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The sidewall of the tire will be shorter and the tread likely wider since it's lower profile, improving handling and responsiveness. It will also make the ride a bit harsher, will probably increase tire noise, and won't be as resistant to wheel damage if you hit something large.
 

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15"
softer ride - lower cost for tires - better rim protection due to more rubber

17"
more responsive handling - can install larger rotors due to clearance - better looks for many people
 
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