Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Our WRX Gets New Wheels and Tires

Subaru WRX With ESM 001 wheels ad Continental Tires

While the stock wheels and tires on a 2011-2014 WRX aren't bad looking, they aren't my cup-o-tea. I'd long been wanting to change up the rolling stock on our 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX, and recently the stars aligned and I ended up with the setup you see above. These are 17x8 (+35) ESM 001 wheels wrapped in 235/45/17 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires. When it comes to buying wheels and tires I can get minorly obsessive, so the choice wasn't easy.

If not obessive, my wheel/tire selection process is arduous at best for any vehicle. What size? What color? What style? What offset? Questions, questions, questions. Some photoshopping, some more research, more photoshopping, more research. And just when I'm about to drive myself insane (as well as my wife), I pull the trigger.

Originally, I thought I might go the off-road direction and downsize from the stock 17x8 wheels and 235/45/17 wheels to a 16x7.5 or 16x8 and upsize to 215/65/16 all-terrain tires. I've seen the look before and it's great, plus it'd be good on gravel or dirt. But as much as I want to pretend this car is going to be a sideways-sliding rally WRX, realistically the car is going to see most of its life on paved roads. The WRX handles quite well on tarmac even with its stock suspension, so I nixed the all-terrain idea. Conversely, I love the look of an 18x8 wheel with some meaty 255mm tires and a lowered stance. However, I honestly didn't need to step up to an 18-inch wheel. They're more expensive, tires are more expensive, and I don't plan on lowering our WRX much if at all since it's our ski car, so maybe I'd just stick with 17s.

Yay Tires! New Continental ExtremeContact DW

As luck would have it, last June Mercedes won a set of tires at the 2015 Northwest Overland Rally, courtesy of Continental Tire. Continental said we could have a set of any tire in any size they make! The Sidekick didn't need new tires; the Yaris' tires are inexpensive, so we decided to get rubber for the Subaru and go with the stock size. We figured we'd get something stickier than the stock Dunlop Sport SP 01 tires, so we opted for the Continental ExtremeContact DW. Thing is, we still had plenty-o-tread left on the stock Dunlops, so we threw the Continentals in storage, ran the Dunlops until the weather got cold, and swapped on our winter wheels/tires. Then in March of this year, I decided to sell off the stock wheels/tires/TPMS sensors and snag some custom 17x8 wheels. But what to get? I'd be lying if I said I had no idea, because I'd toyed with the idea of custom wheels since we got the car in 2013. But now it was getting serious and I needed to pull the trigger before the end of March, which is when the snow tires needed to come off.

I'm a sucker for silver cars with white wheels, so I decided to focus in on custom 17x8 wheels with a 5x100 bolt pattern in white, but options are extremely limited. If I were to go down to a 17x7.5-inch wheel there were many more options, but I didn't want to compromise handling by going any narrower than stock. Ever since they debuted, I loved the rally-inspired Sparco Terra wheel, but it only came in a 17x7.5. I'd seen the ESM 001 wheel, which is actually inspired by the 1980s German touring cars (DTM), and they were available in 17x8 sizes with a 5x100 bolt pattern. Plus I loved that look. A little understated, slightly different, kinda rally-like, a bit retro. I hemmed and hawed about what to get, and then decided perhaps to go with another set of Weapons by MB Racing (I had these same wheels about 13 years ago on my Honda Prelude), but I really wanted white, and I kept coming back to the ESMs.

ESM 001 wheels with Continental ExtremeContact DW Tires

Long story long, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the ESM 001. They were a bit more expensive than I originally wanted, but as they say: Buy once, cry once. And if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's to buy what you really want instead of buying a compromise and being unhappy. The wheels have a +35 offset compared to the stockers' +53, and it makes for a more aggressive look, even when at stock height.

I was able to order the ESM 001 though Discount Tire, which is my go-to shop. For what it's worth (and I'm not being paid to say this), nearly every time I haven't gone through Discount Tire, I've regretted it, and they treated me right yet again with the purchase.

Anyhow, these wheels are certainly unique. They're a one-piece cast construction with a multi-piece center cap. Yeah, they'll be a bit of a chore to remove for rotation, since you have to pull the cotter pin, unscrew the bolt, then remove a few set screws that hold on a stem instead, but at this point, I don't care. The look is polarizing to some, but I didn't buy them for anyone but me. I also don't regret staying with the stock size. Some people will ask why bother getting custom wheels if they aren't lighter or larger than stock. Call me kooky, but I simply love the looks, and while function is important, so is form.

As for the new tires, they definitely offer up more grip than the stock Dunlops. I've only had them on for a couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to hitting up some fun roads or maybe an autocross to see how they really perform when pushed.

As far as my next upgrade to the WRX, it might be time for some engine work. Stay "tuned." (See what I did there?)

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