The Ultimate Tire-Testing Machine

Tony Valainis

When BMW redesigned the 3-series for 2012, it probably didn't consider the needs of tire technicians in South Bend, Indiana. Maybe it should have.

This year, Tire Rack experts will log thousands of real-world miles and hundreds of hot laps to evaluate dozens of new tires. For these tests, they'll use only the BMW 3-series.

If wheels and tires are the variables in Tire Rack's research, the Bimmer -- with its balanced chassis and predictable handling -- is its control.

"Consistency is an essential part of testing," says Tire Rack product information specialist Woody Rogers.

But when the new 3-series grew, so did its wheels. The current model is the only 3-series in recent years without a sixteen-inch wheel option from the factory; it comes only with seventeen-, eighteen-, or nineteen-inch wheels. Many winter and all-season tires aren't available for the larger rims.

"That would have eliminated about half of the new tires we wanted to try out this year," says Rogers.

Tire Rack didn't give up on the 3-series and found sixteen-inch wheels that fit on the 2012 sedan. They work with a wider array of tires and didn't unduly affect the car's performance. Four new 328i sedans are now used for testing.

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