9 of Our Favorite Modern Wheel Designs


Wheels are like shoes. A good set can make everything else in the ensemble pop, but ugly ones can flush loads of effort elsewhere right down the toilet. Enthusiasts love to make their cars look just so, and because wheels are so interchangeable, they’ve been among the most popular vehicle modifications for decades.

In the modern era, there are a lot of boring wheel designs, a lot of polarizing wheel designs, and then some that make you feel absolutely nothing. But occasionally, designers get the stock wheels so right that there’s no need to look to the aftermarket. Our team got to discussing what OEM (original equipment manufacturer) wheels nail the brief.

We’re not big rules people here, but we did all agree to set a time frame of 2000 to now. We covered some of the more classic designs like Minilites and Fuchs here—that conversation was all about the best wheels to come out in the last quarter century. Below are nine nominations from our staff for the best modern wheel designs. Who got it right? What’d we leave out? Who needs a wellness check based on what they offered up? Let us know in the comments.

Cadillac V-Series 10-Spoke Wheel

Cameron Neveu

First introduced on the previous-generation Cadillac performance sedans, the CTS-V and the ATS-V, this 10-spoke design is fantastic. (The updated version looks nearly as good on the new CT4-V Blackwing, too.) But as cool as they are on a road car, they’re even better on Cadillac’s older, DPi-V.R IMSA race cars. A nice little brand parallel between the road and race cars lends even more credibility to just how gnarly these cars are when you thrash them. These got the vote of managing editor Eddy Eckart, and it’s not hard to see why.

Saab 9-5 Turbo 3-Spoke Wheels

Saab 9-5 Turbo Sedan Three Spoke Wheels

Our executive editor Eric Weiner chimed in with a nod for these Saab wheels. While the now-defunct automaker had a thing for unconventional rollers, this design takes the cake. Although Saab no longer makes cars, we’ll always have an affinity for the company that took much of its design ethos from its “Born from Jets” tagline.

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Fan Blades

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren rear three-quarter
James Lipman

Remember how bad wheels can sully a car’s good design? Well, sometimes the opposite is true. Great wheels can lift an otherwise, erm, interesting design. That was just the case for those nominated by editor-at-large Stefan Lombard.

“I love the smoked 15-inch Desert Runner wheels fitted to certain early 2000s Nissan Frontiers (I put a set on my Xterra) but I think I’ve got to go with the fan blades on the 2004–10 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Ironically, they are the best-looking part of the whole car.”

Cadillac Tech Bronze Snowflakes

2023 Cadillac CT5-V high angle front quarter panel
Cameron Neveu

I mean, it’s a fact that no good wheels were designed after the ’70s, but if I had to choose a modern wheel … I’ve got a thing for the wheels they’re slapping on these performance Cadillacs. (That sound you’re hearing is two of our racing experts—Cam and Eddy—in violent agreement.) The brushed satin gold/bronze tone on these things is just fantastic, and I love the amount of sidewall you still get with these wheels. — Cameron Neveu

Chevrolet Silverado HD Alcoa Aluminum Wheels

Trucks don’t usually get highly stylized wheels. It’s always function first, then form. But as resident DIY guru Kyle Smith points out, sometimes the two marry up nicely. And of course, being the wrench-master that he is, he has personal experience with these things.

“The Alcoa aluminum wheels that Chevrolet specced on the heavy-duty lineup from 2000 to 2010 have aged gracefully and are one of the rare affordable options for those looking to add some flair to their eight-lug trucks without resorting to chrome 20-inchers or painted steelies,” he says. “After finding a set locally, I had them blasted and powder-coated for a great OEM+ look. They actually helped the handling of my big red Express since the aluminum wheels are so much lighter than the factory steel ones. The ride is a lot better, which might be a low bar with an ex-plumber van, but better ride and better look? That’s about as good as it gets.”

Land Rover Defender and Ford Maverick’s Modern Steelies

Modern adaptations of vintage ideas don’t always work, but when they do, they’re pretty special. Senior editor Grace Houghton laid out a compelling case for a wheel design that we’d otherwise overlook entirely.

“I’m a huge fan of steel wheels, whether OEM or aftermarket,” said Houghton. “This pretty white one is from the Land Rover Defender, a luxury-minded off-roader, but you’ll also find them on new vehicles as humble as the Ford Maverick. Burly yet handsome, and so functional … and don’t get me started on the powder-coated steel beauties made by Detroit Steel Wheel Company … no street-rod truck would be complete without a set.”

Tesla Cybertruck Wheel Cover

Tesla Cybertruck store display wheel tire
Deborah L Smith

We were all scratching our heads when senior editor Sajeev Mehta nominated the shoes on the Cybertruck. However, in true Sajeev fashion, he took the idea of “favorite” and pivoted it to mean “favorite wheel design to laugh at.” Score one for loose rules! Here’s his explanation: “The Cybertruck wheel covers prove that you can try to ‘Silicon Valley’ your way into reinventing the wheel, but you’re just gonna embarrass yourself in the process with a design that goes past the rim and eats into the tire.”

Alphard Wheels from Mid-2000s Mercedes-Benz SL600

Mercedes-Benz SL 230 Alphard Wheels

Associate editor Chris Stark decided to bend the rules a different way, celebrating a wheel design not for how it looked on the car that wore it originally, but for how the design would look on other cars. It’s Friday, so we’ll allow it.

“I’m partial to the optional Alphard wheels that were available on the mid-2000s Mercedes SL,” he said. “They look fine on the cars they came on, but like the Corvette Sawblade wheels, they look way better on slammed VWs.”

Morgan Super 3 Disc Wheels

Morgan 3 passenger front three quarter low
Brandan Gillogly

Who doesn’t love a good set of discs? They’re similar in design to the aeroblade wheels of IMSA fame, but with a smidge of functionality pulled out in favor of a little more curb appeal. Our resident U.K. correspondent, Nik Berg, had this to say about the shoes on this very British Morgan Super 3:

“They’re very big. On a very small car. Look almost like military hardware on this otherwise quite dainty oddball.”

No notes. Hard to argue with that.

Surely, there are plenty of modern wheel designs that we overlooked. Do you have a few in mind? Sound off in the comments below!


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    Wheels are a tricky beast. A lot of folks try to do different things with them and end up with results that just don’t belong on a car

    I have always been partial to good looking steelies with chrome trim rings and center caps… not a popular look these days. Generally speaking I’m fine with factory alloys

    Exactly Rs6er… Chevy rallyes of that era are still one of the best looking and functionally smart wheels around. If we have to go ‘aftermarket’, then that era’s ‘Minilite’ wheels are the be all, end all .. These ‘so called’ ‘modern?’ wheels that the manufactuers are putting on their car these days are UGLY as sin… if they have to do a ‘new wheel’, then WHY can’t they stick to a simple spoke design, and try to make them STRONG and simple/cheap to manufacture, and EASY to clean (without all the little nicks and crannies that idiot wheel designers use in attempt to make their wheels ‘unique’… UGH!

    Agree 100% – Minilites – on 60s/70s rally, race and sports cars – you can’t beat them.

    Very few cars that Minilites don’t work on! Upgraded the skinny little 13″ wheels on my 73 Opel GT to fat 15″ Mini’s. Not just the “look” but the differance in ride & handling is epic.

    Years ago, a neighbor claimed that he based his car purchases on how easy it was to clean the wheel covers.

    Having said that, yesterday I cleaned the 15 spoke polished aluminum wheels on my 2021 Ford Edge Titanium with the Elite Package.

    My wife still laughs at a photo of me cleaning a set of 72 wire spoke wheels with a toothbrush n our bath tub! Wouldn’t dare to do that today!

    I agree, steelies painted the same color as the car (Marina Blue) with chrome rims I think it’s a big improvement vs daisy Miata alloys. Unless you’re racing why worry about the unsprung weight anyway.

    With you all the way Mark. When I bought my first 69 Chevelle SS396 in 69 I couldn’t afford Cragars, The 69 Chevelle SS 396 I’ve had for the last 14 years has them. Best looking wheel ever. I also worked for Michelin Tire from 93-98. Mounted and balanced just about every wheel for the Dodge Viper. I thought those 3 spoke wheels on the early Vipers were butt ugly. Was glad when they went to the 5 spoke but then they started painting them some hideous colors. Stick with the polished aluminum.

    You are right Mark. Cragar s/s are my alltime favorite wheel. Not much they do not look good on.

    Cragers or American Racing Wheels were the cool wheels to have in 1966-1968 I wanted one of them didn’t really care which one although my preference was American Racing Wheels but they were too much money for a high school kid like me. Had chrome with baby moons lol

    Hi Steve. . . I restored a 66GMC 1/2 ton truck and painted it a Ford colour (Vintage Burgundy) and put on 15 inch chrome reverse with baby moons. . . Loved the look!

    Had a 55 Chevy in high school. Bought another 55 for $35 swapped the rolled and pleated nauagahyde interior and chrome reverse rims to my 55. Yeah! Sold the spare 55 for $35.

    Classic Torque Thrust. They looked good on my ’53 Coronet and my ’57 Fargo – and they look fantastic on my ’96 Ranger. Not sure how they would look on a modern SUV – – – The Keystone Kustomag was another favorite on my Darts. Liked them both better than Cragar SS

    I don’t like all black wheels, the look is blacked out, can’t make it out very well. As long as they are shiny they look pretty good to me.

    I ran my ’61 Vette with ’67 Vette steel wheels. Replaced them with the original wheels and wheel covers when I sold it in ’78.

    Of the new cars the Z06 C7 wheels look good.

    Vintage nothing tops the Gold laced BBS 3 piece wheels.

    FYI the Tesla truck wheels were a mistake. There are issues. It was Musks idea not Goodyears. They only did what the customer demanded.

    Well in the public domain you can never say nobody.

    Many things get twisted around and often the innocent get the blame.

    You see it. On the web all the time even here.

    Anything is possible, but in this case, that’s very unlikely. Unless Tesla’s CEO says otherwise on his social media platform, that would change everything.

    Yes, they did. I sold Fords (I wasn’t very good at it) in the late ’70s, early ’80’s. They were quite unique.

    The early Fox Body Mustangs (79-82) with the TRX 39cm wheels complete with the matching Michelin TRX 220/55R390 tires looked fantastic and were way ahead of their time!

    390cm is almost 13ft. – pretty big wheels. I think it’s time America came into the metric world (like the rest of us).

    How about the original Style 32 wheels BMW put on their cars in the late 90’s to 2000″s? Those were a multiple spoke wheel that look very fine in those wheel wells

    Could not agree more. I have a 2012 CTS-V Coupe. While I appreciate seeing the V-Series 10-spokes on the list, the combination of brake dust from the Brembo pads and some rain results in the whole wheel and the painted calipers results in more time detailing the wheels than it takes for the entire rest of the car.

    I guess I’m just old, but for me nothing beats the look of classic Crager SS wheels, or the old GM steel Rally wheels.

    Absolutely correct! Cragers and Rallys are the best. Sorry, but all the modern torque thrusts and all nine of the picks are just aweful and embarassing.

    I’m with you, Paul! My new 69 Z28 came with rally wheels and I had to immediately put a set of Cragar SS on it.

    I agree. If I could afford them, I would have them on my 2010 Shelby GT500 Convertible. Instead, I have the CS66 wheels in chrome. The “modern” version of the old ten-spoke wheels from the 1966-67 Shelby Mustangs.

    I have a set of the CTS-V polished 10 Spokes on my G8, great looking and staggered.

    I was surprised with all the Mercedes love that no one mentioned the monoblocks!

    I’m a huge fan of the late 80’s Porsche Club Sport forged aluminum wheels as well as the BMW Style 88 wheels.

    Never been a fan of BLACK wheels, especially all-black wheels with no trim ring or accents. They look like the cheap wheels they put on cop cars. I much prefer some type of bright wheel, polished aluminum, chrome or some combination thereof. A traditional 5-spoke mag style wheel or some of the two-piece wheels with lots of bolts around the inside of rim look good. Also, if you are shopping aftermarket wheels, look for ones that have some degree of corrosion protection, not just a thin coating of clear paint over aluminum, or a poor quality chrome plating on steel. Aluminum wheels must be anodized or powder coated while chrome plated steel wheels must have an underlayer of copper and/or nickel for corrosion resistance. Cheap wheels will just corrode or rust over time, especially if they are exposed to rain or road salt.

    Up north in snow country, people fit their snow tires on plain black steel wheels, saving their nice alloys for the summer season (also save the expense of swapping tires on wheels twice a year). Now with all the “blackout” and “midnight” option packages, many new cars are coming with black alloys. Pretty? not really, it looks like people are running their snow tires all year round.

    Going back in time, black wheels make me think: It’s Monday morning, and I haven’t reinstalled my wheel covers after spending Sunday at the strip.

    I agree, all black is overdone and doesn’t age well. I watch my neighbours constantly washing their black vehicles because they show every bit of dust and dirt.

    How do you clean them? Some of those wheels and many, many others are so complex, it would take longer to clean them than the whole car.

    Agreed, I have 14 spoke wheels om my Audi TT and they look great but do take longer than the car to clean. When I admire wheels I see on many other cars, I always think of how difficult it would be to clean them, like BBS wheels on BMW’s.

    I often say I want to see the designers clean the wheels they designed, with corners no adult hand or tool can reach. I can wash & dry my car in less than 20 minutes; it takes more than 30 minutes to do the same for four wheels, and I never dress the tire so as to reduce future cleaning efforts! All this said, my eyes are drawn to any polished alloy wheel which emulates a spoke/wire wheel.

    Amen to that. We had a 2000 5 Series with the BBS basket weave wheels and I swore I’d never own complex patterned wheels again. Next up was a Mini with simple 5 spoke alloys that you could clean with a single swipe of a sponge. BMW finally got hip to dustless brake pads and now I guess you can get whatever wheels you want without worrying about how hard they are to clean.

    The Mercedes Alphard wheels have never been one of my favorites. They look sort of okay on the driver’s side of the car where the spokes swoop backward from the direction of rotation, but terrible on the passenger side where the spokes curve into the direction of rotation and just look wrong. Maybe Mercedes was iffy on the looks as well since they didn’t bother to spend the extra money to make properly directional wheels for both sides of the car?

    This is what I said in a post last week. If you are going to make wheels for a high end car then make them properly directional for both sides of the car.

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