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Putting different tyres on will alter the accuracy of the speedo and the recording of distance, so I wouldn't pay much attention the fuel economy. For example, a single revolution of the axle will remain constant regardless of the wheel size, but the revolution of the wheel versus distance traveled will vary depending on the diameter of the tyre fitted. If the new tyre was, say 10 cms circumference larger, then the car will travel 10cms further each full revolution (that is 100 meters every 1000 turns. If your speedo sensor is determined by the number of revolutions of the axle, then every 10,000 turns you will have travelled a kilometer more than with the old tyre size (less if the circumference is smaller). The figures you give convert to (UK) 25 mpg dropping to 20 mpg with the new tyres. Does seem poor consumption figures for a small car, but if a big engined truck that might be acceptable. All depends on how you drive it as well.
The wheels could have been changed on the car from the standard original factory set and hence the tyre size may not be the standard factory original size. The size of the tyres on the vehicle now is moulded into the side wall of the tyres and is easy to read. Check all 4 tyres because larger size tyres may have been fitted as a pair to the rear.
The size might read - for example 245 45 18 or 235 45 17 (there are a huge number of sizes for each model of tyre).
The first 3 numbers are the width of the tyres in mm eg 225 mmm or 235 mm and so on. The second 2 numbers are the tyre profile size or ratio (which can be 70 65 60 55 50 45 40 and so on. The third number is the wheel diameter size. If you have 18 inch wheels on the car the tyres will read 18 or if they are 17 inch wheels the tyres will read 17 and so on.
If you have the standard factory 15 inch (diameter) x 6.0 inch (wide) wheels then the tires fitted were size: 205/70R15 (205 is the tyre width in mm and the 15 denotes the tyre bead diameter in inches for fitting to 15 inch wheels. The R denotes the speed rating of the tire).
The tires currently fitted to the car have the size moulded into the sidewall of the tire.
However I do not know if aftermarket wheels have been put on the car and if so a different size tire from the standard factory fitment may have been fitted to the wheels.
Yes and no. Yes you can change the tire size and go up. Your car is equipped with 225/50-17 if I am not mistaken. What you need to be concerned with it not increasing or decreasing the overall diameter of the wheel/tire combination. The diameter of you wheel/tire is 25.9". If you go to a larger or smaller diameter tire you speedometer and odometer will be off. To check the sizes and how they effect the diameter go to this site. Put your OEM size in and then check different sizes and how they effect diameter.
You can on some cars, for a fee, have the ECU reprogrammed for a larger tire by the dealer. Contact your BMW dealer to find out.
Well, as someone (in my younger days!) who put tires of sizes not recommended by the car manufacturer, I feel bad discouraging your son from the 'awesome' tires/wheels he wants on his VW. It is generally recommended that tire size (diameter) not vary by more than 3%. If I did my math correctly, there is a difference in the sizes (diameter) you state of 5 %. Go to 'tire rack' website for formula and info to verify my rusty math skills! The speedometer would be off, due to the larger diameter wheels, resulting in a speed indicated that would be too low (less revolutions per mile). So, besides risking a speeding ticket due to lower speed indicated on speedometer, My main concern, would be that our modern day computer controlled engines base their readings on engine and auto speed, and it will be working with false speedometer readings.