When it comes to automotive wheels, bigger isn’t always better. Larger wheels are a look that I personally adore, but the added weight can greatly reduce the efficiency of your vehicle. Light weight wheels are always an option, but can be costly and rarely are included from the original manufacturer. After spending some time with the range-sucking OEM Carbon Black Turbine 22-inch wheels, I have decided it was time for a change on my 2016 Tesla Model X. Read on to see my new shoes!
Earlier this year I had started my shopping for a Tesla Model X, and more recently I successfully purchased a certified pre-owned 2016 vehicle. Though I’ve always loved how the 22-inch factory upgraded wheels look, I had my hesitations about the range reduction from these wheels. But alas, the CPO that I found had the 22-inch setup and the price was right, so I pulled the trigger.
NOTE: Final photos of the wheel/tire setup installed on my vehicle are located near the end of this blog post.
At one point Tesla advertised a 10-15% reduction in range, for added handling. (See photo above). Though that warning dialogue has since been removed from their web site, many users on the Tesla Motors Club forums have found this claim is indeed accurate. There are variations beyond wheels/tires, but the findings & discussions indicate a noteworthy loss in range with these larger, heavier wheels.
On top of this, colder weather robs power from electric vehicles. Since my purchase came mid-winter, my overall range and efficiency (watt hours per mile) has been rather dismal. For those who may be curious, I’m averaging around 406 wh/mi over thus far after around 2,000 total miles, with the first 65% of that being my big trip home from Florida.
Having saved money by getting just the 75D battery pack means I’m already at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to range (EPA rated 239 miles). But having fallen in love with the dark, larger wheels, I was in a pickle. Could I find wheels that would look as good, but offer me some weight savings to get back some of my range/efficiency? And could I do so on my relatively small budget for this seemingly frivolous purchase?
SHOPPING – WHEELS
Had my CPO been equipped with the standard 20-inch wheels, I may have been less inclined to make a wheel change so soon. But since my CPO came with the 22-inch upgraded wheels I found myself aesthetically very pleased with the look, but immediately formulating a few simple goals:
- Reduce weight to increase range and efficiency
- Stay with a dark/black wheel for the visual effect
- Increase sidewall for comfort & travel safety
Riding on the stock wheels has been fine, I haven’t found them uncomfortable in the slightest. But with the roads downtown Cleveland, Ohio as they are, dodging potholes in a 5,300-pound SUV seems ridiculous. At first I planned to simply re-use my existing tires and tire pressure monitor sensors (TPMS), but quickly shifted gears to go smaller to reduce the chance of a costly mishap with my low-profile tire arrangement.
Another reason for going down in size is cost. Finding wheels that were lighter than the factory wheels wasn’t a problem– but finding ones that fit my budget quickly became an issue. There are plenty of options, with custom forged or rotary forged wheels running $800-1500 per wheel. At those prices you’d find yourself spending a few thousand dollars which for me was not feasible.
Alternatively, downsizing to the factory 20-inch wheels gave me the most tire options, but the aesthetic was lost and I wanted to stay as big as I could, within reason. I landed at 21-inch as a nice mid-point for my needs, which also brings the rotational mass closer to center and will help with range/dynamics. Interestingly enough, when I had my Tesla Model S sedan I always loved running 20-inch wheels, which was right between the two options Tesla offered. And here I am again, doing the same “split the difference” move.
For reference, the factory wheel specs are as follows:
OEM Turbine Model X Wheels (22”)
Front: 22×9,0 ET35 – 38 lbs
Rear: 22×10,0 ET35 – 40 lbs
Load Rating: 880-kg / 1936-lbs (per T-Sportline)
And here are the specs for the Niche wheels that won me over:
Ultimately I settled on Niche Essen M147 wheels, as noted above. Niche brand falls under the umbrella of MHT Luxury Alloys. They are also known for owning/operating Rotiform, DUB, Foose, and other wheel companies.
Niche Essen wheels are listed as a “Cast Concave Monoblock” which is just a fancy way for saying they are just cast wheels that have a cool dish to their face for aesthetics. They are offered in a Satin Black finish that I opted for here. They also come in a silver finish, if that is more your style.
Note that there are two unique links above, FRONT wheels and REAR wheels. This is due to the fact that, like the factory wheels, these are staggered in size. The rear Niche wheels are half-inch wider than the stock wheels, but carry the same offset. This means clearance is tighter by a quarter-inch inside, and more aggressive by the same amount outside. Visually this is almost indiscernible, and fitment is flawless. Front wheels are the same with, and offset, so they appear unchanged.
While forged/custom wheels would have been my preference, my goal was to stay as close to net-$0 here. Thanks to the TMC forums and a local friend, my wheels/tires sold for enough to cover this change such that my cost was next to nothing. And these Niche Essen wheels were the right size, offset, and load rating to make them a perfect match!
SHOPPING – TIRES
Tire options are extremely limited when it comes to the correct 21-inch size. Tire rack only lists two options, but one is a winter tire, and I wanted all seasons. Luckily the tires are actually just a variation of what I already had. See below:
Pirelli Scorpion Zero All-Season Tires (Factory 22″)
Front: 265/35-22 – 34 lbs
Rear: 285/35-22- 38 lbs
Pirelli Scorpion Verde All-Season Tires (New 21″ Setup)
Front: 265/40-21 – 34 lbs
Rear: 275/40-21 – 34 lbs
There are some minor differences between the Zero and Verde lineup, but I actually prefer the Verde tires. I’ve used them in the past, and found them to be a nice, quiet, reliable tire. And for light snow they actually do great! I’ve found the Zero tires aren’t as good as the Verde when it comes to inclement winter weather, so this is actually a step up in that regard, allowing me to possibly run these tires year-round or closer to it.
Interestingly enough, the rear tire options available ended up reducing the width by 10 millimeters, which is negligible in terms of handling or performance. But this was funny, as the rear wheels they were mounted on were growing but roughly the same amount. All in all this has no bearing on drivability but still was a curiosity I noted along the way.
These Verde tires are rated at 600AA tread wear, jumping up from a 420AA rating. This means they should wear slower, hopefully lasting a bit longer than the factory tires would have. Load rating of the Verde tires is also a bit more than the Zero tires, but all of this is moot since they’re all more than adequate for the GVWR of the Tesla Model X.
SHOPPING – HARDWARE
When shopping for new wheels and proper sizes tires, there are a lot of important details. Beyond the correct bolt pattern and load rating, you have factors like hub bore, and wheel hardware, amongst other things. In this case I made provisions for aftermarket hardware which helped the cause.
Firstly, I picked up a Gorilla Automotive Wheel Lock Kit. Because the factory wheel nuts are rather large (oversized in their outside diameter compared to most wheel nuts), they often times won’t fit inside the bore holes of the wheels. Aftermarket wheels tend to have a smaller through-hole, requiring nuts/bolts with a smaller outside diameter. Added benefits of the Gorilla Kit are the security features, as they are a spline drive set that require a key that is included for install and removal.
Secondly, because the wheels purchased have a 72mm ID, and the Tesla a 64mm hub diameter, you’ll need hub centric rings. I’m personally a fan of plastic hub rings, so I purchased this UberTechnic Hubcentric Rings kit. There are aluminum options, but those can cause galling, or just get stuck inside the wheel in general. Plastic works just fine in my many years of aftermarket wheel experience.
With all of the above in place, it was time to mount & balance all these goodies together, and witness the final results!
Weight savings works out to be 18.5% up front and 17.5% out back, just in wheels alone. On top of that, the rear tires are a few pounds lighter than factory because of that slightly more narrow size, with a 10% tire savings over the rear axle. And because the diameter is smaller, the weight finds itself closer to center.
Click thumbnails below for larger view of gallery images
Above is a photo gallery I’ve assembled of the Niche Essen M147 wheels wheels on my Midnight Silver Tesla Model X.
As time passes, check here at the bottom of this blog post for updates. I’ll be back with some data regarding the increased efficiency dynamics, range, and further thoughts.
For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this information & my photos– ciao!