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Soup it Up: Magnesium wheels are back

From Detroit News
By Larry Edsall, Special to The Detroit News 11:32 p.m. EDT April 20, 2016

Remember when mag wheels were all the rage?

Well, they’re back, and Bill Koenig, executive vice president of MKW Alloy Inc., compares bolting a set onto your vehicle to getting the sort of power boost you would by supercharging your vehicle’s engine, without all the plumbing and other work beneath the hood.

Because of the reduced weight at each of a car’s four corners, “It’s like increasing power without a supercharger,” Koenig says of his company’s RSR line of forged magnesium wheels.

Based in Southern California, MKW Alloy launched in 1995 to export large-diameter chrome automotive wheels from the United States to South Korea and three years later began selling those wheels in the U.S. as well. It claims to have been the first, in 2004, to introduce a 26-inch wheel for sport utility vehicles.

Since its launch, MKW has grown into four separate divisions producing primarily cast aluminum wheels for niche and upscale applications.

RSR is one of MKW’s four divisions. RSR is short for Road+Street+Race. Another brand, Hostile, offers off-road wheels with names like Moab, Knuckles, Havoc, Hammered, Exile, Switchblade and Zombie. Avenue is another of the company’s on-pavement lines.

RSR launched in 2014 but added many more styles last fall.

“We’d been chasing magnesium wheels for 10 years,” Koenig said.

Koenig said the price of mag wheels had always been “ridiculous.” The solution, he said, was the cost-effective technology of forged wheels rather than cast. Not only did it bring down prices, but the wheels are stronger and more durable, he said.

Production is done in Japan. “The factory has proprietary magnesium alloy and 800,000 tons of pressure that pushes out the blank,” Koenig said, adding that the same factory produces the wheels for eight Formula One racing teams as well as for other high-end racers and for some high-end original-equipment automakers.

RSR wheels are available in aluminum 700 (R7012, R702, R703 and R704), aluminum 800 (R801, R802 and R803) and the new 900 (R980) magnesium series. The 700 series range from 17 to 22 inches, the 800s are either 20 or 22 inches in diameter and the new 900s launches only in 19-inch diameter with center-lock mounting for Porsche 991 and 997 GT3 cars. A 20-inch version is coming soon and within 18 months the company plans to have RSR wheels available in sizes to fit seemingly all exotic cars.

Koenig said his current Porsche GT3 is his third such car.

“Porsche builds GT cars to go directly to the track, to have a great track day and then to drive home,” he said. “I wanted the same thing for wheels so you don’t have to take them off to go to the grocery.”

Suggested retail price is around $8,800 for a set.