Smaller tires offer many advantages.
I'm going to buy a 2014 Ram Laramie pickup. I have a choice of 17-inch or 20-inch tires. I don't plan to drive off-road much, if at all. I do plan to drive several thousand miles around town and then perhaps 10,000 miles towing a travel trailer that weighs about 7,500 pounds. My thinking is that the 17-inch tires would weigh a lot less, would provide better mileage and be quieter. Another nice feature is that my wife and dog have short legs, so getting into and out of the truck will be easier. What effect will the smaller tires have on highway mileage as I tow the trailer long distances at 65 mph? -- STEWART
TOM: You'll get better mileage on the highway, too. I think you're right to lean toward the 17-inch wheels, Stewart. We're generally opposed to people supersizing their wheels. Or their french fries, for that matter.
RAY: Smaller wheel-tire combinations provide better mileage (city and highway), better acceleration and a quieter, more comfortable ride.
TOM: So why, you ask, would anyone give up all those things and pay extra to get ginormous wheels?
RAY: 'Cause they look cool! Have you seen those 20-inch bad boys on the Ram, Stewart? I was grunting and growing a forehead ridge after just a few hours of driving around with those.
TOM: The other reason people opt for larger wheels is that, up to a point, they can improve handling. In terms of cornering, when a tire has a shorter sidewall, it's stiffer, so you get less flexing from the tires on turns. That's how larger wheels improve handling.
RAY: But that same stiffness is what makes your overall ride harsher.
TOM: The extra weight of the larger wheels is what cuts into your acceleration and fuel economy.
RAY: Because of the shorter sidewalls of their tires, the rims are closer to the pavement, so they get bent and damaged more easily by potholes and curbstones.
TOM: So my advice would be to have a look at the truck in both configurations.
RAY: But if you're content with how the 17-inch wheels look on the Ram, that's what I'd go for. Happy travels.