Launched here in Los Angeles just ahead of the auto show, Porsche's 911 Dakar opens a new off-road-ready chapter for the brand. Joining the two dozen other flavours of 911, the new Dakar offers something found on past Porsche racing efforts and homologation specials, but never before on a factory production car. Riding on a suspension that's been lifted by some 50 to 80 mm versus a 911 sport suspension, the Dakar is ready to bring Porsche performance to some of the toughest terrain out there.
Obviously, those wanting a Porsche that could handle gravel roads could already just buy a Macan or Cayenne. However, the 911 has a long history of off-road competition, so Porsche is paying tribute to its heritage here. It's not doing things by half-measures either, as the Dakar's debut comes after almost half a million kilometres worth of testing in gruelling climes.
All-wheel drive is, of course, standard. The Dakar also gets the aforementioned 50 to 80 mm higher suspension (cockpit adjustable), stainless-steel underbody armour plating, and wheel arch extensions to accommodate the model-specific Pirelli off-road tires mounted on 19-inch wheels. Would-be 911-driving explorers can also option a roof rack with cargo basket and integrated lightbar – there's a fixed 12V plug-in connection on the roof. If you'd really like to get out there and escape, you can even mount a Porsche accessory tent.
Mechanically speaking, the Dakar is most closely related to the Carrera 4 GTS. Here, the twin-turbocharged 3.0L flat-six engine produces a peak of 473 hp and peak torque of 420 lb-ft. The engine cooling has been uprated to handle desert heat by using the fans from the more power Turbo S. The only transmission option available is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic – Porsche's much-vaunted PDK. Zero-to-100-km/h times, measured on those chunky off-road tires, are a claimed 3.4 seconds.
Other metrics prove equally hilarious. The adjustable-height suspension varies 30 mm from highest mode to lowest mode. High mode is available all the way up to 170 km/h, at which point the Dakar will automatically lower. Top speed is “only” 240 km/h, because of the off-road tires. Porsche is generally very serious about its products, but everything about the Dakar shouts, “Fun!”
Basically, you can think of the 911 Dakar as a GT3 made for sliding around in the snow and mud. It shares a few weight-shedding parts with the GT3, notably the carbon fibre hood, and the fixed rear spoiler is carbon fibre as well. Further weight savings extend to removal of the rear seats and fixed-back carbon fibre seats. While it's chunkier-looking, the Dakar weighs only 10 kg more than a normal GTS.
Just 2,500 examples will be produced globally, split between the 2023 and 2024 model years. Pricing is steep: at $247,200, the Dakar is the world's most expensive Baja Beetle. For those whose pockets stretch even deeper, the $32,490 Rallye Design Package covers the Dakar with a paint scheme inspired by the Rothman's racing liveries of the 1980s. Cigarette advertising being somewhat out of fashion these days, the made-up sponsor here is “Roughroads.” Buyers can choose their own racing number from zero to 999.
Being both limited availability and quite pricey, the question prompted is, “Will anyone actually off-road their Dakar?” Might as well ask the same question about how much time the average GT3 RS owner spends at the track. You're probably more likely to see a Wrangler out on your local trails than one of these, but some Dakars will surely get mud on their fenders.
Whoever uses this dirt-infused 911 as it is intended will undoubtedly be having the time of their lives. With all the dry lake beds and open desert around California, the 911 Dakar might actually make more sense than a more track-focused Porsche. Alternatively, imagine bombing around Montreal in winter, the Dakar shrugging off frozen chunks of snow and frost-heaved tarmac.
It's both a slightly ridiculous car and also something that instantly goes to the top of the list as a lottery-win fantasy. Any 911 is a good 911. A 911 that does jumps? Yes, please.