MERZOUGA, Morocco — Dawn within the Sahara Desert is why the phrase “deafeningly quiet” exists. A light-weight breeze comes throughout like a loud whisper because the rising solar illuminates the bluffs and dunes. It’s bliss, actually; a peaceable accompaniment to wiping away the sleep from my eyes. However then the desert silence is shattered by a sound that’s as acquainted as it’s misplaced: the raspy chilly begin of a flat-six engine.
Listening to a Porsche 911 Dakar firing up throughout the Sahara’s waking hours is about as jarring as David Lee Roth yelling, “Are you able to rock-o, Morocco?!” Completely nothing about this automotive is delicate; it wears its dirt-flinging, dune-crushing intentions on its sleeve. The second you hit the sand, the 911 Dakar comes alive. And holy moly, can this factor rip.
Actual fast, let’s again up. In 1984, Porsche gained the Paris-Dakar Rally with its first all-wheel-drive 911 race automotive. The brand new 911 Dakar pays homage to this largely by certainly one of its optionally available Rallye Design Packages, meant to seem like the enduring ‘84 Rothmans livery (under left). Sure, the textual content now says “Roughroads,” which is actually sort of lame, however automakers don’t do tobacco firm sponsorships – even defunct ones – and apart from, licensing is dear. The Martini wrap is far more my model (under proper).
Within the subsequent a long time, a complete mess of rally-ready Safari 911 upfits hit the scene, together with one-off customs from notable tuners like Ruf and Singer. Due to that, you would possibly suppose Porsche jumped the shark by providing its personal 911 Dakar, however I promise, this factor is legit. Primarily based off the Carrera 4 GTS, the Dakar has 2 inches of further floor clearance in its normal setting, and a excessive mode can increase the automotive by one other 1.2, for a most trip top of seven.5 inches. This adjustability isn’t achieved by an air suspension, both; Porsche modified the 911’s optionally available front-end hydraulic elevate system and put in it on the rear axle. By the way, the additional area required for the hydraulic setup is likely one of the the explanation why the 911 Dakar doesn’t have again seats.
The no-back-seat method additionally saves weight. The 911 Dakar ideas the scales at 3,552 kilos, or a scant 16 greater than a Carrera 4 GTS (with the automated transmission). That’s fairly spectacular, contemplating the entire Dakar’s add-ons. However Porsche additionally gave its off-roader the carbon fiber hood from the GT3 – ugly nostrils and all – plus light-weight materials on the roof and rear wing to mitigate among the further heft.
Crucially, the Dakar’s suspension has stronger dampers and longer hyperlinks, and the staggered 19-inch entrance and 20-inch wheels come normal with Pirelli Scorpion All-Terrain Plus tires. You will discover 245/45s up entrance and 295/40s out again, and the tires have a 9-millimeter tread depth and dual-carcass design for higher sturdiness. Pirelli P Zero summer time tires can be found as a no-cost possibility, however come on. Do not try this.
Regardless of the elevated suspension journey and meaty tires, the 911 Dakar’s on-road trip high quality is stiffer than you may think for one thing designed for the dust. It’s extra akin to a street-spec 911 Carrera, which suggests issues like pitch and dive beneath acceleration and braking aren’t an issue – ditto physique roll. The steering is as crisp right here as it’s in different 911s, the automotive’s dealing with talents actually solely restricted by the lowered asphalt grip of the all-terrain rubber. The usual metal brakes are completely adept right here, as nicely, and no, Porsche doesn’t supply a carbon-ceramic improve.
Like the usual Carrera 4 GTS, the 911 Dakar makes use of a twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six engine with 473 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, paired with an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch computerized transmission and all-wheel drive. On pavement, the Dakar will hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds – the identical as a rear-wheel-drive Carrera GTS – and it’ll high out at 149 mph. Nevertheless, you may solely maintain it at max trip top as much as 105 mph, so don’t attempt to v-max this factor on gravel roads.
You need to positively launch it off-road, although. In any case, Porsche engineered a brand new Rallye Launch Management system that permits for extra off-the-line wheel spin than regular. In reality, there’s a complete separate Rallye drive mode, which rejiggers the all-wheel-drive torque cut up to offer it a stronger rear bias, and loosens the reins on the traction management, deliberately permitting extra tail-happy antics. Maintain the PSM button on the sprint for just a few seconds to fully disable the traction management and the 911 Dakar turns into a complete hooligan – albeit one which’s extremely straightforward to manage. Fast, responsive steering enables you to make small corrections to maintain the 911 in line, and the rear-biased energy supply with lateral torque-vectoring means you may management the rear finish’s playfulness with the throttle.
Click on the drive mode dial to the best yet another time to entry Off-Street mode, which robotically raises the suspension to its highest floor clearance. This additionally locks the all-wheel-drive system right into a 50/50 entrance/rear cut up, although the side-to-side torque vectoring throughout the rear axle stays energetic. Go one step additional and air down the Pirelli tires, and the Dakar will probably be in full-on sand dune assault mode.
Porsche borrowed the 911 Turbo’s cooling system, together with a pair of huge, 650-watt cooling followers, to assist handle airflow and since the design of its middle intercooler is much less prone to be broken off-road than these of different 911s. The GTS’ middle radiator was additionally eliminated to permit the reshaped entrance fascia. The Dakar has chrome steel underbody safety for once you slam the nostril down on a dune, and new intakes and air filters assist mitigate all of the dust and dirt you’ll little question kick up. If issues actually go stomach up (not actually, hopefully), vivid purple tow hooks on the entrance and rear ought to make restoration a cinch.
I can’t bear in mind the final time I had this a lot enjoyable off-road. Keep within the throttle and the Dakar will claw up any slope, leap the crest after which kick up large plumes of sand once you sling it sideways on the backside of the hill. The entire time, the three.0-liter engine roars behind you, the transmission holding second gear to maintain the throttle response sharp.
The very best factor I can say about this expertise is that, on sand and gravel, the Dakar nonetheless looks like a 911. It’s straightforward to manage. It by no means feels prefer it’s going to get away from you. It really works with you, egging you on to go quicker and quicker. Nearly as good as a Carrera 4 GTS is on-road, the Dakar is simply as adept within the dust.
It’s simply as straightforward to stay with, too. The Dakar comes normal with one-piece carbon-fiber bucket seats, although you may possibility in 18-way adjustable chairs if you happen to choose. In any other case, it’s all of your typical 911 stuff within the cabin: Porsche Communication Administration tech on a colorful and responsive touchscreen, digital shows flanking an enormous analog tachometer and a degree of match and end that retains this automotive freed from rattles, even once you’re shaking it to bits over rutted roads.
Then once more, that’s to be anticipated given the Dakar’s exorbitant price ticket: $223,450 together with $1,450 for vacation spot, or, for comparability, barely lower than a brand new 911 GT3 RS. Not that this issues, after all. With solely 2,500 destined for international consumption, Porsche can have no drawback promoting each Dakar it could make.
My largest hope is that the individuals who purchase the 911 Dakar really spec it in cool colours and drive the snot out of it; not simply storage this factor and flaunt it on occasion at their native Automobiles & Espresso. The Dakar is absurd and hilarious, and there’s nothing else prefer it on the highway at this time. You’ll be doing this 911 a disservice if you happen to don’t let it play within the sand.