You see that car up there? The BMW 2-Series? That car starts at $34,950. As shown, the price is $45,450 - minimum. The car comes packed with technology, power, beautiful design, luxurious accoutrements, that famous BMW driving sensibility...and some ass-looking wheels. Seriously, they're appalling. Nearly 50 grand can't even buy you a good-looking wheel? Come on! Today, we aren't going to be talking about hubcaps, those are always ugly. No, we're talking about wheels that are factory spec. Wheels that, theoretically, were designed to GO with the car they are on, and yet most of them are just hideously ugly and a blight on the road. BMW is extremely far from alone in the practice of phoning it in on the wheels, as I will now demonstrate with an image orgy. Here are some super-ugly wheels:
-The Chevy Spark
-The ENTIRE range of former car manufacturer and CEP punching bag Ford's Taurus line:
-Every single Chrysler and Fiat except the Abarth 500 and the Non-Abarth 124 Spider:
-The Hyundai Tuscon:
-And the Subaru Crosstrek
All of those wheels are ass. They are ugly. I mean, I could go through every nearly single brand sold in America, I'll bet you that more than half of their cars would have ugly wheels. I have a huge problem with this, because if the wheels on your car are ugly, then everything else looks terrible as a result. Car manufacturers not putting good-looking wheels on their cars is akin to not knowing which sneakers you can dress up, and which you cannot. For example, Ellen grasps this concept. So does Odell Beckham Jr. and pretty much every other athlete. You know who DOESN'T get it? Masterchef judge Joe Bastinanich. I mean LOOK AT THIS DUDE! (he's, uh, the bald one, if you don't know.) Look at that picture on the left, and compare it to the picture on the right, which is of NFL Wide Receiver Antonio Brown rocking a World Hall of Fame-level sneakers and suit game.
This isn't a sneaker blog (yet), but here's my point: Bastinanich, on the left, looks like a dunce. Brown, on the right, looks like a king. Both are wearing custom-tailored suits from premiere designers, but only one guy looks good, and it's the guy who went with the eye-reaming patterns. It's all down to the shoes. The same thing applies to cars: Bad wheels ruin good design, they ruin good colors, they ruin otherwise good cars. Take another look at the BMW in the top pic. That's a good-looking car! It even looks good in that hard-to-pull-off metallic orange. But the wheels ruin it completely. They make the car look like it's standing on baby giraffe legs. And those are the upgraded wheels! The Super-Secret-Special Package wheels! You have to pay BMW extra money even above the extra M Package just to ruin the look of your new 2 Series. Now, here's the exact same car, the BMW 2 Series, with the normal M Package. The same car, the same color, and (near as I could get it) the same angle:
Instantly, the whole car is different. It looks classy, it looks like a real car instead of something from DUB magazine, it looks refined, it looks impressive. That's the power of a wheel. Man, I really wish I could make one of those little photo comparison slider things, it would be SO helpful right now. Who knows a web dev that works completely for free?
ANYWAYS. I don't really know when the general public became alerted to wheel design. Maybe it was when the F&F car trend rammed the concept of "Alloys" into the zeitgeist? Maybe it was even as far back as the 50s, when kids discovered that the family Mustang was secret race car? Maybe people have always been keyed into wheel design, I just don't know. But small credit where it's due: Modern car manufacturers clearly pay more attention than ever to the wheels on their cars. Only the most base models come with hubcaps in 2018, and most models have their own unique range of wheels for consumers to choose from. If a manufacturer makes a performance car of any kind, you can bet that it either has its very own special wheel, or even several bespoke versions to choose from. Heck, I think the Porsche 911 has like 7 different wheel designs, some of which can be painted to match or contrast the car itself. Some makers even go so far as to source top-quality wheels from premium fabricators. Wheels matter. But they are also very prone to what's "trending" at the moment.
For example, remember when every vehicle had chrome-looking wheels? That was awful, and so is the most recent trend. Most of the wheels I take issue with are these new-fangled "dual-tone" wheels, like the BMW up top. While I don't know who started it, dual-tone rules the streets right now. I also not quite sure how they're made, but at some point during machining, parts of the wheel are differentiated so that some portions or spokes appear darker, and others appear lighter. Hyundai is extremely guilty of this, and the worst offender is the Elantra Sport.
GAAAAAAAAAAAAAH WHY! It's like the designer couldn't decide between five-spoke and multi-spoke and just went "Fuck it! Both!" It just looks BAD. The Elantra Sport is otherwise a very nice car, and it even looks quite good from the outside with the lowered ride from the more aggressive suspension and the little Sport tier design tweaks like darkened headlight accents and larger grille...except the wheels are hugely ass. The car is basically ruined because the wheels are so ugly. I'd love to recommend the car, but I can't, because you already look like an idiot if you drive a car with wheels like that. I would know! My Veloster has dual-tone wheels!
Dual-tone isn't the only factor in whether or not a wheel is ugly. The shape and design of the wheel obviously plays a role too. Electric and hybrid cars tend to have big, chunky wheels with wave-like designs, and all of them look horrible. Tesla, notably, doesn't do this, opting for a twisted multi-spoke design that looks excellent. Truck wheels are just all over the map, but most of them tend to be decent, usually some kind of roided-up take on a five-spoke design. Five or six spoke wheels are the most common, but if you look around the market, there are plenty of way to screw those simple designs up. Yes, I understand that brands need to produce wheels that are unique and "speak the design language", and "move the brand forward" and whatever other dumb hot-button terms are out at the moment, and that requires a bit of hopping on trends, but basic wheel design hasn't actually changed all that much in the last 60 years. Cars that stick closer to more traditional designs instead of chasing trends tend to look better not only five and ten years after their production year, but in the moment as well.
Here's a perfect example of a timeless wheel: American Racing's Torq Thrust. This wheel was originally introduced in 1950s, and it looks exactly the same today as it did the day it was introduced.
Over and above being just a five-spoke design, the Torq Thrust is THE American five-spoke design, cutting a truly iconic silhouette. So iconic, in fact, that Cragar, a different wheel company, claims an almost identical "iconic" design for their Supersport wheel which was released nearly a decade later, in 1964. When Dodge re-released the Challenger in 2008, they even made a factory-spec wheel for the R/T trim that transparently copied the Torq Thrust, and it looked fantastic! You can take this wheel in the size, color, and tone that best matches your scheme, put it on any American muscle car, pony car, or truck that's ever been made, and it looks like the vehicle came out of the factory that way. That is what any manufacturer would want in their wheels, right? Iconic, trendsetting design? I'm not saying every car needs to have a Torq Thrust on it, obviously more designs are good, and more good designs are even better, but I do think that manufacturers should take a second look at some of the wheels they are pumping out, because too many of them are ass, and not enough of them are good. As far as I can tell, there are only three manufacturers that already look twice. A precious 3 who have far more good wheels than bad in their lineups: Toyota, Mazda, and the VW group, inclusive. In fact, the VW group might have fewer than 10 bad wheels across their entire international range, counting all 12 brands from Scania to Bugatti. Now THAT is some seriously impressive hustle.
And so, automobile manufacturers of the world, I call upon you to...uh, you know...make your cars look better by putting some damn effort into the design of the wheels for once. Because when your wheels are bad, your whole car suffers, and the world is made poorer as a result. You are all capable of being so much better than you are, the evidence is right there, in your own lines already! Just make it happen! Oh, and while I'm decreeing: Everybody out there wear nicer shoes. With the great stuff that Vans is putting out these days, there's literally no excuse to wear ugly shoes and your shoes are probably as ugly as the wheels on your car. Just ditch the Sketchers, man. They make you look like a huge tourist.