In an era of automobile design dominated by crossovers and SUVs, the last thing we would want to see is our beloved performance cars being lifted for extra ground clearance. However, there exists a sweet middle spot where if things are done tastefully, lifted vehicles can be extremely desirable. That’s exactly what Porsche has done with the all-new 911 Dakar.
This project is by no means a new production variant for the 911. It is a limited-run build that celebrates Porsche’s overall victory at the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally that also birthed the all-wheel-drive 911. There are a host of visual changes for the 911 Dakar, especially the extra ground clearance, off-road tyres, and steel elements highlighting the protective elements all around.
While Porsche has not specified the exact ground clearance of the 911 Dakar, we do have some numbers to work with. It stated that it rides 50mm higher than a 911 Carrera with sport suspension, and the lift system can raise the front and rear ends by another 30mm. Assuming that the average ground clearance for a Porsche 911 is approximately 115mm, the 911 Dakar sits at 165mm as standard and 195mm at its tallest. Those figures are comparable to a regular hatchback and a compact SUV, respectively. Porsche engineered this special suspension to be able to maintain the ‘high level’ setting for off-road adventures at speeds of up to 170kmph. Go faster and the car lowers itself again, so be sure you manage your top speeds on a rally stage with the factory-spec 911 Dakar.
Further off-roading abilities come from the specially developed tyres fitted to the 911 Dakar. The offset 19-inch front and 20-inch rear alloys are wrapped in Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus rubber (as standard) with a tread pattern that is 9mm deep with reinforced sidewalls and overall high resistance to being cut. In case you’re not planning to take 911 Dakar off the tarmac, you can also fit it with weather-appropriate Pirelli P Zero tyres.
The heart of the rally-inspired 911 does not come from Porsche’s racing department as it is not meant to spend a lot of time smashing out lap times at a track. Instead, it’s something more familiar with sufficient power, which was likely most durable for all types of harsh conditions. Driving the all-wheel-drive 911 Dakar is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six engine from the 911 GTS that delivers 473hp and 570Nm. Performance is sent to the wheels via the 8-speed PDK, which can launch the 911 Dakar to 100kmph in just 3.4 seconds.
Porsche has tested the 911 Dakar extensively on loose surfaces as well as around the Nürburgring Nordschleife to develop dynamic capabilities in both cases. As standard, it comes with rear-wheel steering, anti-roll stabilisation and increased stiffness with engine mounts shared with the 911 GT3. It also gets two new bespoke driving modes that can be selected from the steering-mounted rotary dial: Rallye and Offroad. The Rallye mode is suited for loose and uneven surfaces and adjusts the AWD system to have a rear-axle bias. Offroad mode is a lot as its name suggests and automatically engages high ground clearance for dealing with difficult terrain and works well on sand as well. Both modes also get another new dynamic feature called Rallye Launch Control that allows for more slippage to get better acceleration off-road.
Other notable design elements of the 911 Dakar include the newly designed fixed rear spoiler made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. It also gets the CFRP bonnet lid with those motorsport-inspired nostrils from the 911 GT3. Then there are more off-road specific touches like the red aluminium tow-hooks front and rear and widened wheel wells. The overall front end has been redesigned too, but the overall shape is still immediately recognisable as the current-gen 911.
Despite the new off-road elements, the 911 Dakar is only 10kg heavier than the 911 Carrera 4 GTS with the PDK. That’s thanks to the use of CFRP elements, lightweight glass and a lightweight battery.
The 911 Dakar also gets cool accessories like the roof rack with lights that has a load capacity of 42kgs to keep stuff like canisters, shovels and some luggage. You can also get a roof tent with it.
Inside the cabin, the 911 Dakar is strictly a two-seater with full-bucket seats to represent its focused purpose. The rear-seat deletion also helps with weight savings. The rest of the interior seems pretty regular in terms of the layout and the feature comforts. The cabin surface features Race-Tex with decorative stitching in Shade Green. Tick the box for the Rallye Sport Package and Porsche adds a roll-over bar, a fire extinguisher and six-point seat belts.
The 911 Dakar also gets the choice of the Rallye Design Package as showcased on the unveiling model. It is essentially a two-tone finish in White/Gentian Blue Metallic with decals to mimic the old Rothman’s livery. However, the lettering on the sides now reads as ‘Roughroads’. It is a registered term that reflects the purpose of the 911 Dakar. The special livery also gets plain white boxes for a race number between 0 and 999 to be selected by customers. Those white rims and the 992-gen taillight spanning the width of the rear end offer a nice contrast to the overall colour theme.
Even if you go for a less conspicuous specification for the 911 Dakar, it looks rather pretty with all its quirky off-roading modifications. The sample showcased here is finished in the model-exclusive Shade Green to match the decorative stitching inside the cabin.
Porsche will only build 2,500 units of the 911 Dakar, which is more than some of the special edition GT products, but still quite rare. In the UK, it is nearly 50% more expensive than the 911 Carrera 4 GTS, with a starting price of GBP 173,000.
Normally, a build like the Porsche 911 Dakar would easily make it into a petrolhead’s dream garage. However, there is a close competitor due to debut soon, i.e. the Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato.
What do you make of the new 911 Dakar? Would you take it on autocross and rally events if you were lucky enough to get one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons blog for more cool updates from the car world. You can also follow us on Instagram for more automotive content.