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It is often said that wheels and tires are the most striking change you can make to your car. For those searching out a starting point of modification or tailoring of their car, larger diameter wheels and tires are a great place to begin. In our minds, there was no better way to start the evolution of our Project XC90 than with a more aggressive wheel and tire combo that would transform the big XCs looks, while firming up the ride as well.
Our Project XC90 was outfitted from the factory pretty-much loaded, with 18-inch alloys from the factory. While handsome in their own right, the look isnt particularly aggressive or rare. Besides, the original Michelin tires had done their duty and were basically shot, making timing even better for such an upgrade.
There is a surprisingly large selection of wheels available for the XC90, even in the large, 20-inch diameter we were seeking. Tire Rack is a great place to start, with everything from clean Italian designs from OZ racing, to more of a chrome kitsche feel made popular on Navigators and Escalades. Other lesser-known companies such as Ronal or Kahn Design offer clean OE-looking applications as well. That could-be-factory look was preferable to us, and in the end we went with a different spin on a familiar design for our XC90 project.
If youve owned a modern Volvo and thought of upgrades, then youre most likely well aware of German uber Volvo tuning house Heico Sportiv. Heico offers several wheel designs, the most handsome of which is probably their 5-spoke Volution V design. Close in appearance to Volvos own Pegasus, though with a concave contour on each spoke, Heico even offers their wheels in Titan Grey - perfect for that original R look, and one we thought would be fantastic on our bright white XC90.
At 20X8.5 and an offset at ET49, the Volution is a bolt-on affair. No spacers or longer lugs are needed, and the wheels arrive, individually packed in a blue cloth cover with Heico Sportiv logos, themselves packed within plastic and nestled snugly in their cardboard shell. Center caps with the Heico Viking trademark and low-profile valve stem hardware are also included, again with the trademark Heico Viking helmet on the cap. Heico offers the 20-inch Volution V in either Titan or bright silver at $699 each.
The German Volvo tuner suggests a tire size of 265/45-20 on their 20-inch wheel, the same plus size suggested by Tire Rack. Searching our particular application in Tire Racks upgrade garage, we found two offerings. The lower-priced of the two, the Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimmetrico, is the same tire, albeit different sizing, fitted as a factory application on the XC90 and XC70 from Volvo. In stock applications, the Scorpion is a bit noisier than the also-OEM Michelin. However, weve had great experiences with the Italian tire, beating the crap out of them in locales as extravagant as Baja Mexico on some of the same terrain used by the Baja 1000 race.
Mounting and balancing such a large diameter wheel turned out to be tricky ï¿½ not in the process, but in finding a shop to do the mounting. Some tire mounting machines dont go up to 20-inch. If youre planning on mounting 20s, call ahead. Keener Tire of Donegal, Pennsylvania had a machine able to fit the bill. They mounted and balanced the set with nary a problem ï¿½ no scuffs, no scratches.
Both Heico and Keener Tire suggested that we drive about 100 miles then re-torque the new wheels. Some softer wheels definitely need to be re-torqued when fitted new, according to Keener. After a weekend worth of mileage logged on the XC90 of more than 100 miles, checking the torque on the lugs showed the Heico wheels didnt need re-tightening.
Having now logged some weeks on the car, we are unanimous in the feeling that the wheels look stunning. Our somewhat staid XC90 has amore aggressive appearance. It draws more appreciative looks in traffic, but still retains a relatively factory appearance. Its handsome and aggressive, like an M-Sport package on a BMW X5. We couldnt be happier with the new look, as evidenced by our non-stop rearward glances at the car when leaving it parked at the supermarket, mall, in the garage or wherever else we might be leaving it for a moment.
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