What difference does an inch make?

Recently, I was discussing with a colleague recently Porsche’s press fleet, and how the 997s are always fitted with the optional 19-inch wheels and never the standard 18-inch items. What, we wondered, would a 997 feel like with the smaller rims?

And then, a couple of weeks, what should appear at Total 911, but a 997 with 18-inch wheels. Now, the main reason for choosing 19s is purely cosmetic and there’s no doubt that the larger alloys look meatier and more sporty – simply because that’s what we’ve become used to seeing on high-performance cars.

These 18-inch wheels, on the other hand, immediately look a bit weedy, which is silly really because not too many years ago they’d have been considered enormous (remember when 15-inch wheels were standard on the 3.2 Carrera?).

On the road the difference is immediately apparent – tyre noise, which is an issue with 997s – is reduced considerably. The car is transformed.

What about handling? Well, this is a Cabriolet so it’s got slightly softer suspension settings, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison. However, the car’s remarkably compliant on the bumpy back-roads near here, which allows me to drive it faster – and in more comfort – than a standard Carrera with 19s. How much of this is down to the tyres is hard to quantify but I suspect a fair amount.

So, if you’re being totally logical, then 18-inch rims are the right choice for a road-going 997. However, I have to admit I’d go for the 19s simply for their looks. Is that shallow? Maybe…


Comments (2)

  • JOHNC74

    I wonder if the product managers while keeping the 911 alive and kicking also make sure the designers force customers towards the options list.

    For example “Excuse me Mr Designer but can you just increase the radius of the wheel arch by 0.5 inches to make sure the alloy looks lost in them”

  • Wade

    Sure, larger rims look nice. But are’nt we really after performance in our 911s? Aside from handling characteristics, smaller rims will naturally weigh less. So why do we keep seeing larger and larger wheel sizes? I would prefer to design with the best performance in mind.