Everyone knows that Porsche has spent the entire history of the 911 (some 60 years at this point) racing the ever-loving hell out of the rear-engine sports car. What fewer people know is that a good chunk of that racing has taken place off-road. In fact, in 1984, Porsche took a 911 Carrera, added four-wheel drive, and took that car, dubbed the 953, to first place in the grueling Paris-Dakar race. Why am I talking about a race that happened 38 years ago? Because Porsche — always a company to lean on its heritage — has decided to bring the Dakar treatment to the current 992-generation 911. The result is this: The 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar, and it’s utterly goddamned incredible.
The 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar features the engine from the Carrera GTS, albeit with a few modifications for off-road driving. These modifications include the deletion of the center intercooler (for improved ground clearance), replaced with side intercoolers from the 911 Turbo. This, coupled with a new airbox designed to prevent dirt and dust intrusion means that the 911 Dakar is good for 473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. This drivetrain is paired exclusively to an eight-speed PDK automatic gearbox and the all-wheel drive system from the Carrera 4.
Of course, as you might expect, it’s the suspension setup where things get really interesting. The two-mode height-adjustable suspension offers 6.3 inches of ground clearance in standard mode, rising to a genuinely impressive 7.5 inches in high mode. Interestingly, the height adjustment for the Dakar comes not from air-ride suspension. Instead, Porsche used the same technology it uses for its front-end lift system and applied it at all four corners. Hopefully it will end up being more robust than air, at least.
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The Dakar’s altitude offers up some decent (for a sports car) clearance, including an approach angle of 16.1 degrees and breakover angle of 19 degrees in high mode. (We asked Porsche about the departure angle, which is important and probably kinda tough to pull off in a rear-engine sports car, but company reps didn’t have a firm number on hand.)
Porsche really went to work on the car’s electronics package, because the kind of launch control, traction control and stability control you want on a street car is very different from what you’d want in dirt or gravel. Porsche’s excellent launch control system from the normal 911 has been tweaked to allow for around 20 percent more wheelspin, for example. And the car is set up to allow a lot of big, dirty slides in Rallye mode. Off-Road mode is a lot more locked-down, meant for slow going over rough terrain.
Of course, without a real set of off-road tires, this would just be a black plastic-clad, awkwardly tall 911. Thankfully, Porsche enlisted Pirelli to design the first ever official off-road tire fitted to a Porsche 911 from the factory. The tires offer a fairly chunky tread pattern, but think more all-terrain than mud terrain or gravel rally tires, but don’t go thinking that they’re only good in the dirt. Porsche reps claimed that the 911 Dakar lapped the Nordschliefe in the same tame that the 996 GT3 did. That was a few generations ago, but that was on some pretty aggressive tires, too.
The rest of the car offers up plenty of nods to the classic 953 rally car, including an optional Rallye pack which slathers the car in a throwback livery that nods to the Rothman’s sponsorship of old. The colors are the same, but the door says “Roughroads” now — a pun, and a way for Porsche to avoid advertising a defunct British cigarette brand on its new sports car. (Porsche understandably doesn’t want to promote smoking anything other than tires and German sausages.) The Rallye pack also comes with a killer roof basket and integrated light bar. The 911 Dakar also gets its own bespoke rear decklid spoiler which looks like the perfect place to lay out a rally map and scream at your co-driver for getting you lost.
Porsche has decided the 911 Dakar is too cool to enter normal series production, and as such, it’s getting a limited run of just 2,500 units. The limited nature is kind of a bummer, but with a starting price tag of $223,450 including a $1,450 destination fee, odds are, you’ll have a bigger issue affording one than finding an allocation. For those of you playing at home, that price tag comes in just barely below the also-catastrophically-expensive GT3 RS at $225,250 and the somehow-even-more-expensive 911 Sport Classic at $273,750.
Look for this Dakar beauty on roads coming in Spring of 2023.