The only truly shocking thing about the new Porsche 911 Dakar is that it took the company so long to capitalize on white-hot demand for a rally-ready 911 that can tackle Montreal winters, desert dunes, and anything in between.
The 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar dropped at the Los Angeles auto show this past week. The new all-wheel drive sports car pays homage to the legendary 911 that brought Porsche an unlikely victory at the famous (and deadly) Paris-Dakar Rally in 1984.
The new model is limited to just 2,500 examples and unless you’re very, very good friends with your local dealer, the chances of snagging one before they hit the secondary market for ridiculous sums are not looking good. Sorry. The order books are open now, with prices starting at $247,200 in Canada. Deliveries are slated for spring.
It’ll run you an extra $32,490 if you’d like the optional Rallye Design Package, which evokes the Rothmans livery of the 1984 Paris-Dakar winner, albeit without the tobacco sponsorship. (Smoking is bad, but the cigarette-company liveries used on racecars throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s were wonderful.)
Don’t think the 2023 911 Dakar is just some sticker job though. It’s not. This sports car has been entirely re-engineered for high-speed off-roading. Case in point: The suspension has a ‘high level’ setting for, “ambitious off-road adventures at speeds of up to 170 km/h,” according to the company.
Compared to your run-of-the-mill 911 Carrera, the Dakar has 50 mm more ground clearance, with an additional 30 mm available thanks to lift system that works on both front and rear axles. A set of specially developed Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tyres come fitted as standard. Their chunky tread-pattern looks the part, but we imagine they might have a tough time putting down all 420 lb-ft of torque and 473 horsepower. The motor, slung out behind the rear wheels of course, is Porsche’s familiar 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six. Because of the tires, top speed is limited to “only” 240 km/h; we can live with that.
The engine mounts are taken from the hardcore 911 GT3 and should help to keep the mass of that flat-six under control as you’re bouncing across the dunes. To make the most of the chassis modifications, Porsche developed two new driving modes. According to the company, “Rallye mode is ideal for loose, uneven surfaces and features rear-focused all-wheel drive. In Offroad mode the high clearance is activated automatically. This mode is designed for maximum traction on difficult terrain and on sand.”
From the outside, you’ll note the purposeful red aluminium towing lugs, flared wheel arches and stainless-steel armour under the bumpers and sills to protect against flying rocks, as well as a fixed (as opposed to retractable) rear spoiler. Both it and the front hood are made from lightweight carbon-fibre reinforced plastic.
Inside, there are no rear seats – sorry kids – only a pair of bucket seats. The car’s weight – 1,605 kg, relatively lithe considering its off-road credentials – was kept in check by the use of lightweight glass and battery. (It’s 10 kg heavier than a Carrera 4 GTS for all those Porschephiles keeping score.)
The accessory list is quite excellent too. Buyers can have their 911 Dakar fitted with a roof rack with built-in spotlights. It’s powered by a 12-volt outlet on the car’s roof, and sturdy enough to support the optional roof tent, in case you wanted to take it on an overlanding adventure. Also available exclusively to 911 Dakar owners is a Porsche Design Chronograph 1 watch that has a suitably tough case made from scratch-resistance lightweight titanium carbide.
A Long Time Coming
The fact Porsche was working on an off-road(ish) 911 was, perhaps, the worst kept secret in the automotive world these past few years. In fact, all the way back in 2012, Porsche’s design department cooked up a concept called the 911 Vision Safari, inspired by the Martini-liveried and highly modified 911 SC that competed in the 1978 East African Safari Rally. Drivers Björn Waldegård and Vic Preston Jr. covered nearly 5,000 km across rural Kenya in that car.
Six years later, René Metge had the brilliant (some might say crazy) idea to tackle the fearsome Paris-Dakar rally in a Porsche 911. His Rothmans sponsored sports car must’ve looked like a fish out of water compared to all the rally cars lined up in Paris on 1 January 1984. Nevertheless, Metge and his 911 covered almost 10,000 km through Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mauritania. By the time it was all said and done, of the 313 cars that started the race only 98 finished. First among them was Metge and his 911. His success spurred the Porsche factory to develop a 959-based rally car to tackle the Paris-Dakar in 1985 and 1986. The team won in ’86, but has never been back to Dakar.
(Porsche did, however, recently build an even more hardcore off-road 911 to climb the rocky slopes of Chile’s Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world. Sadly, these cars aren’t for sale, but if you haven’t seen them you really must.)
Since any vintage Porsche rally car is essentially unattainable these days, all kinds of outfits have been offering kits and conversions to turn old 911s into rally replicas. Tuthill Porsche built one for Ken Block. Singer built the Offroad Competition Study, but not until now have we had a proper, modern factory option.
It took Porsche a while to finally capitalize on everyone’s thirst for a rally-inspired 911, but the new 2023 911 Dakar was worth the wait.