Are Modern Wheels and Tires Able To Deal With Modern Roads?

They’re doing wonders for car design, but is the race for larger wheel and tire setups on modern cars getting out of hand? Especially since our roads aren’t getting any better?

Over at Business Insider, Benjamin Zhang had a horrible mishap when driving a Volvo S60, presumably somewhere around New York City.

Warning lights lit up in the Volvo’s highly ergonomic interior. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road to assess the damage. Not one, but both tires on the right side of the car were flat. After retracing my route, I saw exactly what I had hit. It was worse that one big pothole. It was a pair of massive potholes.

Zhang used this as an example to highlight America’s crumbling roads and transportation infrastructure, which is a noteworthy topic these days. But lack of road maintenance has arrived at a time when cars are being equipped with wheel-tire combinations more suited for blemish-free tracks than the streets of modern cities.

The 19-inch wheels on the Volvo in question are covered in tires that look more like little black borders around them. Hardly the sort of thing you’d want to use on anything other than glass-smooth pavement.

The trend of wheel-size one-upping continues. Buick is sticking 20-inch wheels on the new Cascada convertible as standard equipment. Even hybrids like certain Ford Fusions and Honda Accords ride on 17s or 18s. To think that 15s were as large as you could go on an Accord just 20 years ago. Perhaps this is another reason people go buy SUVs for driving around city streets, but Range Rovers often run on 20s and even the new Volvo XC90 gets 22s on the highest trim levels.

Fewer build combinations also mean if want popular equipment or a non-base level car, you end up riding on larger wheels and tires very quickly. And the problem is compounded further by the fact more and more cars are unavailable with a spare tire. Not that it matters so much when two of your tires are blown out, mind you.

The need for better transportation infrastructure maintenance cannot be stressed enough, and potholes the size Zhang ran over are shocking, yet not at all unheard of. Yet the new car buyer is being increasingly stuck with higher repair costs for a bit of style. Is it worth it, or have we hit peak, um… wheel?

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