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Are Larger Wheels and Tires a Waste of Money?
E350 standard tires = 17" V-rated 245/45. Tire Rack replacement price for Pirelli's = $147 each. Including shipping and mounting/balancing, about $750 per set. Expected lifespan of these tires = 30-35k miles with rotation. E350 Sport tires = 18" W-rated 245/40 front; 265/35 rear. Tire rack replacement price for Michelin's $263/310. Including shipping, mounting/balancing, about $1,400 per set. Expected lifespan 12k-15k miles, no rotation possible.
Difference over 6+/- years and 100k miles (buddy drives 16k miles a year): Standard = 2-3 sets at a total cost of $1,500-$2,250. Sport = 6+ sets at total cost of $8,400. Or a whopping $6,150-$6,900 more for the E350 Sport. By comparison, the additonal cost of gas for a E550 V8 @18 mpg instead of the E350 V6 @23 mpg would only be about $4,000 over 100k miles.
In my own garage(s) are a 2004 Acura TL 6-speed (17" 235/45) and 1995 Nissan Maxima SE 5-speed (15" 215/60). The former required new tires at 22,000 miles at a total cost of $800. The latter has gone 155k miles, and just needed it's 3 replacement set, bringing the total cost up to $1,300 for 13 years and roughly 7 times the mileage on the Acura. Yes, the TL handles a little better than the Maxima. But it sure as heck isn't within a country mile of my 911. It's still a FWD sedan for goodness sake.
It seems to me, at a time when a lot of people are concerned about gas prices, the added cost of equiping the family sedan with larger wheels and high performance tires is both financially imprudent and, at least in the case of cars like the E350, an enormous waste of money (it still doesn't handle as well as a non-sport 5-series, IMO).
So I pose the question - how prudent are 17-18-19 inch wheels and low profile, high performance tires on a family sedan?