Both ultra-high-performance and exotic cars may boast the fastest acceleration, most powerful engines, and incredibly responsive steering, but they won't hug the road without the right wheels.
High-performance cars and their refined shapes present a unique challenge for their designers. The wheel, tire and brake systems must reduce weight and boost performance - enough to create a sublime driving experience- and justify a $150,000 price tag.
Today, well over 60 percent of high-performance cars come equipped with cast alloy wheels, the same type found on family sedans. For the average car owner, alloy wheels are fine: They are lightweight and rust-resistant and cool down quickly. But cast alloy wheels do not significantly reduce a car's un-sprung weight, a key factor in ensuring peak performance.
Manufacturers like Aston Martin, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were the first to begin abandoning cast alloy wheels. They fit their performance models with forged alloy wheels -; a shift that has caught industry and consumer attention.
During the manufacturing process, technicians subject forged alloy wheels to extreme heat and pressure, resulting in a dense, durable -; but still lightweight -; material. Forged alloy wheels, while more expensive than their cast alloy counterparts, provide the ultimate in performance: reduced vibrations, better cornering, faster acceleration and improved braking.
Mark Lisnyansky is a board member of Lightest, a Belgium-based fabrications company, whose EAD (European Automotive Distribution) subsidiary is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-end automotive wheels. According to Mr. Lisnyansky, Forged alloy wheels use the lightest materials available, yielding fuel savings and a smoother, more maneuverable ride.
SMW Engineering is another European company educating consumers on what professional racers have known for many years: Forged wheels go the distance in ensuring top performance.
High-performance vehicle manufacturers are turning to lightweight forged alloy wheels to increase driving agility through a 30 percent weight reduction in the wheel. The use of magnesium instead of aluminum alloy reduces wheel weight by an additional 25 percent. Furthermore, a forged alloy wheel is about 40 percent stronger than its cast alloy counterpart.
Although many still regard forged wheels as something exotic and more appropriate for motorsport use, they do create an opportunity for substantial drive-quality improvement, which positions them as an investment well worth considering by any automobile connoisseur.