Are Carbon Fiber Wheels Worth It?
Slideshow: Here’s are the pros and cons.
History Repeats Itself
Carbon Revolution isn’t the first manufacturer to offer performance light weight wheels, but they are the first to do it in the mainstream aftermarket. Prior to this, glass-resin was used as experimental material in the world of rally racing in order to reduce a particular type of weight. It’s a super trick idea that has roots in real science which all results producing lowered lap times on the race track. So are they worth it for the average or even serious enthusiast? Well, the answers are mixed. With that being said, let's dig in.
Science of Unsprung Weight (pro)
What’s the big deal about these lightweight super wheels? Major reductions in mass that reduce something called unsprung weight. In plain English, that means anything that isn’t above the springs—think wheels, tires, brake rotors, calipers, pads, lug nuts, etc. The lighter these components are, the easier it is for the suspension to keep the tires from deforming which increases grip and therefore handling. Race teams have proven this technology and even club level enthusiasts can vouch for the improved response and lowered numbers on the stopwatch. Lighter wheels make you go faster. It's just a cold hard fact.
Lap Times (pro)
From a lap time standpoint, these wheels are absolutely worth it for someone who is dead serious about performance. If your class allows factory carbon fiber wheels to be run then you have an unfair advantage on everyone in the field. How much? According to data acquired by Dieter Heinz Kijora behind the wheel of a GT-R—arguably one of the most proficient cars on a race track—the use of carbon fiber wheels dropped over 2 seconds on the stopwatch at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Big race teams spend millions to find that kind of time.
~$18,000 (pro / con)
Each second these wheels chop off the clock costs roughly $9,000 which is both expensive and inexpensive if you consider what other components contribute towards lap times. A turbo kit (or upgrade) to your Mustang can easily run into the tens of thousands in a hurry and that’s assuming everything goes right the first time around. When you’re deep in a build and searching for time this is actually a bargain. There are also no tuning issues with carbon fiber wheels. Once they are mounted and balanced they are simply ready to go. You won’t have to worry about managing air-fuel ratios or anything complex so the money can be looked at in terms of simplicity and ease of use as well as performance.
Adds up Quick (con)
With some manufacturers producing wheels up to 20% lighter and 20% stronger than their alloy counterparts, it sadly doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. Accidents still happen on the track when you start ripping through gears which means any contact with the barriers or other obstacles won’t be cheap. And, just because you can afford a set of these gorgeous gems, doesn’t mean you can afford to buy 4 sets of them at their aforementioned asking price. So, are carbon fiber wheels worth it in summary?
Reducing unsprung weight is noticeable on the street and the track, but it’s done in the name of ultimate performance at the end of the day. If you can afford these wheels you may find it’s a better financial decision to race on lightweight aftermarket wheels or even worse, you might not even be allowed to run them as they are banned from your class. So really, these wheels make sense for two types of people: uber rich track day drivers and collectors who are looking to make a buck down the road. Hope you enjoyed reading. Let us know what you think about these wheels in the comments.
And, for information on maintenance and repairs for your Mustang, head on over to our How-Tos at MustangForums.com!