Cougar XR7 - Wheels and Tires

The 15" rims, and big 215/70-15 tires that are mounted look absolutely horrible, on the car. The tires are big donut-looking things, and there's just way too much metal to the wheel. The tires are some brand, or another... Your typical discount set. They leave a lot to be desired, when it comes to the handling characteristics... Can't take a corner worth a damn, and traction is very limited in snow, or wet conditions. Considering this is an all-weather, I'd at least expect that it was sort of capable in the rain. Here's a look at the stock wheel and tire combo.

Stock setup

So, I want a bigger rim, but I'm not a huge fan of the huge rim, rubberband-sized tire look, though. After seeing several pictures of Cougars / Thunderbirds, with various sized wheels, I decided that 17" was the right size for my liking. It seamed like everyone on the TCCOA had the SVT Thunderbird rims, so they were out. I wanted something different. That's when I found the FRD 5 (also marketed as the Fox Sport 5), as seen below. The set that I have ordered is 17x7, in size.

Wheels

That leads me to the tires... I know there are a lot of people running 245/45-17 on 17x7.5 (or wider) wheels, but I wasn't terribly comfortable with that much width on a 7" wide wheel, with very little side wall. Not to mention that the 245/45-17 is significantly shorter overall (more than a full inch in diameter), compared to stock set. The 235/55-17 is almost exactly the same height as stock, so should not pose a problem, at all. The tire choices in this size are rather limited, but the Dunlop SP Sport A2 has been very highly rated, both by the media (Consumers Report named it the best all weather tire for 2002), and by average customers. This IS my daily driver, so I didn't want to go too over the top, in the search for better looks and traction... This seemed like a good fit. Good ratings on treadwear and traction, semi-aggressive look, and an 8.5" wide footprint should provide a substantial improvement.

Tires

I ended up making my purchase from an online retailer (Tire Trends), located in British Columbia (Canada). The prices were very competitive (within a couple of dollars with Tirerack.com's prices, after currency exchange), and beat the local retailers, hands down. As the company is located out of province, I also saved the Provincial Sales Tax, which would have been the equivalent to a little more than the cost of shipping. I expect the shipment to be received sometime during the week of March 24th, and I will hopefully be installing the suspension pieces already purchased (shocks and struts), along with the new wheels and tires combo over the following weekend. Once I have put a couple of miles on the combo, I'll complete this page to reflect my opinion of the product.

I finished installing the suspension pieces (shocks and springs) and installed the new wheels and tires, at pretty much the same time (like two days later). This makes it difficult to really decide which part the new handling characteristics are a result of. Having said that, I did have the car running the old 215-70-15's for a couple of days, and they would let out a squeal when I took turns at speed, letting me know they weren't going to handle much more... Now, the same turns can be handled at higher speeds, with ease. I haven't heard the new tires bark at me, yet, and I have put them through some high speed tests You know... To... Uhm... Learn the vehicles limitations... For safety... Yeah.... That's it! :)

Ready to spin

All in all, I am very pleased with the wheels/tires combo. It looks good, and handles great (wet or dry). With everything that's been done, so far to affect the handling, it now corners better in the rain, than it did before under ideal conditions.