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 RallyWhen 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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VW purchased the rights to the iconic Scout name and plans to make new EVs under the brand.

Volkswagen

Automakers bring back names and brands from the past all the time, but it's not every day that a major company purchases a brand name specifically for the purpose of reviving it. That's exactly what Volkswagen just did with Scout, the name of an ultra-popular off-road SUV that was built by International Harvester in the 1960s and 1970s.

As for the types of vehicles we'll see from the brand, we currently only have the renders to go on. The pickup truck and SUV both feature throwback styling that is reminiscent of the original Scout shapes. Beefy off-road tires and lifted suspension are the only other clues available in the drawings.

Volkswagen has its own EVs, and its other brands like Audi and Porsche have made significant progress with electric vehicles as well. That said, VW doesn't really have a solid off-road option from any of its brands at the moment, so the Scout purchase opens doors for the automaker in that arena.

The announcement sounds exciting, but we've still got plenty of time to wait before there's a Scout-branded EV on the roads. Volkswagen said the plan is to release vehicles by 2026, but it won't be sitting idle between now and then. The VW ID.4 is still very fresh and the automaker says it will launch a total of 25 new EVs in the U.S. by 2030.

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The Sport Classic comes to the U.S. for the first time next year.

Porsche

Porsche's bringing the 911 Sport Classic back to market, and it's headed to the United States for the first time. The car features distinctive styling, a rowdy twin-turbo flat-six engine, and plenty of go-fast gear from the 911 Turbo S upon which it is based. The car is scheduled for limited release late in 2022 as a 2023 model year.

2021 Porsche 911 Sport ClassicThe Sport Classic comes exclusively with a manual transmission and RWD.Porsche

The Sport Classic gets the Turbo S powertrain, which means a 3.7-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six engine producing 543 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It's paired exclusively with a seven-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. Porsche says the combo makes the car the most powerful 911 with a manual gearbox currently on sale. The Sport Classic also gets a laundry list of parts from the Turbo S, including Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes, rear-axle steering, a sport exhaust, and an active sport suspension system.

2021 Porsche 911 Sport ClassicThe car comes with an interior not seen since the Porsche 918 Spyder.Porsche

The car' comes with Sport Grey Metallic paint with grey accent stripes, a carbon fiber reinforced plastic hood, and unique graphics on both sides. It rides on 20-inch wheels up front and 21-inch wheels in back, which are designed as reinterpretations of the old-school Fuchs design. In back, the Sport Classic gets unique bodywork that sets it apart from the 911 Turbo, such as deleted air intakes and a large ducktail spoiler. Inside, the 911 gets open-pore wood trim and semi-aniline leather upholstery in cognac and black. Porsche says the Sport Classic is the first car to get that type of leather since the iconic 918 Spyder.

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