Tires

2021 MINI John Cooper Works GP goes from street to track to snowy trail

The 2021 MINI John Cooper Works GP has gotten a new tire option.

Photo courtesy of MINI

Who says that winter driving fun has to be regulated to large parking lots post-blizzard? The MINI John Cooper Works GP is challenging that perception with a new equipment and dynamics setup that pushes the limits. It follows in the tread of the limited-edition John Cooper Works GP that was sold in 2006 and 2013.

The new MINI John Cooper Works GP is the fastest model of the British premium brand ever to receive road approval. The power comes from the car's standard twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which generates 306 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission.

2021 MINI John Cooper Works GP

Photo courtesy of MINI

The MINI John Cooper Works GP is ready to take on winter weather thanks to new Hankook tires.

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To harness the power on the road, MINi is offering winter tires specially designed for the car. The ultra-high performance Hankook tires are designed to translate from bare pavement to snowed over trail to snowy tracks. Called the Winter i*cept evo 2 tires, they are sized 195/45 R18 87H XL. The asymmetric tread of the tires features shaped sipes and grooves that optimize both traction and braking on snow-covered roads. They are mounted on model-specific, 18-inch John Cooper Works light-alloy wheels.

The MINI variant is optimized to allow for maximum traction from a standing start and advances the nimble drive dynamics of the traditional MINI. Its braking system features four-piston fixed-caliper disc brakes on the front wheels and single-piston fist-caliper disc brakes on the rear wheels.

The interior of the model has traditional MINI design elements but ups the the ante with colorful accents and a new free-standing digital instrument cluster on the steering column.

A number of components in the model are 3D printed including elements of the aluminum shift paddles on the steering wheel. The steering wheel clasp and the individual decorative trim strip in the passenger area have also been constructed using the printing process.

The MINI is limited to just 3,000 units.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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Two new Toyota Tacomas are on their way.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

With a new, next-gen Tacoma still a few years away, Toyota is bringing two new special edition versions of the truck to market for the 2022 model year. The adventure-ready trucks were teased in a split image the Japanese automaker released this week.

The Tacoma debuted in 1995 and in the three generations since then the truck has gained a solid following across the world. The midsize Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling truck in its class. It sells better than most of the full-size truck offerings, including Toyota's Tundra.

Expect these new versions of the truck to have body styling similar to the current version of the truck. Toyota recently sought a trademark for the word "Trailhunter" and the 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition might be a naming clue for a new version of the Tacoma.

2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Special Edition The 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Special Edition goes on sale this year. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is available in six trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro. Models with "TRD" in their name are traditionally more rugged with the TRD Pro able to scurry up rocks, easily get through mud, and hit the trail in a hurry. It's sold with either a Double or Access cab, depending on trim level, with either a five- or six-foot bed.

Buyers have their choice of a 2.7-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6 under the hood making up to 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque with the larger power plant. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Two- and four-wheel drive are available.

Industry analysts expect the Tacoma to be redesigned for the 2023 model year though the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing chip shortage may push those plans back another model year. Ahead of that truck's debut, the new version of the Tundra will debut. Expect to see that model in the next few months with production kicking off shortly thereafter.

An all-electric SUV and two new larger SUVs are also coming down the pipeline as the Toyota brand begins a busy few years.

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