Tires

New Pirelli tire development simulator slashes lead times by 30 percent

Pirelli's simulator has helped with the company's sustainability efforts.

Photo courtesy of Pirelli

A new tire simulator will help Pirelli reduce the development time of its products by 30 percent. This is because it greatly reduces the number of physical prototypes that the company needs to produce during the development process.

The simulator lives in Milan, Italy at Pirelli's research and development division. According to the company, the simulator makes it possible for different development parameters to be remodeled rapidly, which leads to a faster exchange of information between Pirelli and the world's car manufacturers.

Pirelli simulator Behind the simulator sits a control room where researchers and engineers can employ a number factors to test the tires.Photo courtesy of Pirelli

When compared to traditional research and development techniques, the ability to virtually model any car in the system and apply a variety of environmental and roadway factors, and equipment to the model.

Pirelli also says that this innovation plays into the company's commitment to sustainability. Less prototypes equal less waste.

This type of advanced product simulation has been used for more than a decade during the design and development of Formula 1 and other motorsport tires. Automakers, including Honda, use simulators for other functions, including testing innovations in safety technology.

Pirelli describes the simulator as being "produced by VI-grade and consists of a 210-degree panoramic screen, 24.6 feet in diameter, which visually reproduces a wide range of different driving conditions, roads and circuits. At the heart of the system is a static car equipped with various active technologies to accurately reproduce the sensations that any driver would feel in a real car, including the seat, steering wheel, seat belts and different shaker systems, which precisely replicate the movements of the suspension and engine."

Behind protective glass in the control room are personnel that can program the simulator to reproduce a variety of different technical specifications for the tire or the car. The results of each test is then logged, measuif the interaction between the tire and the "road" as well as other parameters relevant to tire behavior.

The simulator is also able to add in subjective impressions that may be felt by a driver, encompassing nearly all the impactful applications of a tire.

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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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