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The Porsche 911 Dakar will take you almost anywhere

With the Porsche 911 Dakar, the Germany-based automaker is finally recalling its winning days in the rallies of the 1980s and earlier

The Porsche 911 Dakar debuted on Nov. 16 during a private presentation at the Los Angeles Auto Show. (Porsche AG)

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Porsche has finally made a modern off-road 911. The Porsche 911 Dakar debuted on Nov. 16 during a private presentation at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based brand has sent its sports cars off-road since the early 1960s, when drivers Vic Elford and Herbert Linge piloted 911s in grueling cross-country races. In 1968, a 911 T won the Monte Carlo Rally. Plenty of aftermarket and independent builders such as Baja 911 and Lee Keen Porsches have long fabricated 911s for driving in terrible conditions. This month, two special project 911s climbed Ojos del Salado in Chile, the highest volcano on Earth.

But this is the first time in modern years that Porsche AG has built an official off-road-capable car for sale to customers worldwide. Priced at $222,000, 2,500 of them will be sold globally, a spokesperson said on Wednesday. Considering that the Baja 911 costs nearly $700,000—and that real off-road trucks that win races, such as King of the Hammers, can cost nearly $1 million—that sounds almost affordable. 

There’s a reason Porsche is debuting its rugged 911 now. According to a spokesperson at the LA event, Porsche has seen a “clear and demonstrated appetite” for the kind of sports cars that can take a beating and keep going. Call it the rise of adventuring. It’s evident across Instagram, where enthusiasts post thousands of shots of them glamping, skiing, fishing and hiking with their 911s.  

“They influenced us because we are all Porsche fans, and we listen to our fan base,” Frank Moser, vice president of the 911 line, said during the preview.

The 911 Dakar debuted in the same Rothmans livery as the car that won the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally, which was the first Porsche 911 to use an all-wheel-drive system. (Rothmans International was the British tobacco manufacturer behind the Players and Dunhill cigarette brands.) Porsche expects that as many as 80% of the orders for the 911 Dakar will select the special livery, according to multiple sources close to the matter. A spokesperson declined to say how much the optional paint job might cost, but noted that it would require an additional 30 hours of production time and that the price would reflect this.

The 911 Dakar uses the same 3.0 twin-turbo Boxer engine as the 911 GTS but sits 50 millimeters (2 inches) higher than a 911 Carrera; a lift system that comes standard raises the front and rear of the car by an additional 30 mm. The sum of both lifts hits a ride height and ramp-over angles as similar to a normal SUV. But unlike the latter, the lift system can be deployed at up to 105 mph—far faster than the 30 mph or so which usually causes lift kits to sink in cars like Lamborghinis and McLarens. 

The new off-road 911 offers two new drive modes—Rallye and Off-Road—that are programmed for loose, uneven surfaces; they maximize traction on sand and bias power to the rear axle. There’s also a new Rallye Launch Control that was developed specially for the Dakar.

Inside, the vehicle is spare. It comes standard with bucket seats; the rear seats have been deleted. Lightweight glass on the windows also helps save weight, so the 911 Dakar weighs just over 3,550 pounds. 

Deliveries will begin in spring 2023, but don’t expect to see any Dakars backed by a Porsche team in an international rally. A spokesperson said the brand will leave all-terrain racing to its customers at this point. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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