simpson desert in an x trail

Hello everyone, I have been experamenting with a 2008 Nissan X Trail through sand dunes and water courses etc and am amazed what a small 4 x 4 can do!! Especially with the tyres down to 15 ppi Am wondering if there is an easy way through the simpson desert that this vehicle might be handle? Thanks johno
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Reply By: dean e - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:01

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:01
How does an X Trail compare with a Toyota Kluger, any idea ? We were behind one for a while in the Simpson this year heading west on the french line and it made it easily.
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Follow Up By: johno59 - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:03

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:03
Dean, not sure. thanks johno
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Follow Up By: Trev&Ness B - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:13

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:13
we had a 2006 kluger and we did a fair bit of basic 4wd, it strugled with the ground clearance and not having low range means you have to keep the momentum up. When the tracks were ruted out which most tracks are it bottomed out in the middle, spent a fair bit of time diggin hot sand out from under it to get goin again ,not to mention the burning looks from the missus.
I think if you are goin to do a trip like the simpson it not worth putting yourself in a situation that isnt good and hopeing for someone to come along and bail you out, if they will.
this follow up should have been on johno59 spot. sorry dean...
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Reply By: Ross M - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:38

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 17:38
I presume it is an Xtrail with traction control and uses that to give the signals to the drive wheels.
Yes this does allow these types of vehicles to travel to places where you wouldn't normally expect them to go, but they are not a 4wd in the true sense of the word.
If relying on the electronics to provide the degree of forward movement then there is no reserve, as 4wd is just not there.
If the electronics fail, eg a wheel speed sensor fails then you don't really have anything and the ability will suddenly disappear, leaving you in the Simpson Desert and awaiting recovery. Any brake troubles will also find you in the same situation as the system relies on brakes to decide which wheel gets the drive.

A Kluger will be using the same technology to get there too.
Yes it might do it, but as mentioned there is no reserve of capacity.
Just to achieve the above performance these vehicles use the system to the maximum and wear rates on some of the gear is accelerated because they are working nearly all the time just to get through/across the terrain.
If I saw a Kluger come out of the Simpson I would recommend the driver go and buy a Tattslotto ticket, cos their luck is in.
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 07:38

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 07:38
Gday Ross,
Traction control is of no benefit on the Simpson tracks. On some vehicles it will hold you back (you don't want brakes applied to any wheels when crossing sand dunes)
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 09:06

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 09:06
My softie has traction control and stability control. I definately have to switch the stability control off on sand as it cuts power to the engine and applies brakes at the most inconvenient times when going up sand dunes. If the car doesn't allow the DSC to be turned off, then I wouldn't take it into the Simpson. My traction control is different and never gets in the way. It works when needed even when stability is off. I guess that it works differently from car to car.
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Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 12:26

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 12:26
News to me if the traction controls work differently. hey all must apply brake to the slipping wheel to direct the power to the wheels with grip.
There is no other way, and to say it never gets in the way, what does that mean?

They all have four wheels and must control slip to those wheels, so they are very similar even if they activate at different degrees.

I do agree it will hold back though.

I see traction control used on a vehicle, to push the limits, then when stuck you have a bigger problem than most.
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 12:42

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 12:42
On my car the traction control and stability control are listed as separate items. The stability control gets in the way and can be turned off. The traction control still works when the stability control is off. I understand what you are saying but I think the traction control doesn't cut power to the motor under extreme stress which definately happens with the stability control. My softie is a Freelander 2 which has the 4 different Land Rover terrain response settings and they are magic indeed. The stability control is only useful on the black top and gets in the way off road.
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Reply By: Iain M - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 18:29

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 18:29
I have never driven an X Trail so have no idea of its capability, are you going to do this with someone who can assist you when it gets tough?
We have travelled across the Simpson Desert and did it relatively easily, we were in 4x4 vehicles not soft roaders.
Be a bit much if you expect passing travellers to get you through.
You want to be really sure that you are able to do this as recoveries out there are not cheap, and expecting people on holidays of their own to assist you beyond the reasonable is a big ask.
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Reply By: mountainman - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 18:58

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 18:58
i once read that a holden kingswood,4wd action from memory...
drove the simpson, and went up big read.

he saw these real 4wders, get a massive runup and gave it everything, and couldnt get up big red.
they literaly had no idea.

this guy dropped his pressures in the kingswood, got over it the first go he attempted it without the massive run up, and not thrashing the engine.

why is it everyone is soo one eyed about soft roaders.

i drove stockton beach MANY times, these rav, xtrail, vitara or jimny and all the rest...
yes some are better than others..
my best mates old girl has an old vitara, now its retired to farm use, its brilliant in the hills.
be a great 4wd, dont remember if its got a transfer case or not.

yup we all want solid diffs, proper transfer case and decent sized engines.

as always pre trip inspection.
cooling system check a must.
all terrain tyres prefered.


they have some things going for them.
power to weight ratios...... most are v6 engines.
and are lighter for their body weight mass compared to a proper full time 4wd.. equals more punch for in the sand.
Therefore going to do it easier.

yes long term not the ideal vehicle for this stuff, bet who would have the coin just to trade in and get a proper 4wd. and then the other stuff with it.
this possibly is a stepping stone to see what the offroad lifestyle is.
as ive spent serious coin, 20g just on improving my old bus.

lastly i have heard xtrails are hard on clutches when towing soo id want this checked out.. but no trailer mentioned.
although sand would be hard enough on the clutch i tell you!!

its sad soo many people are not open to new ideas.
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Follow Up By: Iain M - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:28

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:28
That Kingswood drove out from Birdsville, he did not drive "across" the Simpson.
There is a cut out of a newspaper or magazine on the wall of the Birdsville Hotel with an accompanying photo of a whole lot of people giving him a push to the top!
He did get up there and the tyre pressure was really low which made it easier.

As for soft roaders doing such trips, go for it. Be prepared - as we all are and have some sort of support to get out of there if it goes bad.

That car would run rings around the buckboard that John Flynn delivered radios and his message around the outback. Let the tyres down and enjoy one of Australias great desert trips.

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Follow Up By: Crackles - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:49

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:49
"why is it everyone is soo one eyed about soft roaders. "
Because they are just that........Soft.
While nice & light they still need to carry the extra fuel, water & spares just like a full sized 4by. Have a look underneath. Low profile speed rated tyres, poor ground clearance & angles, car type air cleaners & 4 wheel drive systems that struggle particually on sand.They are built light & not made to carry the extra weight over the rough roads that lead to the Simpson.
That said with additional preparation & taking it easy it can & has been done. I only wish I gave it a go in my Subaru back in the 80's.
Cheers Craig...........
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Reply By: Crackles - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:27

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 19:27
John to get an Xtrail accross I'd look at trying to lift the car a little with either high profile tyres or taller springs so you're not dragging your belly the entire way. Keep the weight down by taking bush walking tents/cooking gear etc & join in with a convoy for backup.
Not sure of the spec level of yours but there will be a few issues to address like a full sized spare, fuel capacity, decent recovery points & protection of under body parts.
Another good area to test the Xtrail is the Vic/SA border track & Big Desert Park. Quite a few tracks with parallel dunes of similar difficulty to the Simpson but with easy optons if the car isn't up to it.
No there is no easy way accross any longer. The Rig Rd has been closed for several years now & the clay cap has deteriorated or been covered in sand but don't let that deter you as over the years I've seen Mini Mokes, VW's, Subaru's & even some tractors cross the Simpson. Suitably prepared its' acheivable.
Cheers Craig............
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Reply By: mikehzz - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 23:22

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 23:22
A lady in our club took her xtrail to Poeppel Corner out of Birdsville with no issues. It had a small lift, all terrains and a group of support cars. Some in the club with Subaru Foresters have also made the crossing, once again with a lift, decent tyres and support. I have a proper 4wd and a soft roader. It's more satisfying getting the soft roader to places it shouldn't get to. If you don't have much experience then you probably will be a pain in the butt and hold people up by getting stuck all over the place. If you know how to handle the car and conditions you will have very little trouble. I suggest you get some decent experience so you really know the limits of yourself and the car then get out and enjoy it. Cheers.
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Reply By: PJR (NSW) - Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 23:28

Saturday, Jul 28, 2012 at 23:28
If you do go then I hope you have some mates to help you.

We are going soon and we certainly would not be happy coming across a stuck, ill prepared "soft" roader, without support needing help and get my holiday ruined having to pull him out. I have had to put this trip off so many times because of illness and big crowds I certainly would be peeved. Don't worry I would help. At the least, I would even call for recovery for you.

Go for it, if you will, but do not go alone. Travel with some reliable and experienced mates.

To someone further up this thread. Don't recall who it was;
I had a HK Kingswood and they did not come out of Holden as 4WD!!!
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 11:25

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 11:25
He said he read about it in 4wd action...the magazine.
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Follow Up By: PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 11:48

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 11:48
Thanks Mike.

Forgot that bit. Once you start a post you cannot always see what was up earlier.

7 days to go
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Follow Up By: Member - Keith C (NSW) - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 10:47

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 10:47
PJR,Have a good trip, Jan and I are leaving for Birdsville on 13th August,hope to be in the Simpson by 18th, might see you somewhere out there. Keith
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Follow Up By: PJR (NSW) - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:26

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:26
You never know Keith. Hopefully near Lone Gum on the 16th. Silver 100 series with Hannibal rooftop. But if there is a crowd of more than two cars we may move on. We have to meet family at Mt Freeling on the 19th. Unfortunately I do not have a lot of time for any trips with the hospital stuff.
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Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 00:37

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 00:37
Whe I went across a few years back there was this Rav-4 that made it across and well done to them, but ........ he was travelling in a group that included 2 well equipped 70 series and a Patrol. Didn't get round to asking him in the Birdsville Hotel how may times his mates snigged him out or over ...
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 08:04

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 08:04
A few years back I took a group across the French Line which included a stock standard Kia Sportage. Like the Xtrail, it only had a 60 litre petrol tank, so he carried an extra 3 jerry cans and from memory used about 105 litres from Oodnadatta to Birdsville. I carried a lot of his other heavy extras such as 60 litres of water and his second spare tyre in an attempt to reduce the strain on the Kia. We towed him over 3 dunes after he he stuck through lack of clearance - vehicle sitting high and dry on its belly - couldn't back down the dune. The vehicle had heaps of grunt and we aired down the tyres to about 15 psi (any less and he would have had almost no clearance!)

Problemss? He split a sidewall when it hit a tree root on the edge of the track (only tyre I've ever seen destroyed in the Southern Simpson desert). He had the engine warning light come on half way across for no apparent reason (sat phone calls to dealer in Adelaide suggested just keep driving - no cause was found) and the vacuum operated 4wd mechanism failed, locking it in 4wd - had to disable it in Birdsville so he could drive home in 2wd.

But we had a good time, and I'd do it again if a very good friend wanted to take their small 4wd.

I've owned two Xtrails, but have to admit my sense of adventure is not great enough for me to want to do this myself - much happier with my Landcruiser which is made for the job.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 09:52

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 09:52
Spot on Phil - my point exactly - I know in the case of the Rav-4, his mates did most of the heavy lifting. When I checked it in Dalhousie, it didn't have enough supplies to do it solo.

In repsonse to the OP, short answer (yes), however I wouldn't try it solo.

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Reply By: Holden4th - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 15:08

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 15:08
On my last crossing we came across a similar Kia (Sorento?) stuck about three quarters of the way up a big dune on the French Line. Driver was with the wife and two kids and was carrying a load of fuel and water to make the trip. He was running road pressures in his tyres and he still didn't have the clearance because of the load he was carrying. In short, he was poorly prepared for a trip like this and his mate in a Prado was no help. We got him up to the top by clearing everyone out of the car including him, lowering tyre pressures to about 18 psi, backing down (much to his horror) and then gunning it to the top. At the top you could feel the Kia bellying out.

We met him again later in the Stuart Van Park in the Alice, his Kia parked out of the way. Seems he'd put a very small hole in his tank and ran out of fuel about 30 kms short of Mt Dare. His mates Prado was a different fuel.

Having seen this I would be wary of taking an Xtrail across the Simpson. I'm not saying it can't be done but when you realise that a recovery will cost you around 10 grand's only money I suppose.

So, two major cons to think about - Clearance and fuel capacity. No low range (is that right?) is also a disadvantage IMO
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Reply By: garrycol - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:44

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:44
Having been the owner of a softroader I would have no real issues with one in the Simpson - they perform better in sandy conditions than most heavy duty 4wds. As far as ground clearance goes most people compare clearance with their highly modified and lifted heavy duty 4wds - many softroaders have the same clearance as some dual cabs - here the new Dmax comes to mind however bigger 4wds generally do have more clearance. As mentioned the main issue of softroaders is the ability to load them up with all the required gear.

On the X trail specifically, certainly the earlier ones had a problem operating in sand - continuous use causes the 4wd system to get hot and to protect itself it drops out of 4wd and goes back to 2wd until it cools down. This could be a bit of a worry so I would be checking to see if that issue applies to a 2008 model and I would be getting out onto the sand somewhere to test it all out.


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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 23:07

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 23:07
Having been? Have you sold it Garry?
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 23:16

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 23:16
2 weeks ago
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Reply By: The Landy - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 14:52

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 14:52
I think the answer to this question is simply that anything is possible with resourcefulness and planning.

In principal I can’t see any reason why the vehicle can’t make it. But how well you do it, and whether you make it, will come down to how well you and the vehicle are prepared, along with your own level of experience.

But it isn’t always about the vehicle, think about safety, the ‘what if’ scenario. Whilst many people travel the Simpson it is still a very remote place where help is not on tap in the event of an accident or illness. Should something like that beset you, you want to make sure you have a vehicle fit for purpose so you can get to help as soon as possible. These are important considerations that should not be overlooked, as remote as the likelihood of an illness or accident happening.

Good luck with it....
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