I’m not going to lie: when Porsche The 911 Dakar is unveiled in Auto Show in Los Angeles last year — complete with super-resolution shots of something sliding through dirt and picking up an enviable cloud of dust — I was a little underwhelmed. As someone who adores all things WRC and who has it I have loved the Dakar Rally for decadesI should have been happy. But I wasn’t.
why? Because, just weeks ago, Porsche released a video of a heavily modified 911 Climb the cursed mountain. Raised on portal axles and rolled on giant dirt tires barely inside outrageous fenders, that car looked absolutely epic. 911 Dakar was produced? The whole world looked like a Carrera GTS with a 2-inch lift kit and a $222,000 price tag. How good can it be?
Dear reader, two days after slipping in the desert 911 DakarI’m here to tell you: it’s epic.
Full disclosure: Porsche wanted me to drive a Dakar 911 so badly, they took me to Lisbon, then to Morocco, where they put me in a luxurious posh location away from civilization and had only one signal bar.
Yes, the 911 Dakar really is, basically, Carrera GTS lifted – 50mm (1.9in) high, to be exact, but able to raise itself another 30mm (1.2in) at the touch of a button. There is no air suspension here. 911 coils on steel springs – longer, softer springs, with lengthened struts to match. The same basic mechanism that adjusts the spring-loaded nose lift perches Standard 911 It is applied here to the rear axle as well. The hydraulic pump has been suitably upgraded to handle the extra work, and is now mounted where the rear seats should be.
Did I mention that the 911 Dakar has no rear seats? They are drawn in pursuit of lightness. This, plus a carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer body shell (hood and bumper), lighter glass, and lightweight battery keep the 911 Dakar’s weight to 3,538 pounds, just 20 pounds more than the GTS standard. tHat in spite of the stiffer suspension and a bit of underbody trim that seemed decidedly more flimsy than the skid plates on my Subaru, but surprisingly did a great job of keeping the underside of my $222,000 Porsche safe from all the rocks. rogue and other obstacles. drove in Morocco. More on all of that in a moment.
The engine is the same as that of the GTS, meaning 473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, unchanged internally though breathing through a new air intake system designed to better handle situations like the dust in Morocco. Likewise, the rest of the drivetrain is unmodified: Power is routed to all four wheels via Porsche’s eight-speed PDK automatic. There is no option for a directory here.
Given how much of it is the same, beyond the suspension and bodywork, what is actually different?
Just a piece of software, it turns out, and while that may sound like a bit of a process involved, trust me when I say it’s enough. Porsche has added two new driving modes here, toggled as usual via the steering wheel-mounted rotary knob. Instead of Sport +, you now have Rallye and Off Road. The latter is self-explanatory, and is an outright mode of going places 911 seems like it shouldn’t. Command the car into this mode and the Dakar rises to its maximum height and commands the center differential to do its best to impersonate a closed transfer case.
In this mode, the Dakar offers an approach angle of 16.1 degrees, a departure angle of 18.8 degrees, and a breakover angle of 19 degrees. This will not take any strips out of the house King of hammersbut they match at least Porsche Cayenne. not bad.
However, Rallye mode is more my style. This mode can be used with the suspension at any height, and here the center differential is actually rear-biased. why? Better drift off with my dear. This is in addition to much more The wheelspin is supposed to be replaced by traction and stability controls and even a dedicated gravel launch control mode for some WRC-style antics.
I sampled a rally pattern on some hard sand and gravel in the Moroccan corner of the Sahara Desert, an area that hosted the original Dakar Rally before it. I went to Saudi Arabia. This is where it all began, and the Dakar 911 felt right at home. With a quick twist of the steering wheel-mounted mode selector, the sports car turned into a rally beast. Quick, clumsy stabs from the accelerator pedal sent him leaping forward as if on asphalt. The grip of the new 19- and 20-inch Pirelli off-road tires is exceptional.
But will he drift? When I wanted things to slide, I found the wheel-spinning allowance in Rallye Mode to be very limited. Once I started moving things laterally across Morocco’s stunning terrain, I could feel the training wheels appear. The Porsche’s traction control would cut off the power and I’d let go forward in a decidedly casual fashion. To drift here, you really need to keep the wheel straight and rely on momentum to carry you through.
I like to be more active with counter steering. Fortunately, a long press of the on-dash PTM switch sends all the nannies packing. At that point, the Dakar really turned into an exhilarating beast, with the car spinning and sliding exactly as I wanted it to. I think it was a happy moment as one can experience in the desert.
I will say, the lack of a handbrake lever is a bit unfortunate, especially since Ford figured out how Put one in a $30,000 Mustang. But this only means that you will have to work harder Your Scandinavian flickwhich the Dakar 911 performs confidently, even in the desert.
When the terrain has become more difficult, it is time to switch to offroad mode. At this, at maximum altitude, the 911 Dakar blasted up and over steep dunes and across soft, deep sand that I later struggled to walk across.
Porsche felt right at home. Meanwhile, I was thrilled, in utter disbelief that I was doing this in a 911, one I previously thought couldn’t be up to the task. Whether slithering across gravel or climbing huge sand dunes, the Dakar was more than capable.
And just as impressively, the Dakar stayed well in these dune-crossing stages. It still felt a bit like a standard GTS as we cruised the broken stretches of asphalt in Morocco, between small towns filled with excited kids who jumped, waved and smiled (and, on occasion, flipped us the bird) as our convoy of Porsches peacocked by.
It was hard to miss us. Most of the 911 Dakars that Porsche sent to Morocco came with one of the factory sticker packages. Buyers have a choice Four retro-inspired tribute crowds, with the Champion’s choice of decidedly 1984 Rothmans-esque styling, part of the $28,470 Rallye Design package, with contrasting white and blue paint with red and gold stripes as well as the trademark recessed “Roughroads” script on the side. It’s close, but it doesn’t hold a cigar to the real thing.
In my view, all of the decal designs are a little flashy for use on the road, but you can also select your own from six standard colors—or get just about any you want with the $12,830 Paint to Sample option. Whatever you choose, make sure it matches well with all the black plastic cladding on the Dakar, because there’s a lot of it wrapping around those skid panels. Again, they are mostly for show, but we definitely did discover a bit of terrain while rock crawling and we always made it to the other side without incurring any mechanical damage or dislodging the bottom boards.
When I stepped out of the Sahara for the last time and handed the key to the (which had become quite filthy) steamy Dakar that I had for a few days, I had to admit that my initial impression was completely wrong. The 911 Dakar may be mostly GTS, but it’s also incredibly good. I just wish it didn’t come at such a premium. A production cap of 2500 adds real exclusivity here, and Porsche certainly has a history of charging a prestige premium (see: Classic sport). But from behind the wheel, surfing the side of a dune and picking up an enviable cloud of dust just like in those first promotional videos, that experience was well worth the price of admission.