QOTD: What OEM Wheel Designs Make Their Respective Cars Look Cheap?

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson

Regulation. It dictates the majority of modern car design. Whether it be for pedestrian safety, crash worthiness, economies of scale, or fuel efficiency, the basic building blocks of modern cars are decided well before pencil is met with freshly-bleached paper (or, these days, before stylus meets tablet).

That last item – fuel efficiency – is as much a matter of aerodynamics as it is what’s under the hood, and aerodynamic efficiency isn’t just about fenders and trunk lids.

Which brings me to wheels – specifically, OEM wheels – and how absolutely ugly they’ve gotten the last few years.

Back in 2000, the Accord Coupe rocked some simple, stylish, but decidedly less flat-faced wheels. Assuming you can find a set that hasn’t been oxidized to the point of resembling Brittany Spears’ pre-Proactiv face, be prepared to pay dearly as they still command over $100 a corner on eBay.

Even the latest Accord Coupe, official subject of many a Jack Baruth editorial, has some of the most handsome wheels on the market today fitted to a car priced significantly less than a Vanderbilt nut. They give the Accord an upscale appearance without relying too much on what’s fashionable now but won’t be this fall. Hopefully, like their predecessors, these dubs will age well with time.

Also, knowing Honda, the wheel design probably exceeds any aerodynamic specs given to the Engineer in Charge of Precision Circular Metallic Tire Mounting Apparatuses.

Unfortunately, this kind of design foresight isn’t always the case.

I’ve never seen a wheel design that’s so unnecessarily fashion-driven while still being utterly yawn-worthy as the wheel used on the Toyobaru twins with its H&M painted pockets and overall Overstock.com cheapness.

For starters – and this isn’t the fault of the wheel design, but – on a sports car, the last thing I want is a wheel to sit way inside the fender. If the wheel face isn’t flush with the fender, I want it to be damn close to it. The rear wheel on the Toyobaru twins look like a cowering dog hiding in the corner after eating the entire thanksgiving turkey.

Secondly, this wheel design makes the twins look like they’re riding on casters, no doubt accentuated by rubber that’s seemingly narrower than the wheel itself.

And, to top it all off, why – WHY – couldn’t Toyota and Subaru design One. More. Wheel? Looking at a BRZ and FR-S from a side profile perspective, one can only differentiate the two by their center caps. And if you’re going to pick just a single wheel design, why go with one that makes the rest of the car look cheap?

Every single time I see a BRZ or FR-S from the front, I think, “Hrrmmm, why haven’t I bought one of these?” And after realizing it’s because I’m poor but I could still, probably, maybe, possibly justify living in automotive enthusiast indentured servitude, I look at the side of one of these cars and go, “Nope. This is cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.”

Same goes for the new Scion iM, from concept to reality…



What wheel do you think completely ruins the overall design of its respective automobile?

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

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  • JuniperBug JuniperBug on Jun 11, 2015

    I actually have no issues with any of the wheels presented in this article. The Toyobaru twins, in particular, look just fine to me. Regarding the rubber looking like it's slimmer than the wheel, that's probably a performance consideration. If quick response and grip are your priorities, you want to size your wheel to be as wide as the tread width of the tire. That's not how OEMs normally size things, partly because it leaves for less sidewall flex for shock cushioning, and makes it easier to rash the wheels, but for drivers looking to track their cars, that's how it's done. The only OEM wheels which have struck me as ugly and ill-fitting to their car are those on the current-gen Civics. The wheels on the Si, especially, look to me like someone randomly picked something from a ricer catalogue. I don't know whether it's just the design of the wheel, the size, offset, or the wheel gap, but it just looks jarring. On the other hand, I like that even the base Golf comes with a nice set of understated 15" alloy wheels, which both look nice and are the right size for their mission (adequate performance, cheap replacement tires, decent ride).

  • KrohmDohm KrohmDohm on Jun 11, 2015

    I'm going to go the opposite direction here and throw out a wheel that I think makes a car look much better then prior models. The 2015 Camry XSE has some great looking 18" wheels. I've gotten nothing but compliments on mine since I bought it three weeks ago.

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...