”.
We”ll keep an eye on the news to see how (or indeed “if”) China hits back. Remember, the EU have far more to lose by China imposing tariffs on EU goods than the other way around. After all, China is far more important to the EU as a market than as a manufacturing center. The EU has 501,064,211 potential customers for Chinese products. China has 1,338,612,968. In this poker game, the EU are holding a four of a kind, China’s got a royal flush.
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Trade War Watch 14: Hot Wheels Wed, 12 May 2010 10:39:21 +0000

Now that the Conservatives (with the help of the Liberal Democrats) have come to power in the UK, the Conservatives are going to push forward their plans for a reduction in the UK deficit (i.e savage cuts). Now, while I agree in the long term, this will be good for the UK, in the short term, it will cause higher unemployment and severe “belt tightening”. The UK isn’t the only country with this frame of thinking. Only today, the Spanish government has announced deep budget cuts in order to reduce their deficit and to prevent markets from thinking of them as the next “Greece”. So, with the UK and Spain making these budget cuts, the Euro looking unsteady and Greece still not convincing markets, what else could make Europe stare at another recession? That’s right, a possible trade war.

Reuters reports that The European Union (EU) has imposed provisional anti dumping duties of of up to 20.6 percent on aluminum wheels from China. The EU did this after complaints from domestic competition arose.

Who will be hurt first? European companies like Renault and BMW. The use these Chinese wheels on their cars. Lots of other EU car manufacturers source their alloy rims in China. It needs a strong technological regimen to make them pass stringent ECE rules.

Naturally, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce denies any dumping charges and said that the investigation was not in line with World Trade Organization rules. In other words, “Stop picking on us”. The Chinese officials then tried to appeal to the good nature of the EU by saying that these duties could raise the cost of repairs for customers (concern for the European customer? How sweet!), slow the recovery of the European auto sector (Actually, Opel is probably doing more for that cause than some aluminum wheels) and hurt the interests of both China & Europe (Ah! That’s more like it!).

I don’t speak fluent “bureaucrat”, but after watching many episodes of “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister”, I’m pretty sure that “hurt the interests of” usually means “trade war” or such like. Mind you, to play Lucifer’s Advocate for a second, China aren’t exactly clean in this exchange of barbs. In December, they imposed a 24.6 percent anti dumping duty on steel fasteners from Europe and last month, launched an investigation into a type of optical fibre imported from the United States and Europe.

With trade between the EU and China (as of 2008) worth €326 billion, this is an area which both countries will need to tread carefully. The EU is the largest trading partner with China and if the EU annoys China, maybe some of that trade will go to China’s other large trading partner, the United States. Or on second thoughts, maybe not…..?

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Piston Slap: Design Weak: Big Ass Wheels Mon, 09 Nov 2009 22:26:45 +0000 "13's are OK if you are going for stock or restored look but as you say 13" tires are getting harder to find and in my opinion just look too small. There are 14" wheels out there with 4 lug patterns that look good on a II but even 14" tires are getting limited in size. I now think 15's are the way to go and with the aluminum adapters converting 4 to 5 lug, just about any wheel can be made to fit the II. Tire choices in 15's are unlimited so the correct look can be had by doing your homework on backspacing and wheel width. A nice set of Cragar 5 spoke 15's would look awsome on the II or you could stager and put 14's on front and 15's on rear." (courtesy

Mike writes:

Sajeev, what ever happened to 14-inch wheels?  I mean, seriously, does the Caliber really need to be shod with 17-inchers? Why does my dad’s new half-ton pickup have 17-inch wheels? His old one had what used to be the industry standard 235-75R15. He about had a coronary when he found out new tires would be over $100 each. Perhaps if I put on my tinfoil hat, I’d say the tire companies are behind this. So really, does the average family sedan or minivan really need anything bigger that a 15-inch wheel/tire?

Sajeev replies:

Of course the Caliber doesn’t need 17-inch wheels: they can’t possibly fix Chrysler’s rolling abomination.  But let’s think about why every modern car has big wheels.

Speaking from an Engineering Standpoint: wheels over 15-inches provide space for bigger brake rotors (and calipers) and a shorter profile tire in the same tire diameter.  The benefits are better braking in extreme conditions, like mountain roads or any form of towing. Shorter profile tires provide more road feel and tread grip, completely changing a car’s “turn in” during the act of corner carving. In theory: most cars lose these benefits above 18” wheels, as more unsprung weight and rubber band tires make things worse.

Furthermore, modern cars/trucks are heavy, straddled with more gizmos, bigger (and taller) cabins and more rigid bodies. When you add more weight, you need more stopping power.

Speaking from a Design Standpoint: styling is a major factor in the mass-acceptance of larger wheels. By the 1980s, both the downsized American icons and Japanese entrants required a certain passenger volume without resorting to the bulk and shocking overhangs (front and rear) of previous decades. Which required a taller DLO (Day Light Opening) for more trunk space—among other things—and created a taller car in the process.  And, in general, taller cars naturally look better with “taller” wheels filling out their wells.

And big wheels were here to stay when Ford sold Explorer SUVs like buttered popcorn, making everyone ride tall in the saddle. Hence the need for taller profile wheels and bigger brakes merging with America’s insatiable need for sleek sheetmetal since the 1950s.

Maybe 15” wheels can make a comeback, but vehicles need to ditch their platform shoes and go on a serious diet.  I’m not holding my breath.

[Send your queries to]

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