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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An Infiniti Q60 drifts at Yokohama Harbor.

Photo courtesy of Infiniti

A new film showcases the drifting capabilities of a heavily modified Infiniti Q60. The coupe currently competes in the domestic top-tier drift championship in Japan even though the sports coupe is not sold there.

Before reaching the docks in Japan, the car was heavily modified having started its journey in America. The car was built to show off renowned restoration specialist Tatsuhiro Shibata's passion for the Infiniti brand.

The video features Shibata and his driver, Koudai Sobagiri putting the The hand-built model to the test and showing off near Infiniti's world headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. The closed course near Yokohama Harbor served as the set.

"In my eyes, the Q60 was the best looking of (the Infiniti lineup), but they didn't sell any in Japan. So we had to go to the U.S. to find one," Shibata says. "It's simple; I just wanted a good-looking racing car."

Tatsuhiro Shibata'sĀ Infiniti Q60

Photo courtesy of Infiniti

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This isn't the first time that Shibata has imported an Infiniti to Japan. His passion has led him to do so for the last decade. Shibata is not directly affiliated with Infiniti.

Following the film, Infiniti plans to release an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the film and the Shibata Infiniti Q60. An exclusive story about Shibata's workshop, Sobagiri's path to drifting, and more will be released along with the behind-the-scenes film.

1,000HP INFINITI Q60: Drifting at the Docks

The release of the film comes as Infiniti is playing catch up with much of their business plans. Amid falling sales and the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for two new models to be introduced had to be push to 2021 including the 2022 Infiniti QX55 and the forthcoming redesigned QX60.

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Toyota has given its all-wheel drive minivan some off-road prowess, but not much.

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

Is there a demand for a trail-ready minivan? Toyota clearly thinks so. The 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Special Edition is designed to offer families more off-road prowess, but not much.

The Sienna Woodland Special Edition offers the van's all-wheel drive system and a number of extra goodies that help make it more trail-ready. It builds on the Sienna XLE and delivers a one-inch lift. Towing and hauling toys and cargo is made easier with the van's added tow hitch and standard 3,500-pound towing capacity, and roof rails with crossbars.

The 2022 Sienna Woodland Special Edition gets dark chrome-colored accents, black badging, and 18-inch wheels. Toyota will sell the model in an exclusive Cement color as well as Midnight Black Metallic.

2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Special Edition

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

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The van comes with the standard Sienna 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine that yields 245 horsepower. The new model gets an EPA-estimated 35 mpg.

A 1500-watt power outlet has been installed and black sport trimmed seats with a unique stitching color are standard. Toyota has added navigation and a 12-speaker JBL 1,200-watt stereo system to the model. The list of standard features continues with super-long slide seats, second-row captain's chairs, Split & Stow 3rd Row seat, kick-activated sliding doors, heated front driver and passenger seats, second-row sunshades, and seven USB ports across the Sienna's three rows.

Each Sienna Woodland Special Edition comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0), which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alerts with lane trace assist, full speed adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, cyclist detection, and road sign recognition.

Pricing for the 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Special Edition yet to be announced. The company has said that once the van goes on sale this autumn, for every Woodland Special Edition model purchased. Toyota will make a $250 donation to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). A minimum donation of $250,000 has been promised.

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