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Here's Why Wider Tires Aren't Always Better

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 6/24/2018 Kristen Lee

a close up of a logo© Screenshot: Tyre Reviews (YouTube)

One thing that people like to do when modding their cars is to slap on some wider tires. It makes logical sense. More tire contact with the ground means more usable grip. But it’s not always that simple.

After conducting an exhaustive test with 225-, 255- and 285-section tires through different conditions, Tyre Reviews found that how you choose your tire width very much comes down to how you want to balance your car and, indeed, what kind of car you have.

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The control variables were the car, track conditions and type of tires. In this case, respectively, a BMW 320i sedan with 180 horsepower, wet and dry conditions and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3s. Host Jonathan Benson fitted the tires on the car in five different combinations:

  1. Front: 225; Rear: 255 (stock on the BMW)
  2. Front: 255; Rear: 285
  3. Front: 255; Rear: 255
  4. Front: 225; Rear 225
  5. Front: 225; Rear 285
a screenshot of a video game© Screenshot: Tyre Reviews (YouTube)

In dry handling, Benson found that the 225-section front and 285-section rear setup posed the slowest lap time. The car was extremely understeer-y and there was no control over the rear end. The stock setup or the slightly wider staggered setup were best.

a person driving a car© Screenshot: Tyre Reviews (YouTube)

In wet handling, predictably, the wide tires did not perform well. Hydroplaning plagued both of the setups with the 285s in the rear, while the car performed the best while wearing 255s at all four corners.

a close up of a sign© Screenshot: Tyre Reviews (YouTube)

In braking, Benson found that the wider the tire was, the better the braking was. Obviously. Yet, much of braking depends on the grip of the fronts, so changing the tires on the rears didn’t make that much of a difference. He also noted that dry braking into corners with the 255s was a lot more confidence-inspiring than the 225s.

Of course, it’s also worth nothing that the BMW 320i doesn’t have enough power to justify 285-section tires. This is something to consider if you have a car that’s higher on power. If something like a M3 or M4 were being tested, the 285-section tires probably would have offered a whole different feel and lap time.

What’s most important, in the end, is how the car is balanced and feels. Simply slapping on the fattest set you can find isn’t the best if you haven’t considered all the factors. And what kind of driving style you have.

Check out the video below to see the in-depth test.

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