What Does Staggered Wheel Fitment Mean?
Staggered wheel fitment is the term used to describe vehicles whose rear wheels are larger than the ones in the front. This can mean the rear wheels are larger in diameter, are wider, or both.
The different wheel sizes can help improve the balance of the vehicle. Most major car manufacturers practice wheel staggering; however, it is generally only done on the sportier cars. Porsche 911's and Ferrari's are perfect examples of how using staggered wheels can be used to improve not only looks but also performance and handling. Unlike front-engine vehicles, rear-engine and mid-engined cars are tail heavy. These engine layouts make the vehicle highly susceptible to oversteer. The staggered fitment allows the bigger wheels to put not only more power on the pavement but also counteract the tendency to oversteer. This is done thanks to the additional rubber on the road increasing drag and traction on the rear wheels.
Wider rear wheels increase the overall surface area contact with the road. This dramatically improves the vehicle's grip to the tarmac; subsequently, the car's acceleration and braking also improve significantly. Larger rear wheels raise the rear of the car slightly. As a result, the front of the vehicle attains a lower profile compared to the rear. This improves the car's maneuverability and handling at higher speeds, and even shortens the turning radius. Staggered wheels lower a car's center of gravity and allow for better weight distribution, thereby improving further improving its handling. When combined, the benefits can even lead on to improved gas mileage.
Although there are considerable benefits, there are numerous drawbacks. Staggered wheel fitment is only meant for rear-wheel drive cars. Installing different sized wheels on a four-wheel-drive vehicle can have catastrophic effects on the car. Driving with staggered wheels on a 4WD vehicle can damage the powertrain and suspension. Although not a problem in RWD vehicles, the smaller wheels in the front will spin faster than the larger wheels in the rear. This can lead the car to think those tires are losing traction and could cause the vehicle to perform in unexpected ways. Installing staggered wheels on a front-wheel-drive vehicle can be considered dangerous. Front-wheel drive vehicles are already prone to understeer and installing staggered wheels will only increase the chances of understeering.
You can find staggered wheels in numerous industries outside of the consumer automobile. Off-roading vehicles and tractors also greatly benefit from staggered wheels. The larger wheels at the rear provide excellent traction on uneven surfaces, while the smaller ones in the front help retain maneuverability. Similarly to Formula 1 race cars, staggered wheels are also the standard in drag racing vehicles. Unbeknownst to most, airplanes use staggered wheel fitments to improve balance during landings and take-offs.