2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: No More Hot Wheels
July 28, 2010
That's it, I'm done with big wheels. Every time I roll over the slightest ripple in the pavement, I can feel these monstrous 20-inch wheels with their massive low-profile Pirelli P Zeroes unsettling the chassis. Pretty much what you'd expect, since each wheel and tire weighs, what, 500 pounds? (We'll have to weigh one.)
Designers love the big tire thing. They say a big wheel makes a car look planted on the road. For me, these big wheels make every car a cartoon, a kind of life-size Hot Wheels.
Listen, it's great to put all that tire on the road in the corners, but there's also unsprung weight to consider. It takes quite a lot of damper control to rein in a heavyweight wheel and tire, and too much of the time this Camaro's tires spend so much time bounding over the bumps that cornering grip is pretty much a moot point since you can't corner if your tires are in the air. And let's not even talk about the power absorbed by simply keeping them rolling.
The irony is, the original Hot Wheels got their name in 1968 because they were faster than the British-built Matchbox die-cast cars of the time. Harry Bradley, the designer who styled the first Hot Wheels (a dark-blue Camaro was among the first 16), told me that he and the other Mattel designers spent a lot of time rolling the cars up and down the hallway at their office in El Segundo until they came up with a Delrin plastic bushing to interface between the springy wire axle and the plastic wheels.
The Camaro puts down some impressive numbers on the skidpad and there's sure to be a payoff on the race track, yet every time I register a jounce in the suspension, I get the feeling that the car is slowing down. Car designers might like the Hot Wheels look, but in a full-size scale, you get a car that feels slower, not faster.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 19,075 miles