Porsche just launched their roughest and toughest 911. The four-wheel drive Dakar is the brand's first-ever two-seater off-roader production car. Unequivocal proof that Zuffenhausen engineers are fun-loving individuals. News24 Motoring contributor Dieter Losskarn flew into the Sahara Desert to experience this awesome ride.
Just in time for the 75th birthday of the iconic sportscar maker from Stuttgart, Porsche presented their wildest 911 ever. The Dakar.
It was inspired by the first overall victory of a 911 in the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally, which was the birth of four-wheel drive in the 911. The Dakar is Porsche's first two-door off-roader.
And off-road, it does surprisingly well. Thanks to some intense modifications. I am in the south-west of Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, close to the border with Algeria. I just stepped out of the charter plane to admire the impressive line-up of 911 Dakars on the apron. Some are plain ice grey; one is dark green metallic. The others are painted and foiled in different rally liveries, from the 1984 Paris-Dakar to the East African Safari rallies of 1971, 1974 and 1978. My office for the next two days is the latter.
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The Dakar doesn't just look like a raised 911; it has its own impressive presence and stance. The wheel wells are widened, and the front, rear and side sills are protected by stainless steel. The light carbon rear spoiler pays homage to the 1984 historic original. But the Dakar-specific Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tyres (sized 245/45ZR19 in front and 295/40ZR20 in the rear) are the most noticeable change to a regular 911. The chunky tread pattern is 9mm deep, there are two carcass plies, and the highly cut-resistant flanks are reinforced. Pirelli P Zero summer (and winter) tyres are optional.
Let's slide into those bucket seats; a roll cage has replaced the rear ones. With a guttural roar, the GTS engine comes alive. Push the exhaust button, and the sound symphony is even better. It's incredible how quickly the Dakar accelerates on those off-road tyres, a mere 0.1 second "slower" than the regular GTS 911's 3.3 seconds from 0 to 100km/h.
And off we go onto the first gravel road. My brain can't cope with the fact that I am in a 911, thundering across loose gravel, trailing a huge dust cloud behind. Maximum off-road performance is ensured by two new driving modes, never seen in a 911 before: Rallye and Offroad. They can be selected using the rotary switch on the GT sports steering wheel.
Offroad mode enables optimal traction in challenging terrains — ideal for dune surfing, uneven trails and stony surfaces. Engine, PDK and throttle pedal are sporty. The lifting system is at a high suspension level.
The standard suspension is 50mm higher than in the "regular" 911, raising a further 30mm with the lift button in the dash. Off-road speeds of up to 170km/h are possible with the raised suspension.
Due to the tyres, the top speed is limited to 240km/h.
I am sand surfing in Offroad mode through red dunes as if there is no tomorrow. I always loved the 911 - and off-roading with 4x4s and SUVs in the desert. But both experiences combined are an entirely new, breathtaking experience.
Back on gravel, I switch to Rallye driving mode. It maximises driving pleasure with a rear-focused design. Great for this loose, bumpy terrain I am on right now.
Some of the vehicles are fitted with the optional robust roof basket, making the 911 look even more like Indiana Jones. Porsche-designed and branded petrol and water canisters, as well as sturdy, grey recovery boards, can be fitted to it. Or a practical and stylish roof tent with two side windows and a sky-view skylight.
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What a way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Zuffenhausen sportscars. Once again, happy birthday Porsche, and congratulations on creating another unique and entertaining driving machine.
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cylinder boxer unit, paired with an 8-speed PDK auto
Power: 353kW (480hp)/ 570Nm
Top speed: 240km/h and (limited due to off-road tyres) 170km/h on gravel
0 to 100km/h: 3.4 seconds
Ground clearance: 191mm
Price: from R4 250 000 (limited edition of 2500 units worldwide)
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