I learned to drive on a five-speed Datsun 280ZX that had 195/70 R14 tires. (If you don’t understand what those numbers mean, read this breakdown of tire codes.) Yes, 14-inch wheels sporting tires with high sidewalls. This was normal in the ’80s, but nowadays the rage is to have beefier rims with low-profile tires, a trend that I suspect was advanced by car renderings. Every automotive renderer seems to draw rims that threaten to bottom out inside the wheel wells, with only the faintest sliver of black to indicate there’s any rubber on them.
Nowadays you’d be hard-pressed to find 14″ wheels on any car claiming to offer sporty performance. Volkswagen’s GTI, as one example, comes standard with 15″ wheels, but I’m guessing most buyers ponying up for a GTI over the Golf upgrade to the 16″, 17″ or 18″ wheel options.
Which wheel size is faster? Which size is preferred if you live in rainy Oregon versus dry Arizona? Which size offers more comfort, makes more noise, or handles better? To find out, Tyre Reviews tried out three different rim and tire sizes—225/45 R17, 225/40 R18, and 225/35 R19—on Goodyear’s test track in the south of France. Some of the results are surprising.
By the bye, how brilliant are Goodyear’s executives for decreeing that their test track be located in the south of France?