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20-Inch Wheels Look Ridiculously Small Now

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2018

I recently discovered that 20-inch wheels are tremendously small. This surprised me, because this has not always been the cars. In fact, just 15 years ago, 20-inch wheels were among the craziest talking points in the car industry -- and oh, my, how things have switched.

First, let's address the photo above. This is the new Mercedes-Benz GLE, and it's wearing 20-in wheels -- and they look absolutely puny. They're inside a giant wheel arch, they're wearing tires with a lot of sidewall and it probably doesn't help that a lot of the inside of the wheel is painted black, which makes them look a little smaller. But there's no doubt this wheel is a base-level wheel, designed to make you think, "That looks too small!" so you consider paying more to upgrade to a larger wheel.

This is part of an overall design trend within the car business. It seems that these days, all new models have to have larger wheels than the model that came before -- and that means that wheel arches just seem to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger, to the point where wheel arches dominate the design of a car's corners. I truly wonder how far this trend will go.

But this wasn't always the case. I still remember back in the early 2000s, when rappers would rap about 20-in wheels, then called "dubs," and brag about how their vehicle had 20s, or even 22s -- at the time, a rarity. I also remember that the 2003 Dodge Ram and the 2003 Infiniti FX were the first cars with factory "dubs" -- and that this was a huge deal. Specifically, I remember telling some people that certain cars had dubs from the factory, and not being believed -- such was the ridiculousness of the idea at the time.

Well, times have changed, and so have wheel arches -- and now dubs are considered small. I'm curious to see just how far this trend goes before wheels simply cannot get any larger.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
20-Inch Wheels Look Ridiculously Small Now - Autotrader