We took our annual trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks the week before Labor Day. We have a house at Duck, the second-most northern town on the Outer Banks. Corolla, the next town north, is the northern-most town on the Outer Banks. Beyond Corolla is Corova Beach, an unincorporated community behind the dunes and reachable only by driving the beach, and then, after about 15 miles from the end of the pavement back in Corolla, is the Virginia state line, marked by a fence that stretches across the island. Vehicles can't go into Virginia as at that point it's a federal wildlife refuge.
What is unique about Corova Beach is the feral horses -- descendants of Spanish horses from the late 1500s and survivors of shipwrecks. There are 200-300 of them making their home behind the dunes. I thought this trip would be a good opportunity to try out the DS off-road and it just ate up the sand without issue. Over three days I took three groups up to see the state line and the horses. Sand conditions ranged from hard packed where the tide had recently retreated (note: make sure you have a tide table as there were places where you could see the high tide line was right up against the dunes. I use an iPhone app) to fluffy and soft. At one point I had to come to a dead stop in a large area of fluffy soft sand when a couple of dogs ran in front of us. I was able to roll to a stop pretty quickly without actually braking, and was a little concerned (the tires were sunk a little ways into the sand) about starting up again but I had no trouble. No need to get out the Treds.
I was running on the OEM Pirelli Verdi Plus All-Season highway tread tires, aired down to 18 lbs. Terrain response system was set for sand and DSC was off. This experience got me to thinking about tires. On sand you want to float, not dig in. An AT tire is going to want to dig, which you really don't want. I got to thinking that if your driving consists of paved roads and beaches/dunes, maybe a highway traction all-season tire is the way to go. And then I found this video to back up my thinking:
I ran mostly in 3rd gear. The DS would occasionally knock itself down to 2nd.
A little more running ground clearance would have been helpful. I was worried about thsoe little fin-like things in front of the front tires but they came through just fine. What I did manage to do is to partially tear off the plastic fairing underneath the engine/gearbox. Looks like a Rival 6mm engine skid plate is in my future. I'm not going to pay for a new plastic one. Who is the preferred Rival provider? I can't find one in the US.
I'm glad the dealer threw in the rubber floor mats/cargo area mats. Much easier to get the sand out.
4x4 vs AWD: the only vehicle I saw having trouble was a Hyundi SUV of some variety. I'm sure it's a cheap AWD system. A couple of Subaru Foresters were doing fine. I know there is some argement about whether the DS is 4x4 or AWD, but as a Jeep driver since 1988, it acts more like 4X4.
Where are the Discovery Sports? On a round trip from Northern Virginia to the NC Outer Banks and back, I didn't see another one. On the sand and on the OBX roadways Grand Cherokees and 4 door Wranglers were everywhere. Especially 4 door Wranglers. That thing is a cash
cow for Fiat-Chrysler. At OBX I did see a couple of Disco IIs and an LR3 or LR4.
I know this is an old post, but its a good one, and right on point. I have been driving on the beaches of cape cod for 45 years. Since i was 18. And my opinion is the same (road tread patterns, or non aggressive treads are best for sand.). in fact, my first 1971 cj-5 with balloon tires didn't need 4wd on the beach.. ALSO, low profile tires are not ideal because they do not "balloon " much when aired down. so it will be interesting when i take my DS to sandyneck beach in the next couple of weeks driving Continental LX25 eco. 235/55/19. 5" sidewall. thanks for the post it is informative