If you want to go off-road in Porsche, the German brand can offer you a couple of different SUVs for that. But if you want to take a 911 sports car off-road, Porsche has officially unveiled just the car for you.
The new 911 Dakar, named after the Paris-Dakar off-road rally, has big knobby tires and it rides about two inches higher off the ground than a regular 911. It was designed to resemble a particularly famous 911, the first with all-wheel-drive, that won the Paris to Dakar rally in 1984.
Porsche fans have, for decades, created their own off-road oriented versions of the 911, often dubbing them ‘Porsche 911 Safari.’ Taking inspiration from the company’s heritage of rally racing, vintage Porsches with big tires and occasionally raised suspensions are commonly found bounding through deserts and slinging around muddy turns. Now Porsche is taking a slice of that market for itself.
With SUVs making up an ever larger portion of sales even for sports car brands, Porsche isn’t the only one blending them. Lamborghini has announced that it will soon unveil an off-road-ready version of its 10-cylinder Huracán supercar, as well. Both Porsche and Lamborghini are part of the Volkswagen Group.
For situations where that extra ground clearance isn’t enough, the 911 Dakar can raise itself an additional 1.2 inches to clamber over higher obstacles. At that height, the car’s top speed is limited to just 105 miles an hour. But at its regular ride height, the 911 Dakar, with its 473 horsepower 6-cylinder engine, can go as fast as 150 mph and can launch from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
The car’s four-wheel-steering system – the back wheels can turn slightly as well as the front – and its computer-controlled stability system have been specially tuned to deal with loose dirt and gravel surfaces, according to Porsche. There are two selectable drive modes specifically for off-asphalt use, Rallye Mode and Off-Road Mode. Rallye Mode is intended for relatively smooth dirt or gravel roads while Off-Road Mode automatically raises the car for rougher terrain and driving over loose surfaces.
Even for a Porsche 911, this model will be particularly expensive. Prices will start at $222,000 but the cars will doubtlessly sell for far more with various options included. The first cars will be available in the US next spring. Only 2,500 will be made, according to Porsche.
The 911 Dakar’s carbon fiber hood is the same as that used on the 911 GT3, a high-performance track-focused variant of the 911. To save more weight, the 911 Dakar has no backseats, unlike most 911 models, and it has special lightweight glass in the windows.
Among the available options and accessories are a roof basket that can hold up to 92 pounds of equipment and a rooftop camping tent, and there’s an electrical socket in the roof to plug in lights. An optional Rally Design Package gives the car a white and dark blue paint scheme modeled on the 911 that won the 1984 rally. With that paint scheme, buyers can choose their own racing number of up to three digits.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the year Porsche won the Paris-Dakar rally. The automaker won in 1984.