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Porsche 911 Dakar 2023 First Drive Review: Go For It

MERZOUGA, Morocco — Dawn in the Sahara Desert is why the phrase “shrill silence” exists. A gentle breeze wafts past like a loud whisper as the rising sun illuminates the sands and dunes. So happy; a peaceful accompaniment to erase sleep from my eyes. But then the desert silence was broken by a sound that was both familiar and out of place: the cold start of a flat-six engine.

listen to one Porsche 911 Da Nang burning in the waking hours of the Sahara was as jarring as David Lee Roth shouting, “Are you ready to rock, Morocco?!” Absolutely nothing about this car is subtle; It carries the intention of destroying the dunes on its sleeve. The moment you hit the sand, the 911 Dakar comes to life. And holy moly, can this thing tear.

Really fast, let’s back up. In 1984, porsche won the Paris-Dakar Rally with the first all-wheel drive 911 race car. The new 911 Dakar pays homage to this largely through one of the optional Rallye Design Packs, intended to look like the iconic ’84 Rothmans paintwork (lower left). Yes, the text now says “Roughroads”, which is actually a bit lame, but automakers don’t sponsor tobacco companies – even those that no longer exist – and besides That is, licensing is very expensive. The Martini pack suits my style better (below right).

In the following decades, a mess of ready demonstrations The hunt 911 upgrades have arrived, including one-off customs from famous tuners like Ruf and Singer. Therefore, you might think that Porsche has caught up with the shark by offering its own 911 Dakar, but I promise, this is legit. Based on the Carrera 4 GTS, the Dakar adds 2 inches of ground clearance in standard settings, and high mode can raise the vehicle by another 1.2 inches, for a maximum height of 7.5 inches. This adjustability is also not achieved through the air suspension; Porsche modified the 911’s optional front hydraulic lifter and installed it on the rear axle. Incidentally, the extra space required for the hydraulic setup is one of the reasons the 911 Dakar doesn’t have a rear seat.

The back seat-less approach also saves weight. The 911 Dakar weighs in at 3,552 pounds, or 16 pounds more than the Carrera 4 GTS (with automatic transmission). That’s pretty impressive, considering all of Dakar’s add-ons. But Porsche is also for its off-road vehicle carbon fiber hood from the GT3 – ugly nostrils and all – plus lightweight materials on the roof and rear wing to shed some of the extra weight.

Crucially, the Dakar’s suspension features stronger dampers and longer links, and the staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch wheels come standard with Pirelli Scorpion All-Terrain Plus tires. You’ll find sizes 245/45 at the front and 295/40 at the rear, and the tires have a tread depth of 9mm and a dual body design for better durability. The Pirelli P Zero summer tires are available as a free option, but come on. Don’t do that.

Despite the increased suspension travel and thick tires, the 911 Dakar’s on-road ride quality is tougher than you’d expect for a car designed for dirt roads. It’s more like a 911 Carrera for the street, which means things like pitch and plunge when accelerating and brake not a problem – body ditto roll. The steering here is just as sharp as in other 911s, the car’s handling is really limited only by the reduced asphalt grip of the all-terrain rubber. The standard steel brake system also fits perfectly here, and no, Porsche doesn’t offer a carbon-ceramic upgrade.

Like the standard Carrera 4 GTS, the 911 Dakar uses a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine that produces 473 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, mated to a PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. 8-speed and full-time 4-wheel drive system. . On pavement, the Dakar will hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds — the same as the rear-wheel-drive Carrera GTS — and it will hit a top speed of 149 mph. However, you can only keep it at max ride altitude up to 105 mph, so don’t try to v-max this thing on cobbled roads.

However, you should definitely launch it in the terrain. After all, Porsche has designed a new Rallye Launch Control system that allows the wheels to spin more than usual. In fact, there’s a completely separate Rallye driving mode, which re-adjusts the all-wheel drive’s torque split to produce stronger rear deflection and loosen the reins of control. traction control, intentionally allowing for more fun antics at the tail end. Hold down the PSM button on the dashboard for a few seconds to completely disable the traction control system and the 911 Dakar transforms into a complete thug – even though it’s an incredibly easy car to control. The quick, responsive steering allows you to make small adjustments to keep the 911 in alignment, and the ability to distribute rearward deflection with lateral torque vectoring means you’re in control of the fun. fresh of the rear of the car by the throttle.

Click the drive mode dial to the right again to access Off-Road mode, which automatically raises the suspension to the highest ground clearance. This also locks the all-wheel drive system to a 50/50 front/rear split, although side-to-side torque vectoring via the rear axle remains active. Going one step further and lowering the Pirelli tires, Dakar will be in full dune attack mode.

Porsche borrowed the 911 Turbo’s cooling system, which includes a pair of large, 650-watt cooling fans, to help manage airflow and because the design of the central cooler is less likely to be damaged on the road. than other 911s. The GTS’s center radiator is also removed to allow for the front to be reshaped. The Dakar has a stainless steel underbody guard when you’re nose-deep in the dunes, and new intakes and air filters help to reduce all the dust and dirt you’re sure to bounce. If things really go up (hopefully not literally), magenta drag Hooks at the front and back will make recovery a breeze.

I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in the street. Hold the gas and Dakar will climb any slope, jump over the top, and then hurl huge clumps of sand as you slide it sideways at the bottom of the hill. All the while, the 3.0-liter engine roars behind you, the transmission holding second gear to keep the accelerator responsive.

The best thing I can say about this experience is that, on sand and gravel, the Dakar still feels like a 911. It’s very easy to control. It never feels like it’s going to leave you. It works with you, pushing you forward faster and faster. As good as a Carrera 4 GTS on the road, Dakar is also adept in the dirt.

It’s also easy to live with. The Dakar comes standard with a carbon fiber one-piece bucket seat, although you can opt for an 18-way adjustable seat if you wish. Otherwise, it’s all your typical 911 things in the cabin: Porsche Communication Management Technology on Colorful and the responsive touchscreen, digital display next to a large analog tachometer and the fit and finish keep this car rattle-free, even when you shake it to pieces on rough roads.

Then again, that’s to be expected given the Dakar’s exorbitant price tag: $223,450 including $1,450 for destination, or for comparison, slightly less than the new 911 GT3 RS. Of course, this is not important. With just 2,500 units sold globally, Porsche should have no problem selling every Dakar it can produce.

My best hope is that 911 Dakar buyers actually specify it in colors that catch the eye and make it uncomfortable; Don’t just park this thing and flaunt it from time to time at their local Cars & Coffee. Dakar is ridiculous and hilarious, and there’s nothing like it on the road these days. You’ll consider this 911 a traitor if you don’t let it play in the sand.

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