If you have an eye for vehicle modification, you may have spotted the odd third-generation Honda Odyssey minivan rocking a set of BMW alloy wheels. They’re typically unassuming and otherwise unmodified, just a wheel swap away from being bone stock. While the choice of wheels is certainly stylish, the underlying factors in running wheels from depreciated Bavarian hoopties are cost and hassle. Here’s how one really bizarre tire system led some Honda Odyssey owners to rock BMW wheels.
Many of you may have heard much of this story before, but it’s so interesting that it bears revisiting. Also, I want to show you BMW wheels on a Honda van.
While the second-generation Odyssey packed its spare tire under the floor with access through the cabin, the third-generation Odyssey did things a bit differently. Many minivans were moving towards offering seating for eight, so Honda offered a removable second-row center seat that it needed to stow somewhere in the vehicle for the sake of convenience. So Honda stowed that seat under the floor, carved out a spare tire compartment in the cargo area wall, and all was well, right? Well, not quite. Honda wanted to offer owners of the new range-topping Odyssey Touring model a little extra safety and convenience, and presumably thought that the best way to do so would be to ditch the spare tire altogether and tap Michelin for the hotness of the mid-2000s: a set of run-flat tires.
Even today, run-flat tires compromise ride quality and handling for flat tire protection, but the typical run-flat tires of the 2000s were particularly awful to drive on. All that sidewall reinforcement compromised flexibility over bumps while contributing to unsprung weight. For instance, OE fitment on my 2006 BMW 325i was a 225/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A II RFT clocking in at 27 pounds. By contrast, a Continental ExtremeContact Sport in the same size clocks in at just 21 pounds, typical for a non-runflat 225/45R17. While Michelin wasn’t able to solve the unsprung weight issue, the French tire maker thought it could solve ride comfort with something called the PAX system.
If you’ve ever had to deal with metric TRX tires, a special Michelin tire system should be ringing alarm bells in your head, and rightfully so. Here’s how the PAX system worked. Instead of reinforcing the tire sidewall like everyone else, Michelin designed a special polymer ring that would fit in a channel designed into bespoke wheels. The tires would then go over the whole thing, using special beads to keep the tires in place should pressure be lost. In theory, everything seemed brilliant. Better ride quality, run-flat capability, and the ability to patch small punctures. What could possibly go wrong?
For starters, the PAX system used metric tire sizing. Odyssey Touring models rolled on 245-710R460A tires which is an absolute mouthful if I’m being honest. The 710 is the tire diameter in millimeters, the 460 is the wheel diameter in millimeters, and the A designates the PAX system. In an attempt to not repeat the failure of the TRX tires of the ‘80s, Michelin licensed the PAX system to Goodyear, Pirelli, Toyo, and Sumitomo, who then didn’t release any PAX tires because they realized the system was completely insane.
Then there’s the matter of actually getting PAX system tires. Because they’re so bizarre compared to a traditional wheel and tire arrangement, they can’t be mounted using typical tire equipment. As such, owners of vehicles that use the PAX system can’t just pop down to their corner garage for a cheap mount and balance, they have to go to a specialized facility. Want to get your hands on PAX equipment? Good luck. Even in Honda’s online equipment catalog, the Coates PAX tire changer that most dealerships used has been discontinued.
Oh, and there was one other small issue with the Odyssey Touring’s Michelin PAX system tires, one that ended up with Odyssey Touring owners suing Honda and Michelin. Owners alleged rapid tire wear beyond what would normally be expected from a fairly heavy minivan, along with the aforementioned difficulty sourcing replacements. I’ll let tire and polymer news website Rubber News spell it all out.
Lawsuits filed against the companies alleged they failed to disclose that “neither they nor any third parties maintained sufficient repair or replacement facilities” to meet consumers’ needs for the tires, that the costs of repairing and replacing the tires is unreasonable and the tires are “defective and susceptible to premature wear.”
The litigation sought injunctive relief, damages and restitution on behalf of a projected class including owners of Honda and Acura vehicle models that came equipped with PAX tires.
In the end, the parties involved in these lawsuits reached a settlement in which reimbursement of certain previous expenses and a three-year, 36,000-mile tire wear warranty was included. Granted, it’s not uncommon for automakers to equip vehicles with quick-wearing tires. If low treadwear helps a manufacturer cut costs while maintaining handling and NVH targets, it’s not the worst decision to make. For instance, the Yokohama Avid GT tires equipped on many new Toyota Corollas have a UTQG treadwear rating of just 280. However, a Corolla uses a standard tire size and mounting arrangement, whereas Odyssey Touring owners are locked to just the Michelin Energy LX4 PAX tires originally equipped on the van.
The third-generation Honda Odyssey wasn’t the only vehicle to use the Michelin PAX system, but applications in North America weren’t exactly common. Other cars available with these strange run-flat tires include the third-generation Nissan Quest minivan, the Acura RL luxury sedan, the Rolls-Royce Phantom monument to posh mustard, and the Bugatti Veyron surface-to-surface missile. Quite an odd array of vehicles,
So, what’s an Odyssey owner to do when they need tires but don’t want the cost or headache associated with the Michelin PAX system? Change wheels, of course, and one manufacturer seems to have the goods to fix the Odyssey’s tire headache. Other Hondas on the Global Light Truck architecture don’t go wrong terribly often, so Pilot and Odyssey take-offs can be a touch scarce. You know what does go wrong catastrophically as soon as the typical fourth owner takes possession? Almost every BMW under the sun.
See, the third-generation Odyssey uses a 5×120 mm bolt pattern and a 64.1 mm hub bore, while older BMWs also use a 5×120 mm bolt pattern and a much larger hub bore. Most pre-CLAR BMWs use a 72.56 mm hub bore, although E39 5-Series models use a 74.1 mm hub bore. To quell vibrations, the difference in hub bore can be filled by cheap hub-centric rings. Nice.
However, if you’re planning on running BMW wheels on your Honda Odyssey, it’s a good idea to keep offsets in mind. The third-generation Odyssey runs high offsets, like wheels that are seven inches wide and feature 50 mm of positive offset. In contrast, most rear-wheel-drive BMWs feature lower offsets, which can play havoc on fender clearance and scrub radius. The easiest way of partially getting around this is by using wheels from BMWs with xDrive all-wheel-drive. A Style 210 wheel from an E70 X5 clocks in at 8.5 inches wide with a 46 mm offset, while a Style 246 from an all-wheel-drive E60 5-Series measures in at eight inches wide with a 43 mm offset. It’s also worth keeping load ratings in mind, particularly if you plan on towing or hauling heavy loads. You’ll likely want wheels from an X5 SUV rather than a 5-Series sedan as they’re generally rated to carry heavier loads.
Perhaps the best part of slapping BMW wheels on your Honda Odyssey is that they’re generally cheap. Aside from a few highly-desired styles, most OEM BMW wheels don’t hold a ton of value because of their relatively uncommon 5×120 mm bolt pattern. You’ll also see this pattern on a handful of newer GM cars, a small selection of Japanese vehicles, a few Bentleys, and not much else. Even BMW has switched to a 5×112 mm bolt pattern on newer vehicles, which should keep general supply of everyday older BMW wheels above demand for quite some time. So go forth, third-generation Odyssey Touring owners, and break free from the hassle of the Michelin PAX system. You’ll have some shiny new-to-you wheels and cheaper tire bills to show for it.
Lead photo credit: Honda/Michelin/Thomas Hundal
Great consumer alert/advice, especially since I was considering an Odyssey and a manual swap. Also very informative to read.