A Touch of JDM: WedsSport Wheels & Nitto NT05s for the Mk7 Golf GTI
When we left off with our 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI project car, we had just fitted a set of ST XTA adjustable coilovers and an ST rear sway bar to help tighten up the suspension, neutralize the car’s handling characteristics and give the car a more aggressive stance.
After the suspension upgrade, we confirmed our thoughts that a high quality adjustable coilover kit is one of the single best modifications you can do to do a car. The only other upgrade that can do the same from a both a performance and aesthetic standpoint is a set of proper wheels and tires.
This is extra true for our GTI as its factory-equipped 225/40R18 all-season tires left a lot to be desired in the performance department. After taking the car to both an autocross event and a track day, we found that the rubber was the limiting factor in both situations—and plans were soon made to get a proper high-performance summer tire underneath.
However, before the tires were fitted we needed to figure out the wheel situation. The GTI Sport’s 18x7.5 “Nogaro” alloys could have easily been fitted with a tire upgrade for the simplest path, but this would also be the perfect occasion to upgrade to a wider, lighter and yes, cooler looking, aftermarket wheel. The timing for the wheel upgrade couldn’t have been better. Just as we began our search for the perfect wheel we found out that Weds Wheels was getting ready to release a brand new wheel made specially for late model VW fitment—the WedsSport SA-10R.
WedsSport is one of Japan’s most respected racing wheel companies, and with its made-in-Japan quality, Advanced Metal Forming technology for weight savings and classic split five-spoke look, this wheel checked all of our boxes.
While the SA-10R itself has been a popular offering from the WedsSport catalog for a few years now, this is the first time it’s been been available in Volkswagen/Audi fitment. Sized at 18x8.5J with an offset of +45, it’s designed to fit the Mk7 Golf chassis perfectly.
The wheels are available in gunmetallic or TS bronze finishes, and while either would look great with the GTI’s Pure White paint, we opted for the bronze since we were able to get our hands on one of the first sets that arrived in the US from Japan. At the same time, we needed to choose a tire to mount on the new wheels. While the GTI is a daily driver, the California climate makes it easy to run a high performance summer tire all year long, and we opted for the proven Nitto NT05.
With its great balance of grip and response, while still being very road friendly, the NT05 seemed like the ideal choice for a daily driver that sees occasional track and autocross action. We opted for a 235/40R18, which is one size wider than the factory tires and perfectly suited to the new 18x8.5J wheels. As you can see, the GTI's cargo capacity came in quite handy while taking the four wheels and tires to get mounted.
Anyone who is at all familiar with performance cars should know about the importance of limiting unsprung weight, and one of best things about the SA-10R is that it’s lightweight—about 20.4 lbs per wheel. That means that even with the wider wheels and larger, wider tires there is no weight penalty when compared with the OEM combo.
With the fresh-from-Japan wheels in hand and the tires delivered promptly by Discount Tire Direct, it was time to get them on the car. With the wider wheels and tires, we had hunch the front ride height would need to come up just a bit, and the ST XTA coilovers made adjusting the height for different wheel and tire setups a breeze.
From there we mounted the wheels onto the GTI using the included hubcentric rings and a set of low profile wheel bolts from Gorilla Automotive. For a first impression, we couldn’t have been happier with how the setup looked.
While this is the flattest face design of the SA-10R line, it still has a nice amount of concavity to the spokes. The bronze color is sometimes hard to pick up in photos, but it’s very noticeable in person and contrasts perfectly with the white body and red GTI brake calipers.
The 235/40R18 tire size also looks great, with a healthy sidewall and the perfect amount of rubber to fill up the fenders without going over the top. For as good as it looks, the more important question was “how did it drive?”
While we haven’t yet had the chance to autocross or track the car with the new setup, the difference between the 235-width NT05s and the old 225-width all-seasons is readily apparent.
Where the old tires would be quick to surrender in any sort of aggressive cornering or acceleration, the new ones hang right on and deliver a ton more confidence to the driver.
While we weren’t surprised about the massive improvement in grip, you might be wondering how they do when wet. As you can see from the photos, it’s been raining for the better part of the last week here in California, and the NT05s have handled the wet commute with ease.
At the end of the month we’ll be returning to the local SCCA autocross to get some better impressions of the new setup, but it’s already clear that the car is no longer held back by its tires.
With this wheel and tire combination you get an excellent mix of form and function, and again the setup is still daily driver friendly. The unique touch of JDM wheels on a European hot hatch is a nice little bonus as well.
With the all-important suspension, wheel and tire upgrades now checked off the list, what comes next for the GTI? Naturally, we're planning to return the track for more seat time, and for the rest of the upgrade plans you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.
If you liked the article, check out everything else we've done with our project Golf GTI!