Prowl and Bulkhead let the Dinobots loose on a far-away, uninhabited island. This could be considered a reference to one of the The Transformers (1984) episodes (Dinobot Island - part 1), in which the original Dinobots had to be released on an island where they could practice their powers without causing damage.
Grimlock's line "Cars and trucks bad! Car Robots worse!!!" may be taken as a subtle jab at the Transformers cartoon Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2000), a show that evoked mixed feelings in the fan community.
Only two other animatronic dinosaurs are seen in Dino Drive besides those that later become the Dinobots: a Stegosaurus and an unidentified sauropod. These may be references to Sludge and the original Snarl.
The gate of Dino Drive is remarkably similar to the gate of Jurassic Park (1993) in the movie of the same name (and thus, by extension, to the gate from King Kong (1933), to which Jurassic Park's design was an homage). Music reminiscent of the Jurassic Park theme can be heard during some of the Dino Drive scenes.
The Dinobots' color schemes are lifted directly from the Generation 1 cartoon, with some minor variations. This is most obvious in Swoop's torso being blue, rather then the red featured in Generation 1 Swoop's comic and toy incarnations. The Diaclone version of Generation 1 Swoop's toy likewise had a blue chest, so this is possibly an homage, but is more likely coincidence.
For the first time, the Dinobots' alt modes match closely with how dinosaurs are depicted in the fossil record (no sluggishness, more mammal/bird-like, Grimlock bent over horizontally, etc.). There was still a lack of feathers before their rubber skins burned off, though. (However, since it's doubtful T. rexes had a feather covering like smaller Theropods, and large Pterosaurs had short, bristly fur, if at all, it's not really an issue).