Test Drive Review: The 2023 Subaru Outback Touring XT Is A Refreshed, But Still Familiar Turbo SUV Face
Live long enough and even the most pioneering of sport-utility vehicles will see its niche overstuffed with competitors.
2022 Formula Drift Rd. 8 at Irwindale Speedway: Fredric Aasbo Earns Perfect Event Win and is Named 2022 Season Champion
The Formula Drift 2022 season came to an end in Southern California at the packed and always sold-out Irwindale Speedway. The weather took an unusually bad turn and dumped rain during the competition—which is rare for the location. After seven rounds this season has had seven different event winners—a first in Formula Drift history. The two main players with the best chance for the 2022 Formula Drift Championship were Matt Field and Fredric Aasbo, but there were a few drivers who still had a small and outside chance of winning the season points competition.
2022 FDIRW Qualifying
The qualifying portion of the weekend event was dominated by Fredric Aasbo after he experienced a rough practice. It was clear that his experience has strengthened his ability to perform under pressure which gave him an edge when the Championship is on the line. Instead of thinking about the challenging practice session, he recalibrated for qualifying and took home the top qualifying spot which edged him that much closer a victory over his competitors.Matt Field took home the fourth-best qualifying spot. Unfortunately for Chris Forsberg, he was unable to make a successful qualifying run after his Nissan Z’s engine failed, forcing him out of the event, with a fifth-place overall finish for the season.
Rain Arrives Midway in the Top 32
Fredric Aasbo lined up for the first battle of the day where he was chased by Dan Burkett who qualified 32nd. Dan struggled to keep pace with Fredric Aasbo coming off the first bank in the chase position and over committed at the inner bank wall. He smacked Fredric Aasbo’s Toyota GR Supra and planted his MKIV Supra into the inner bank wall pretty hard. Dan couldn’t repair his vehicle in time to return to the line to complete the tandem battle, but Fredric Aasbo’s team was able to fix his car for a fun run to show his car was still in good shape and he moved into the Top 16.
Matt Field got an easy bye run since Joao Barion couldn’t get his Corvette to the starting line for competition. Jeff Jones then had a tough tandem battle with Mike Power to start off his race weekend. Jones was conservative on his chase lap because Mike Power got an incomplete on his chase lap. In the end, Jeff Jones was given the victory and was set for a Top 16 battle.
Then the weather changed for the worse, and heavy rain started to fall. When wet conditions make the course unpredictable, a sight lap is available for each driver so they can gauge the amount of grip they have for tandem competition. After their sight laps, Ryan Tuerck battled Jonathan Hurst in a challenging battle. Ryan Tuerck looked so good in the rain, and he pushed Hurst to try and keep up with him and forced Hurst to spin on the long bank. Hurst suffered the same issue on his lead run which resulted in both drivers crashing into each other on the bank wall. This gave Ryan Tuerck a clear victory and some time to repair his car before the next round of competition.
Top 16: the 2022 Champion is Named
Fredric Aasbo started off the next round with Kyle Mohan who crashed his Mazda Rx-8 as he crossed the finish line in the chase position. Kyle hit the rear quarter of his car so hard the outer portion of his wheel came off and rolled across the racetrack all by itself. Mohan couldn’t fix the car in time to finish the battle and Fredric Aasbo came out to complete the race by himself which moved him one step closer to victory.
Matt Field faced off against Adam LZ in a battle that will go down in Formula Drift history. Matt Field went in too hard and crashed on the bank and spun the car around and hit the wall even harder trying to flick the car around. The 10,000+ fans went dead silent as the Championship because they knew it possibly ended Matt Field’s chances of winning the point championship. Matt Field’s team couldn’t repair the car in time to get back on the track which put Fredric Aasbo into first place for his third Formula Drift Season Championship.
In the next battle, Jeff Jones was aggressive in chasing down Rome Charpentier in one of the most exciting tandem chases the fans would see all night. Jeff Jones took off like a rocket ship on his lead run and left Rome way behind in his BMW. All the judges picked Jeff Jones to put him into the next round of competition.
Alec Robbins and Ryan Tuerck were the next big battle and it turned into one wild cat and mouse game versus a traditional tandem drift battle. Alec had serious corrections and Ryan Tuerck tried to follow him all around Irwindale Speedway as he went off line and fell out of drift on his lead run. Then Ryan Tuerck put a serious lead run down which placed him in his third-place overall for the 2022 Formula Drift Championship as he moved on to the next round.
Gunning for the Great 8
Fredric Aasbo faced his toughest challenge of the day as he warmed up his Nitto NT555 G2 tires under the lights in his next battle against Odi Bakchis. Fredric Aasbo took off in the lead and Odi Bakchis really kept pace in the chase battle looking solid against the three-time Formula Drift Champion Fredric Aasbo. The judges were split on the great battle but two judges picked Fredric Aasbo and he advanced into the Final Four.
Jeff Jones looked great in this battle against Michael Essa in his BMW. Michael Essa felt the pressure in his lead lap and pushed too hard with a big over-rotation at the inner bank which gave Jones a fast pass into the Final Four.
Branden Sorensen was looking strong in his BMW and led the first lap against Ryan Tuerck. Ryan Tuerck put his Corolla on the high line of the bank on his lead run and dragged his bumper across the inner bank pushing the judges into a One More Time call. The rain returned before the One More Time battle could happen which changed the entire battle. Ryan Tuerck was the last man standing and given the advance into the Final Four.
Rain, Lightning and Thunder in the Final Four
The fans were asked to leave the stands because of the nearby lightning strikes, and the 10:30 pm curfew was fast approaching. And the rain really came down which put the drivers to the test. Fredric Aasbo performed so well in these poor conditions and eliminated Adam LZ, who couldn’t keep his Ford Mustang going straight on the track.
As Jeff Jones took his sight lap he crashed his Nissan 370z as Ryan Tuerck waited on the starting line. The damage to his car from the crash kept Jones from returning to the track to compete which gave Ryan Tuerck a bye run into the finals! Fortunately, Jones locked in third place for the night with his strong qualifying position.
The Last Final Four of the 2022 Formula Drift Season
Ryan Tuerck and Fredric Aasbo set to close out the 2022 Formula Drift season in a big battle with the track drenched in water from the storm. Fredric Aasbo’s phenomenal car control in the wet served him well, and Ryan Tuerck spun his Corolla on the big bank trying to keep up. Ryan Tuerck looked good in the lead run, but Aasbo held on enough to lock in the perfect race weekend and won his 18th career Formula Drift event!
With this win, Fredric Aasbo became the third driver to win back-to-back Formula Drift Championships which puts him in legendary company with Tanner Foust and James Deane. He is also now the third driver to have three Formula Drift Championships to his name, along with drivers Chris Forsberg and James Deane.
Nitto Tire dominated the 2022 Formula Drift Tire Cup with 1333 points for the season with second place a distant 120 points behind. Toyota won the Auto Cup with 1326 points to close out the 2022 Formula Drift season.
Automakers love to cram categories together like they're the candy bar wizards running the machine at the Reeses' factory.
Compression adjusting with Fox Factory Race 3.0 Internal Bypass Shocks
Wheeling Hancock Pass via Wrangler, 4Runner & Bronco: On the Trail
Off-roading in Colorado isn't really gambling, but it does offer a full house of trail options. Beginners and long-time vets alike love wheeling the mountains along the spine of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Hancock Pass has a lot to offer off-roaders which is why we were happy to hit the rocks in this edition of On the Trail. Follow along as we enjoy some truly epic scenery and a day of mild weather up in the Rocky Mountains.
Way back in the mid- and late-1800s, gold fever was a pretty big deal in the Old West. The California Gold Rush sparked that fever in 1849, Nevada's Comstock Lode stoked it with one of the largest silver rushes in the 1850s and '60s, and the search for riches migrated east into places like South Dakota and Colorado.
Part of that search lead to the Rockies and what is now Hancock Trail. By the 1880s, nearby Chalk Creek saw its own gold rush. Miners flocked in and the usual impromptu boom town arose to accommodate them at what is now the ghost town of St. Elmo. Much like the '80s teen flick that shares its name, its popularity faded when the money dried up. That said, it still makes for a fun place to check out for off-roaders out enjoying the trail system.
As you'll see in the clip, Hancock Pass is a smorgasbord of options to satisfy any wheeler's hunger, from mild to wild. It borders Chaffee and Gunnison counties, between the Gunnison and San Isabel forests. For this trip, you get to see experts navigate a mild boulder field with obstacles. We also take you through tackling tight, off-camber trail along the way.
Shuffle Up and Wheel
Collin Coates of Built2Wander guided the way in his 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 with 37-inch Ridge Grapplers. Matt Thompson of 3D Off-Road brought out a 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands Edition on 35-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers and Chris Hefty from Hefty Fabworks came out in a 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner build on 38-inch Ridge Grapplers.
St. Elmo is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the U.S. That alone makes the trip out to Hancock Pass worth the trip. We chose it as the staging area for the day's adventures. Matt and Chris know the ins and outs of this trail pretty well and we were privileged to have the benefits of their experience in guiding us through it.
Raise the Stakes
Hancock Pass starts as an unassuming dirt trail but as you make your way along from St. Elmo, rocks start to pop up here and there. The stakes can get higher as you move along, depending on where you choose to go. In some spots, the rocks start moving underneath you, too.
We chose a beginner to intermediate trail for the day, to give you some idea of what you too can expect when you come out to Hancock Pass. Regardless of the line you choose, you should keep in mind that Hancock Pass is a remote location in the mountains. Pack for a variety of weather conditions and bring along some friends just in case things go sideways. Because you can vary your day at this trail from beginner to intermediate, a range of tire sizes and builds will work here.
Chris' 4Runner, for example, is a really built-out vehicle with 3 1/2 inches of travel on 38-inch Nitto Ridge Grapplers: "The tires are amazing. They've been grabbing everything that we've been throwing at them. They stick really well to the rocks. They handle great on the road, the gravel road. It's just an amazing tire. It's been doing really well. Everything we've thrown at it it's been able to handle. We've jammed up sidewalls against some jagged rocks and its held up great; no slices, no chunks. It's been a great tire."
Playing the Field
The crew eventually hit an area best described as a big boulder field. They dismounted for a little foot recon to find the best line to take through it. That's a good plan when you come across an obstacle like this.
What may look good at the start may not be so good once you're actually driving over it. You always want to look ahead and not focus just on what's right in front of your hood. Good tires, tools, and a jack are must-haves for a mountain trail like this one.
Betting on the Pass Line
But what was really cool at this point in the day was that the guys were passing over the Continental Divide. For you kids who skipped geography class, think of it as the mountainous spine that separates the east and west halves of the North, Central, and South America.
It goes from all the way up in Alaska, down through the Rockies, and all the way south into the Andes. Hancock Pass takes you over that line at just over 12,140 feet above sea level, with epic scenery you have to see for yourself to truly appreciate.
The trail snakes up (and down) in some places, so keep an eye out along the way. You never know what sort of obstacles a winding trail has in store around the next blind corner.
Case in point: the broken down Scout our crew encountered on the way down the other side. Someone left it pretty much dead center in the middle of the path, forcing the guys to work some sharp cornering mojo to get around it. Had the owner gotten it just a little further to the side, that wouldn't have been an issue.
Smooth sailing followed after that but as often happens in the mountains, the weather took a sharp turn. The day went from blue sky to rain very quickly. That's why you want to have both cold and warm weather gear when wheeling in the mountains.
Being aware of how weather affects terrain is also essential. Fun fact: lightning strikes in the Colorado mountains not only split rocks, they also hit people on peak tops every year. Having those tools also came in handy for us. On the way down, we stopped to check out a clunking noise. Tightening up an errant bolt took care of the problem before it turned into something major. And any time you feel something weird in the steering, it's a good idea to stop, get out, and find out what's going on.
Going All In
The day ended at Sherrod Loop Railroad. In a previous life it served as the lifeline for miners and others setting up shop in the area at towns like St. Elmo. If you think taking on a mountain trail is hard in a 4x4, just imagine how much more difficult those people had it with wagons, sleds, and horses.
But that's the sort of drive Gold Fever gives to people. And for some it was well worth the gamble. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more adventures on- and off-road.
Debuted at CES 2023, this concept gives us a preview of Ram's F-150 Lightning and Silverado EV rival.
OTT: Uphill Both Ways in the Snow on the Nitto Nomad Grappler
Nature: One minute it's all sunshine, cartoon squirrels, and musical numbers. The next, it's beating you like you owe it money. Guess which version we ran into on the Gold River Trail. Jump to the video.
Way back when, we'd been out to Big Bear's Gold River Trail with a trio of Toyotas. This time, we figured we'd hit a beginner's path on the trail with three crossovers. We figured wrong. The weather was perfect the day before, when we were in Pioneertown. Once we got going on trail day, though, a whole heap of snow befell the mountains and our intended beginner's trail became a class in snow-wheeling three crossovers on short notice. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Normally, Big Bear's Gold Fever Trail is an 11 mile dirt that's only accessible for high-clearance vehicles or four-wheel drive cars.
It follows the Holcomb Valley which was once home to the dreams of thousands as they searched the area for their fortune during the Southern California gold rush. You can still find a few signs of that time up there but not exactly a full ghost town. Mostly diggings, old cabins, and the occasional old saloon.
Our Intrepid Adventurers
Host Mike Sabounchi brought his 2018 VW Golf Alltrack. As usual, he started the day in high spirits, albeit despite the winter wonderland rapidly developing around him (or maybe because of it; some of us northerly types love playing in the snow). When you live in a place like Washington (like Mike does), you see a lot of different driving conditions and having something versatile like the Golf is a good plan.
That said, he still improved on the stocker with changes like a lift kit, reflash to the ECU for more power, and a set of brand new Nitto Nomad Grapplers to boot. Luis Nieto and Cody Rasmussen joined him for the day's excitement, both in Subaru Crosstreks. Luis' being a '19 and Clody's a '18. They also have lift kits but in addition, they're carrying recovery gear. And just like Mike's Golf, they're rolling on Nomad Grapplers.
Not only are the new Nomad Grapplers mountain- and snow-rated, they're also designed specifically with CUVs and SUVs in mind. Nitto took all of the experience it has with making awesome light truck tires and applied it to this design for a crossover/SUV tire that's a joy to drive on or off-road. Gold Fever Trail seemed like the perfect place to test the Nomad out on those three crossovers.
And They're Off
Gold Fever Trail is an ideal place for cutting your beginner's teeth as an off-roader. It's not too challenging but it's fun with some interesting sites to check out along the way. Checking the weather beforehand is always a good plan, as is having your adventure pass and other basics like a first aid kit, lunch, and weather-appropriate clothing. Now, we always check weather ahead of time. Sometimes, though, "winter" in Southern California can be unpredictable, like it was this trip.
Just the day before, the crew had met up in nearby Pioneertown. A town started by actor Dick Curtis in 1946 as a living 1880s Old West movie set and it still stands today. Lots of Western films and shows have been shot there. It's the perfect base camp for hitting the nearby Gold Fever Trail. And like we said, the weather was perfect. Then.
Freeway? We Don't Need No Stinking Freeway
The day started off perfectly, too. No clouds, 54 degrees F, and clear sailing ahead as we hit Burns Canyon Trail to Big Bear instead of taking the freeway.
And why wouldn't we? Great day, great vehicles, and great company all made for an awesome start for the trip.
By the time we were at Belleville Cabin, though, the honeymoon was over. Snow cascaded down from the heavens in a big way, it was no longer 54 degrees, and the party decided to wait it out for an hour as the storm passed. As Mike put it, "On this episode of On the Trail, six guys go to the forest to have a picnic." Which they did in the cabin nearby. Bellies full, they ran back to their cars to finish waiting. It turned out that the cabin was pretty short on heating and long on draftiness.
Uphill Both Ways, in the Snow
It turned out to be a legit, real-deal winter storm. Not the usual wimpy "Stormwatch 2022" rain sprinkle that the local LA newscasters try to ham up as some big deal. We're talking ice forming on vehicles, real cold, the whole party. I grew up in Alaska. I had flashbacks just watching this. On the other hand, if you're not going to tackle nature, why would you be off-roading? Unexpected weather can also be a chance to up your skill set. Mike and company would not be deterred. Nature said they'd be snow-wheeling? Fine, they'd go snow-wheeling instead.
Slip Sliding Away
At first the snow had been tight and compact but as the day worn on and snow turned to sleet, the ground morphed into a wet blend of dirt, snow, and water. The guys found themselves off-road drifting. If you're out in the snow like this, using 4-Lo and steady momentum (no sudden speed changes, up or down) is the way to go. Having the Nitto Nomad Grapplers was a godsend as they gave our team the better traction, even wear, and reduced noise that you want in winter conditions. However, even with a good car and great tires, there are limits. Having traction boards on hand gives that extra umph when you get stuck. Just make sure you know how to use them ahead of time instead of learning in the field.
Looks Like We Made It
Trail's end found the group in good spirits. Nobody got stuck or ran into problems. Conditions went from great, to snow, to icy rain but that didn't discourage the guys from having a terrific time. On top of all that, the Nomad Grapplers made that good time possible.