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Big Wheels - How Big is Too Big?

Big Wheels - How Big is Too Big?

Posted October 6 2006 08:15 AM by Edward A. Sanchez 
Filed under: Opinions, Observations, Trend Observations

Hummer H2 on 30s

Okay, I know I'm probably going to catch some heat for this, but I have a pet peeve. My peeve is wheels that are way bigger than they need to be for a certain vehicle. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not categorically against plus-sizing when it offers a demonstrable performance advantage. What I'm against is big-@$$ wheels just for the sake of the "bling" factor. These to me are the automotive equivalent of gold chains.

Case in point: Hankook unveiled a production 28-inch light truck tire at last year's SEMA show. Huge by anyone's standards. Not content to rest on their laurels, at this year's show, the company showcased a 30-inch tire on Lexani rims. I kid you not. Un-freakin' real. Personally, I don't think there's any functional reason to go beyond 22s in any application. Even the biggest of the big brakes will clear double-deuces, no problem. Most will clear 18s or 20s without problems.

22s have become so common, that GM is now offering them as a factory option on the 2007 Escalade. So now that they're factory equipment, are 24s going to be the new price of admission to the cool truck club? How long will it be until we see 24s from the factory?

The problem is, with the exponential increase in wheel and tire size comes some real functional issues with the vehicle. Wheels that are 20 inches or larger are heavy suckers. The factory brakes originally made for 16 to 18-inch wheels and tires are taxed to the max when they're asked to haul down these massive rollers. I think big brakes should be mandatory for wheels over 22 inches. I'm surprised Brembo or Baer hasn't partnered with a wheel or tire company to offer a package deal for big wheels. Maybe they have, and I just don't know about it.

But if bigger wheels mean bigger brakes, we're talking about some massive weight. Ever tried to pick up a brake rotor? Granted, you get one off a Toyota Tercel, and it's not all that heavy. But grab one off a Ram or Silverado, and you've got one beefy chunk of iron in your hand. Now, imagine one about an inch or two or three larger in diameter. Yeah. It's little wonder that most aftermarket brake kits use a two-piece design with an aluminum hat. Otherwise, you'd be spinning freakin' boat anchors under your rims!

I suppose it might be too much to ask a scene that prides itself on pushing the limits of sanity and functionality to back down and take an objective look at the performance sacrifices they're making to run those huge rims. Maybe they don't care. If it's all about the street cred and the "bling" factor, then this battle is already lost. What would really impress me is a 22-inch carbon-fiber or Titanium wheel that weighed half what the factory 17-inch cast wheel weighed. Now THAT would have me picking my jaw up off the ground in awe.

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