Seth B., New York

If you consider a 55-series tire to be low profile, then the answer is no. All the sedans offered by those German luxury brands have what we would consider lower-profile tires.

2012_a6

A tire’s profile, or series, is the height of its sidewall relative to the width of the tread. In a tire size of 225/55HR17, the height of the sidewall is 55 percent of the width of the tread. That is the standard tire size on the Audi A6. Optional tires available on the A6 and the tires offered on other Audi sedans are even lower profile, with sidewalls that are only 45, 40 or even 35 percent of the tread width. With a 35-series tire, there is so little sidewall that it almost looks like it is flat.

The same goes for BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Only a handful of BMWs have 55-series tires (many are 40 or 45), and 45-series tires are common on Mercedes sedans. For example, the Mercedes E350 comes with standard 245/45HR17 tires.

You didn’t say why you were concerned about low-profile tires, but as explained in Cars.com’s Tires 101 primer, low-profile tires tend to ride more harshly than higher-series tires (profiles of 70 or 75) because there is less sidewall to absorb bumps and ruts. They also tend to be noisier because they have aggressive tread designs to improve handling.

More than a decade ago, it was common to find passenger cars with soft-riding tires that had taller sidewalls, such as 70 or 75 series. Today, that is rare. Among the few cars we could find with 70-series tires was the Hyundai Accent (175/70TR14). The Toyota Prius has standard 195/65SR15 tires, and lower-profile tires are optional on some models.

Tires not only come in different sizes, but also in different types, with some geared more for dry-road grip, others for the rain and still others for comfort. In addition to checking out Tires 101, we suggest you also look at Getting the Right Tire, which could help you find the best all-around tire choice on the sedan you decide to buy.

You shouldn’t judge tires simply by the height of the sidewall because the speed rating (also explained in our tire advice) is a factor. A tire with a speed rating of H (130 mph) will probably be more comfortable and quieter than one with a V (149 mph) or Z (over 150 mph) rating. That’s something you will have to judge for yourself when you test-drive cars.

The best advice we can give is that when you test-drive a car, find the worst stretch of road that you can, and drive over it a few times to get a good idea of how well (or badly) the tires and suspension absorb the rough stuff and what the noise levels are under harsh conditions.

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Answered by Rick Popely on December 3, 2012 in Audi , BMW , Mercedes-Benz , What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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