I think I am getting into the habit of writing posts defending my choice of new vehicle…maybe not so much for the benefit of people reading this blog but more the comments I get from people I know in both real life and on internet forums etc. One could argue that the fact I have even entertained the idea of a big petrol V8 engine or a sporty coupe mean that part of me isn’t entirely sold on the idea of a diesel luxury SUV, but I feel that would neatly sidestep 2 decades-worth of desire for such a vehicle.
To further this theme of posts, I had been all geared up to rant on about how I couldn’t possibly buy something like a 330Ci – a car that will forever maintain a place in my dream garage, but events in my personal life this week mean that it’s not a topic I really want to explore…getting a car with relatively easy access to the rear seats is no longer a priority after an unexpected death in the family, yet it still doesn’t mean that I am going to do a 180 and buy something impractical and fast. Instead I am going to attempt to write a smaller post about something which most car enthusiasts bemoan often…alloy wheels.
Now I won’t be going into any depth about the history or whatever of alloys, because to be honest I’m not that interested and it would involve a fair bit of reading that I’m not feeling up for (sorry). But what I will say is that I have always at least paid attention to car wheels; my mum recalls me pointing at the different badges on wheels from my buggy, and I guess that little obsession helped make me into the car buff I am today. Whilst it took many years for us to buy a ‘main’ car which had alloy wheels (in fact it was my current Astra!), our other vehicles always had them…not that I took too much notice! Both the Lotus Elan and BMW 2002 had wheels which were covered in rust and/or dirt, and the Golf GTI had classic but rather small alloys which looked like a pie dish!
Wheels which particularly stood out to my young self included a relatively bland Mercedes design – to the extent that I specified that I wanted a toy Mercedes with those specific wheels only! The vehicles that these wheels were attached to were items of my affection, but even the wheels themselves seemed particularly rugged and simple. Think original Ford Explorer/90’s Chevrolet Suburban and you will have a good idea of another design I liked, and even if the wheels of Ford Explorers later found notoriety, those type of designs still strike a chord with me today.
So what about size? Well in all honesty it depends what vehicle the wheels are attached to. I know that there is a lot of evidence that larger wheels result in worse ride quality, increased road noise, more expensive tyres and a more questionable image, but in all honesty as long as certain parameters are kept within then I have little issue…though admittedly I might not say that after driving a Q7 with 22″ wheels down a country track. Don’t get me wrong I despise things like spinners or massive aftermarket wheels, but as long as a car is fitted with OEM wheels I have little issue as long as the design is attractive. The same goes for coloured wheels-I really like the black/charcoal items that manufacturers are warming up to, two-tone items are great too, but anything aftermarket just turns my stomach a bit.
The problem with only liking OEM wheels is that these are usually only found on top-spec versions of cars, so you usually end up paying loads for something which is in reality just a silly cosmetic detail. Add in that some manufacturers release different wheels throughout the life span of a vehicle in order to maintain interest, and you could find that the best wheels are on the most recent vehicles. This is the case with both the X5 and ML which I am looking at…something which is messing with my head a little!
OK so seeing as this post is getting a little staid it probably needs a few pics, predictably of some of my favourite wheels…equally predictably a lot are from SUV’s!
Audi RS (Various)
-the multi-spoke wheel which Audi has included on much of their sport-focused RS range has become sort of a modern classic…now available on nearly all models on their lineup it was an expensive add on but looks great, even if wheel sizes are usually 20”+ and ruin ride quality!
BMW 3/5 Series M Sport (mid 00’s)
-another popular choice on German sports sedans, the M Sport wheel is an intricate design often found on the likes of the 330Ci and 530d in Sports guise. There was an earlier version of this wheel on the pre-facelift E46’s, but the latter design is a bit less aftermarket looking even if it has been copied alot.
BMW E53 X5 Sport (04-06)
-I really liked the original wheel design on ‘Sport’ X5’s, but the facelifted cars got a less fussy but even more attractive 19” design which matched the car perfectly. Possibly my favourite wheel ever.
BMW E70 X5 M Sport (10-13)
-M Sport versions of the second generation X5 are a little rarer, and whilst they feature 2 attractive designs it is the 2-tone 20” wheel which really rocks my boat…probably useless of road but unarguably the most attractive option.
-My favourite Ferrari clearly has my favourite wheels; 5 spoke and 18” it’s pretty simple in terms of design…none of the fuss of more recent Ferrari models, same as the 355 itself really!
Ford Focus Zetec (1998-2004)
-One of the most common cars on the road, the earlier Ford Focuses (Focii?) got a very attractive 5 spoke design but only in a small 15” design. Nowadays it probably looks a little small, but it’s design means that it appears alot sportier than the 15” wheels on mine.
Ford Explorer (1990-95)
-The original Ford Explorer had some very attractive star-type wheels, 15” and looking like they were made from polished aluminium it was a design found on everything from 90’s-era Suburbans and Tahoes to pick ups and the like. Annoyingly on standard versions the front wheels had a Ford badge on (but not the rears??), but in Jurassic Park the cars did not have this feature…probably why I fell in love with them!
Ford Expedition (1997-2002)
-Facelifted Explorers gained wheels with an extra inch of diameter and covered in chrome, and their design was upscaled onto the larger Expedition. These wheels look even better because of the more rugged tyres and larger decals.
Jeep Wrangler (1987-1995)
-Another vehicle featured in Jurassic Park, the wheels on Wranglers from this period are made from the same polished aluminium material as those of similar vintage Explorers but with a more straight forward design…not as attractive as the ones in the larger vehicle maybe but still nice.
Kia Sorento KX3 (2010-)
-Kia’s have really come a long way in the last few years in terms of styling and this has been matched in their wheel designs, with Sportages and Sorentos getting two-tone examples…top Spec KX3 Sorentos have 18” items which actually make the car!
Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE (2005-2009)
-The early RRS’s came with a variety of wheel designs, but by far the most attractive were the 20” rims found on many HSE models. Larger examples could be bought but the 20’s were just the right size to fill out those massive wheelarches without causing too many ride problems.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE (2009-2013)
-The previous design of HSE wheel was substituted for an arguably more attractive design, same size but a bit more two tone, they make the Supercharged’s 21” wheels seem a bit unnecessary.
Land Rover Range Rover Vogue (1985-1995)
-The original Range Rover came with a few nice wheel designs, but most famous was the 3-spoke item, usually found in a dark grey or sometimes body-coloured. Although they havn’t dated well and appear way too small in today’s size-obsessed world, they remain the only thing I would want an old Range to ride on.
Land Rover Range Rover Vogue SE (2006-2009)
-Although the 3rd generation of Range Rover is vastly more attractive than it’s predecessor, wheel choices were a little hit and miss for me personally. It took until the launch of Vogue SE models in 2007 for a decent 20” wheel to come out, with 7 spokes and a bit of personality compared to the earlier items. The 2010 facelift brought wheels which were a little OTT for my tastes though.
-The second generation RX had some seriously fit wheel options and my favourite were the gunmetal tinted 18” wheels on all RX400h hybrids. Unfortunately they were probably the best thing about the car’s design other than it’s engine.
Mercedes Benz AMG (Various 2011-)
-The current range of MB AMG SUV’s (enough acronyms for you?) all get a stunning 21” wheel with a two tone design and 5 twin spokes. These wheels on the G63 AMG are my current dream car, but unless I win the lottery I might have to save my pennies and one day get a G350 CDI and add these wheels on…they are that good!
Mercedes Benz ML (1997-2001)
-I really liked the original ML and it’s 16” star-spoke alloys really looked the business when painted green and covered in mud in ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’. A little small in real life they still remain one of my favourite MB wheels.
Mercedes Benz ML Sport (2008-2012)
-Earlier versions of the W164 ML Sport had nice looking 19” wheels, but the 20” design on the facelifted models is enough to make me seriously consider spending £££ more to get the updated car!
Renault Clio 2 (2001-2006)
-Another mainstream model and another popular wheel-the facelifted version of the second generation Clio had a really nice 15” wheel design which seems to feature on the majority of models. At 17 I desperately wanted one of these cars so I guess that may be why I consider them so attractive, but they are chunky, simple and sporty.
Porsche Cayenne (2010-)
-Both generations of Cayennes have had some attractive wheel options as well as some very ugly ones too. The current car can be had with some very expensive 21” multispoke wheels in black…I like these so much that I have added them to a personalised Cayenne-esque model in GTA V.
Volkswagen Touareg Altitude (2006-2010)
-For a relatively boring car, the Altitude spec of the first generation Touareg really added some much-needed visual appeal. Favourite were the 19” slightly smoked alloys which made it look a lot sportier than a nearly 3-ton SUV should ever be.
XC90 R Design/SE Sport (2006-2011)
-Adding an image-focused model in the XC90 lineup took far too long, and arguably Volvo missed out on a good few sales because of the relatively pedestrian performance and design of early cars. The SE Sport and later R Design at least added attractive wheel and trim options…the 19” ones in particular working particularly well, although the latest cars may have taken the whole 2-tone thing a bit too far, this is after all a Volvo!
So there you have it…if you’re still reading this then you have a better resolve than I had when writing this, but I guess I just wanted to fill my head (and this blog) with fluff whilst I try to sort things out at home. I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting over the next few weeks, so make the most of this!