Sales of low-profile tires are rising, and manufacturers are constantly increasing their low-profile offerings. To some eyes, they are sleek and sexy, but to others, they are anathema. To sporting drivers who like to push their cars to the limit, they offer improved handling at the cost of a less comfortable ride and greater exposure to damage. To the average driver, their advantages are harder to discern.

What is a Low-Profile Tire?

A low-profile tire is one with a shorter sidewall than a traditional tire and a wider tread. When you look at it directly from the side, the distance between the rim and the tread is shorter. Manufacturers express the profile of a tire as its “aspect ratio,” which is shown as part of the code on the sidewall of the tire. The code is divided by a slash–for example 195/55R15V. The number following the slash denotes the aspect ratio. The smaller the number, the lower the profile of the tire.