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Old 10-16-2014, 11:44 AM   #1
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Default 205/50/16 vs 185/55/16 in Xi3?

With winter approaching, the heavy-*** LE 16x6.5" wheels that came on my '04 are gonna become the winter wheels.

Decided on the Michelin Xi3, because it contains slightly more powdered unicorn horn in its compound than the Nokian Haaappkellekttixcaas that you can't get in the US unless you personally know Gerhard the Importer anyway.

Size choices are basically down to:
205/50/16
  • 24.1" dia
  • 7" treadwidth
  • 8.4" section width
vs.

185/55/16
  • 24" dia
  • 6.4" treadwidth
  • 7" section width
Car is a 2004 non-LE with stock everything at stock ride height. My experience with NAs in the past is that oversize tires can be a little iffy insofar as the fender lip and liner and concerned, so I'm trying not to go too big, though I've also heard that NBs are more forgiving in this regard.

Also, I know precisely jack **** about driving in snow. It's been more than a decade since I've done it, and I wasn't all that good at it back then. (Plus I had ABS and a FWD car at the time.) So I'm being a ***** about my tire selection. Get over it.

Some folks say narrower is always better in a snow tire. Others say that the difference is pretty trivial and that you shouldn't needlessly sacrifice treadwidth just for that.

Opinions?
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Old 10-16-2014, 12:59 PM   #2
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I cannot comment on the snow tires, but I can comment on the fitments... kinda.

Custom rims, wheel tire packages for your ride - RIMSnTIRES.com

Not sure if you had seen it, but this tool is frigging awesome for figuring out fitments. I've run both 195/50 wide Yokohama sDrives on stock 15x6 NB1 rims and 205/50 sDrives on 15x8 6ULs with absolutely zero fitment issues for either combination. With this information, I'd use the above tool to create a "fitment envelope" and see where your combination falls.

So not a direct answer, but definitely somewhere to start!
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:04 PM   #3
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I know how to compute the fitment envelope.

What I don't know is:
1: How tolerant is a 2004 at stock height with stock LE wheels going to be about tires which are larger in diameter than stock for fender lip / liner clearance, and

2: Ignoring fitment, is it better to buy a 185 or a 205 treadwidth on a winter tire in terms of snow / ice traction?
(For #1, understand that I'm away from home right now so I can't just go outside and measure.)
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:40 PM   #4
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for snows, narrower is better. Forget the fender lip. You really should be more concerned about bottoming the tire against the shock tower or top of wheel well. Only time bottoming on the fender lip with a taller tire might be a concern is hitting a monster bump with the inside front.

And joe, dont forget to consider the Nokain Hakka R2. Pretty much the best tire out there on snow and better than most studded tires on shear ice.
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:04 PM   #5
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Go for the 185/55-16 size. Yes, you want a narrower tread for winter. Look at all the rally cars in winter stages for easy proof.

The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is a great winter tire too. I ran them 2 winters ago and found them very good, better overall than most in their category. Their "studless" category means they definitely give up dry weather lateral grip versus a "performance winter", but they also do un-plowed snow quite well.

*edit* The 195/50-16 would be a better overall diameter, but the only good snow tire in that size is the Pirelli Snowcontrol, which is also very good but a "performance" winter, so it doesn't do deep snow as well, prioritizing cold dry and wet.
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafy View Post
for snows, narrower is better.
So, a vote for the 185/55 I assume? And is there any empirical data to support this, or is it purely speculative / anecdotal? I've seen a lot of people say this, and none of them seemed to have test data to back it up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafy View Post
And joe, dont forget to consider the Nokain Hakka R2. Pretty much the best tire out there on snow and better than most studded tires on shear ice.
I did quite a lot of in-depth reading on the R2 about a month ago. Reviews went back and forth between it and the Xi3 as to which was superior on [loose snow / packed snow / hard ice / slush], however there seemed to be a clear trend in favor of the Xi3 when it came to stability on dry pavement, something which the Xi2 was particularly noted for failing at.

That, plus the availability issue (especially should one ever need to be replaced), and I'm pretty much dead-set on the Xi3. Just need to decide which size.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:10 PM   #7
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Definitely 185's.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:32 PM   #8
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If you can run studded tires, go narrow.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilio700 View Post
Definitely 185's.
That's about as good of an endorsement as I can imagine, short of Marcus Grönholm logging in here and commenting.
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:24 PM   #10
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When we race in cold or wet conditions, we radically overinflate the tires to increase the local contact patch loading and also encourage the tires to come up to temp faster. The crappier the conditions, the narrower a tire you want. WRC cars in the Finland race run crazy narrow spiked tires with their 300whp/ 540lbs tq.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunning Kruger Affect View Post
If you can run studded tires, go narrow.
Although I am permitted to run studded tires, as a matter of practicality I doubt that I will.

Realistically speaking, I'm not trekking through snow-covered mountains every day. I just moved out to the 'burbs (ick), and just need to be sure that I can get from my home to the train station and back every day. We have snowplows and salt trucks, and probably 95% of the time the roads will be fairly clear. I'm just planning ahead for those outlier cases, making sure that the occasional small hill doesn't leave me stranded after a big snow, as does happen from time to time. Many of my co-workers have laughed at my choice of yet another Miata as a winter daily-driver here in the northeast, and I just need to avoid getting my *** stranded and having to endure their smug, self-satisfied tongue-clicking.
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:31 PM   #12
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Narrower is the way to go, giving you better traction in loose snow and sleet, while sacrificing some on ice, hard snow and bare roads. Studded ads gripp under the later tre conditions giving you max safty, but more noice.

The nokians are the better extreme condition tire, while the Michelins ar a better alround choice. Given that they are using the same compounds as here in northern europe.
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