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15" Alloys v. 14" Steelies to Unlock Suspension Design Potential


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After buying my GL about 3 years ago, complete with 14" OEM steelies, one of the first things that impressed me was the handling and driving dynamics. Reading up on the car, I wasn't alone in praising the suspension. The only problem I noted was the front-to-rear oscillation when coming to a full stop, indicative of bad struts. Although the car had low mileage (60k), given it's age I wasn't surprised and thought little else of it.

 

That is until I bought a parts car, another 98 GL with the I4. I bought it mainly for the 15" alloys, some parts, and maybe to make a dollar on eBay. The first thing I did was swap wheels and immediately saw the much wider offset with the alloys. I don't know the spec but perhaps 10mm? With a performance driving background, I was really eager to see (feel) how the car reacted.

 

Even with a cheap set of Walmart Chinese (Douglas) tires, two of which badly needed replacing, the change was immediately noticeable. The car didn't just feel better, it felt like a different car. Improved feel and feedback and the suspension seemed to "wake up." 

 

I'm not sure if the increased offset or diameter were responsible. With a pretty nicely tuned suspension, I suspect both. I'm guessing the suspension was designed using 15" wheels with this offset. Other specs will work, just not as well.

 

Another unexpected benefit was the front-to-rear oscillation was now gone completely. The alloys allow the suspension to "settle" where apparently the 14's did not.

 

So, if you can find either OEM alloys to replace your steelies, or aftermarket wheels with OEM specs, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results. If you go aftermarket, I'd suggest finding lighter wheels to soften the semi-heavy steering and free up a few ponies. 

 

 

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Let me add to this, if nothing else to show how well and tightly designed the suspension is: use the recommended air pressure. Always. Too high or low and the car isn't happy. In fact, this is the most picky suspension I've personally driven. With 15's, 31 front, 34 rear. Period. Your 'Tour will thank you.

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