The latest generation of the BMW M3 and M4 (previously the M3 Coupe) has been out for four years at this point and so far has proven itself to be a fan favorite among enthusiasts. The upside to this is that aftermarket support for the car has been fantastic. There is no shortage of performance parts, interior, exterior, suspension, etc. Basically, if you have the funds, you can make these cars whatever you want them to be. The downside to the popularity of the car is that there are a lot of them around. Yes they’re still eye-catching and a treat to see driving around, but if your M3/M4 isn’t obviously modified it generally is not given a second look. Luckily there is a simple solution that doesn’t involve thousands of dollars worth of front lips, diffusers, and side skirts that you may or may not even like on your car. The answer is simple: wheels! You obviously know that already since you saw the title of this article and are currently reading it, but what fun is writing without a little false suspense?
Yes, wheels! Every good build involves a nice set of wheels, and it’s easy to see why. Wheels are one of the most noticeable parts on a car. Wheels with a proper fitment are like a fitted suit for your car, they just make it look better. Even non-enthusiasts can appreciate the difference a set of wheels can make on a car. As we often say here at Modbargains, wheels will make or break a build. People will know you for the wheels you have, they’ll say “Oh so-and-so? Yeah, they have the M3 with the (insert wheel model here)”. This is pretty standard in the industry but when you’re picking out wheels you want to be conscious not only of the design of the wheels you pick but also how they will affect your car’s performance. No sense in buying pretty wheels if they’re so heavy they make your M3/M4 feel slow and unresponsive unless you’re buying a dedicated show set. That’s where our top 5 list comes in! We’ve carefully selected manufacturers that produce wheels which are not only nice to look at but are very strong and lightweight.
Let’s talk for a minute about wheel construction (feel free to skip this part if you already know the difference between cast, forged, and flow formed wheels). There are three main ways a wheel will be constructed in the aftermarket industry: low pressure cast, forged, and flow formed. A low pressure cast wheel is made by pouring molten metal into a holding furnace and then using pressure to pump it up into a wheel mold (see diagram right). The wheel is then cooled, cleaned of excess material, and then polished. This is a very basic method and while it keeps costs down it also makes for comparatively weaker and heavier wheels. This weakness is due to the structure of the metal molecules; they are more loosely packed together and not interlaced so their bond is not as solid. This means that more material is needed to make them strong enough for use, which makes them heavy and inflexible.
On the opposite end of the spectrum a forged wheel is extremely light and just about the strongest you can get, but it comes at a larger cost. The forging process takes a solid hunk of aluminum, several tons of pressure are exerted on it to flatten it out and make it into the rough shape of a wheel, and then a CNC machine is used to cut out the face and barrel shape. The reason this is so much stronger is because the pressure and stretching that the metal undergoes creates a more solid structure. The metal actually develops a grain, sort of like the grains in a piece of wood, which gives it a stronger bond between the aluminum molecules and allows lighter designs due to less material being necessary.
Flow form wheels are the bridge between these two manufacturing methods. A cast is made of the face and outer barrel with extra material. The barrel is then formed by spinning the wheel and rolling the edges over a mandrel which stretches the barrel material until the proper width is achieved (see picture). What this results in is a wheel that is much more affordable than a forged wheel while having a lot of the strength and flexibility that a fully cast wheel cannot achieve. The face being cast means the wheel will weigh more than a fully forged wheel of the same design, but it’s a very solid middle ground between cast and forged and one that we highly recommend because of the good value.
Please note that BMW’s OEM wheels for the M3/M4 are forged and are therefore very lightweight and strong already, if you are going to be tracking your car frequently it is advisable to keep the stock wheels for track use. The factory 18s being the smallest will have the lowest rotating mass and thus are one of the best choices you have for track wheels as they will give your car some of the best acceleration and braking as well as making tires cheaper to purchase.
305Forged is a brand you may not have heard of yet. You’ve no doubt seen some of their products around though because they’ve been manufacturing wheels for a lot of big wheel brands for over 15 years. About six years ago they decided they’d like to build some of their own designs too, which seems fair given their experience in the field. Their Flow Technik (FT for short) is what they call their flow formed line of wheels. It is particularly good value since they handle all of the manufacturing process and don’t have to outsource (unlike most brands who create the designs and then outsource the construction). Keeping manufacturing cost down allows them to offer flow formed wheels at prices you’ll often only see cast wheels at. They also offer an industry leading warranty, 7 years for cosmetic damage and a lifetime warranty for structural integrity! This of course has the caveat of requiring professional installation and the damage must be during normal and reasonable use, so if they break due to weakness from track use you’re out of luck (which any track enthusiast should understand, wheels break, it happens when you’re pushing a car to its limits) but if you only drive them on the streets then you’re covered.
The FT-101 is just a straight up beautiful wheel. It’s an aggressive split five spoke design but with little details that give it so much more personality. The spokes are shaved down to give a sharper look to the spokes while adding some nice depth to the design. The spokes also extend past this inside of the barrel to a small outer lip, giving the wheel an apparently larger face. Overall it’s a killer design and looks great on the F8x series.
The FT-107 is a much more complex mesh design but equally enjoyable. One might call this a split ten spoke; although it technically is more of a branching split five spoke design. Semantics aside, one thing we’re sure we can agree on is that this design is very uniquely striking.
4. Avant Garde:
If you’re looking for a few more options in terms of construction and style then you’ll definitely want to consider Avant Garde. This company has over 40 years of combined experience in the automotive wheel industry so they know their way around a set of wheels. They are industry leaders in wheel design, perfect fitments, and beautiful finishes. Avant Garde brings a vast variety of wheel choices in cast, flow formed, and forged constructions. The nice part about this is that whoever you are you are likely to find something you like when perusing their catalog. Want affordable show wheels and don’t really care about the weight? Their AG Classic series is their cast wheel lineup which is great value and you still have the benefit of their stunning finishes and designs. For those who are a bit more performance oriented then their ART/Advanced Rim Technology (i.e. Flow Forming) lineup will give you a lightweight and high strength option for a still reasonable price. If you want the absolute lightest and strongest wheel and have money burning a hole in your pocket then you can check out their AG Forged lineup which is available in multi-piece or monoblock construction. All AG wheels come with a lifetime structural and 1 year finish warranty under normal use. Whoever you are, you’ve got options to spare with Avant Garde.
If you want a simple and elegant design then look no further. Some of you might be familiar with the old AG M310; it was an immensely popular wheel thanks to its stylish European split 7 spoke design. The Avant Garde M610 is the new Flow Formed variant of the M310 (which was a cast wheel). As a result of this new material composition the M610 is much stronger and lighter than the old M310 and therefore can be your go to for more mixed use between aggressive driving and attending shows, rather than buying the M310 only for show use. The F310, as you’ve probably guessed, is the forged version of the M310 design (there are very slight differences but they are essentially the same). If you have the money to spend on these they will be just about as good as you can get: strong, lightweight, able to deal with the punishment of repeated track days and hard driving.
The M510 is part of the Avant Garde Classic lineup that is a simple but elegant design. It has great concavity and its overall very wide spoke design makes it even better for showing off your big brakes than some of Avant Garde’s other designs. Please keep in mind that this is a low pressure cast wheel so we recommend it primarily for show use.
The M615 is rocking 15 spokes in a very classy design that pays homage to some of the older BMW generations. It is part of the ART line so it will be a solid pick for both show and track usage without having to worry about them being too heavy or fragile. It is also one of the stronger wheels in this article thanks to the sheer amount of spokes it has which evenly distributes force throughout the wheel.
Want a wheel that is sure to stand out? Boom, M621. Another offering from the ART Flow Formed lineup, this wheel features a directional ten spoke design which gives a feeling of speed even when you’re parked. Just be aware that with a directional design you will not be able to rotate your tires without completely unmounting them from the wheels, which while not a huge deal can be a bit annoying if you’re wanting to get the absolute maximum distance out of your tires.
The M650 is for the enthusiast who wants a unique design that isn’t trying too hard. At face value this is a simple branching 5 spoke design but the way it is laid out it also has the look of a split 5 spoke, which gives it a kind of split personality depending on how you look at it. Again, this wheel is from the ART lineup so you don’t have to worry about weight or strength, this wheel is ready for track days and shows alike.