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…

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