Off-Roading

AutomotiveMap's top tips for driving on sand dunes

Imperial Sand Dunes, a few hours east of San Diego, provide some of the best dune driving terrain in the world.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

This wasn't a dream. The sounds of Pat Benetar's "We Belong" flowed through the cabin at near-concert levels as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan dove from sand dune to sand dune at speed. The magic carpet ride was keeping the 6,000-pound car's occupants stable but the expert driver behind the wheel was keeping them from sinking in the Imperial Sand Dunes' tough terrain.

Whether you're setting off for your first or fiftieth time in the dunes, here are the top tips for success you'll want to remember.

Remember that the dunes are always changing.

Wind, settling, water, animals, people, and other vehicles impact the dunes on a regular basis. As the wind blows, the sand settles, creatures move about, and steps are taken on them, the surfaces changes. The sun will dry out the sand, making it more easily able to be sunk into.

Where you just went, you might not be able to go again.

Because of the constantly changing dunes and tire pressures on the sand, the sand shifts once you pass and may create a space of no return for your vehicle. It's important to have a good lay of the land before proceeding and keep in mind that you might not be able to go back.

As wind whips the landscape, you'll want to keep newly forming witch's eyes in mind as well.

The sun makes the sand dry out.

When it gets hot, the sand heats up and dries out. This causes the surface to be squishier (dry sand is easier to move than wet sand). Because of this, vehicle wheels can quickly become buried in sand that was passable hours prior.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Rebelle Rally When the sun is at high noon, the sand begins to loosen up and can easily swallow a tire or two or four.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

What's dark isn't always hard.

When you go to the beach, water wets the sand causing it to darken in color. As sand dries, traditionally it lightens up. This isn't always the case in the dunes where dark sand may purely be an easily breakable crust on top of deep dry sand.

More throttle, less brake.

When driving in sand, you won't want to give the car too much gas or brake. Stopping can mean the difference between sinking down into the sand and skimming the surface. The best speed will keep the car moving at the right pace, on top of the sand, while making stopping easy should you come across an obstacle.

Midday sun is flat sun.

As the sun rises, so does the chance of getting dehydrated. It also means that you're seeing flat light, which can make even larger whoops look like small ripples. Drive cautiously as the light reaches high noon and pay attention as shadows develop later in day, hiding potential obstacles.

Don't forget your tools.

No day at the dunes is complete without at least getting stuck one time. A shovel and Maxtrax are two of your best friends. Wet wipes, goggles, and gear such as the Deadman Earth Anchor are a must as well. Something as simple like an analog compass can help you if you get lost. For deep desert driving, consider making a satellite phone standard equipment.

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Ford has revealed the silhouettes of the three models in the Bronco family.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has made it official. Not only will we see the Ford Bronco for the first time next Monday night, we'll see three Ford Broncos. That's right, the automaker is making two- and four-door versions of the heralded 4x4 SUV as well as the more lifestyle-focused Bronco Sport.

From the images Ford released, it's apparent that the two-door Bronco delivers a different flavor than the four-door, rather than just being a shortened model. The two-door 2021 Ford Bronco is shown without its two front doors and what appears to be a soft top style roof. Its blunt front end and silhouette are reminiscent of the original Bronco.

2021 Ford Bronco family Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The four-door model shown is what most Americans likely think of as the traditional Bronco. It is squared off and upright with flared fenders, a spare wheel out back, hard top, and a blunt front smiler to the two-door version.

We've already seen the headlights and sides of the Bronco as part of Instagram teasers the company released last week.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport sits on the same platform as the 2020 Ford Escape. Its interior is designed with a rugged yet comfortable lifestyle in mind. Because of its production mate, the Bronco Sport is likely to not be as capable as the two- or four-door Bronco.

With these images, Ford makes it clear that Bronco has the Jeep Wrangler firmly in its sights. While the two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Sahara match up size-wise with the Bronco, the Bronco Sport is more the size of the Jeep Cherokee. Whether or not there is enough room in America's hearts for all the models remains to be seen.

The debut of the Bronco is slated for July 13 at 8 p.m. Click here to see all the ways to watch it alongside AutomotiveMap. Then, plan on coming back to AutomotiveMap for full model coverage, just like we did with redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 two weeks ago.

Bronco fans can reserve their Bronco model for $100 each, starting Monday, July 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Ford will host four Bronco Roadeos in 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport are meant to be capable off-roaders. Brand and off-roading enthusiasts will be invited to attend a series of new Jeep Jamboree-like events called Bronco Off-Roadeos, starting next year.

There will be four Off-Roadeos, each one leveraging the built-in brand identity of the SUV to attract attendees for test their skills on what Ford calls "an outdoor adventure playground for all skill levels" with experiences designed "to build confidence and inspired Bronco owners to get out in the wild for years to come."

Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo badge Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford's use of "the wild" isn't a coincidence. The company has launched a Built Wild brand identity as part of the Bronco and Bronco Sport launch.

The company will also use the independently-owned Bronco Nation online community to connect with fans.

Additionally, the company will be launching a new line of Bronco merchandise. The long list of Bronco products includes everything from gear to remote control cars. Ford-licensed Bronco merchandise is available at Amazon.com/fordbronco.

A portion of Bronco merchandise proceeds will be donated to the Bronco brand's stewardship efforts.

The 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport will be unveiled on July 13, 2020. Click here to learn more about how to watch the debut from the comfort of your own home.

In the meantime, you can get excited about the SUV by listening to the Bronco playlist on Spotify, learning more about the Built Wild credentials, and learning about the two (yes, not one, but two) Broncos O.J. Simpson made famous.

If you're thinking of buying a Bronco, you can reserve your place in line starting July 13. Here's how to get a spot.

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