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20-Inch Wheels Look Ridiculously Small Now

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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6 COMMENTS

  1. Not too long ago I considered Dubs to be garish and dumb but now my BMW has 19’s and anything smaller would look silly on it.
    Something has changed in design too, They no longer look overdone but look like they fit right in with the overall design, I still think the new Aston Martin looks ridiculous with those big factory wheels though.
    • I think it’s that brakes have gotten larger to fill the wheel out. Years ago when you’d see an Escalade with dubs it would look silly with the tiny rear discs but now a BMW with M Sport brakes suits 18-19″ wheels nicely

  2. …ahem… the Plymouth Prowler would in fact be the 1st production vehicle to have factory-installed 20’s. The rear wheels were the first ‘dubs’. 

    I wholly embrace this trend of ridiculously large wheels. 
    Prices for 16″ tires on my Miata are a mere pittance compared to the larger sizes. ;o)
  3. That’s actually not a base-level wheel, you can get the new GLE with 19s too, and these come with the AMG-line package. Don’t forget that the GLE is a big car, built when 20 inch wheels are pretty much standard, so it has bigger wheel arches so the optional 21s will fill it out. When “dubs” were first a thing, they were on smaller cars, Cadillac CTS or Chrysler 300, with smaller wheels standard. Plus “dubs” only started at 22 inches and went up from there, so most of the Escalades on “dubs” were much bigger than 20″ and now the DUB brand STARTS at 22″ and goes all the way up to 32″

    • I’ve seen some ridiculously large dubs around here complete with underglow and a freemason decal, Somehow those go together quite often.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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