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I am replacing my stock 15" wheels on the cougar with 17" wheels. Stock are 215/70r15.

I need to decide between 235/55r17 or 245/50r17 tires. There is about $50 per tire more for the latter tires, will there be enough of a noticeable difference between the two? If I need to spend the extra $200 I will.
 

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Either would work if the car has not been lowered. The 245/50-17 are closest to stock diameter. The 235/55-17 are a larger diameter than stock.

My car is lowered and I am running 235/55-16 which are an inch smaller in diameter than the 235/55-17
 

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I am replacing my stock 15" wheels on the cougar with 17" wheels. Stock are 215/70r15.

I need to decide between 235/55r17 or 245/50r17 tires. There is about $50 per tire more for the latter tires, will there be enough of a noticeable difference between the two? If I need to spend the extra $200 I will.
Probably not that big of a difference between the two sizes. The more inportant variables are how you drive the car, what your intentions are with the car and what you're willing to spend.

Are your rims 17" x 8 or 17" x 9" ?

If they're 17" x 9" go with the 245's.
 

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I've been running 255/50-17s for years and love them. They really fill out the wheel wells well. Check out the Kumho ASX. Fantastic tires for the price, and unless you're road racing or something, they're more than sticky enough. Plus they have great wet weather traction too.
 
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