2023 porsche 911 dakar

The Porsche 911 has steadily improved over the decades, but the iconic rear-engine sports car has largely retained the same overall silhouette and design language since its inception in 1963.

Now, Porsche is shaking things up and taking the 911 in a radical new direction with the 2023 911 Dakar - an off-road-ready version of the 911 that brings new capabilities and excitement to the model range.

I recently had the chance to check out the new 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar up close and take it for a short drive.

In this in-depth review, I'll walk through what makes Dakar unique, how it transforms the 911 into a lifted off-roader, and what it's like to get behind the wheel of this crazy 911 rally car.

A Brief History of the 911 Dakar

First, a quick history lesson.

The new 911 Dakar draws its name from the famous Paris-Dakar Rally, a grueling off-road endurance race from Paris to the capital of Senegal. Porsche has an off-road racing heritage from competing in events like this in the late 80s and early 90s with rugged versions of cars like the 959.

Enthusiasts have also been customizing 911s for decades with lift kits and off-road accessories to enhance their capabilities on dirt and trails. The 911 Dakar takes all of this history and packages it up into an authentic off-road 911 from the Porsche factory.

Base Platform: 911 Carrera 4 GTS

The foundation for the 911 Dakar is the standard 911 Carrera 4 GTS model. This means under the hood is a 3.0L twin-turbo flat-six producing a healthy 475 horsepower. The all-wheel-drive system from the Carrera 4 provides an ideal starting point for sending power to all four wheels when off the pavement.

For the Dakar, Porsche also equips the GTS 4.0L engine with the more robust cooling system from the 911 Turbo S, likely anticipating extra heat generated by lower-speed off-road driving.

Lifted Suspension and All-Terrain Tires

The first step in transforming the 911 into a rally car is increasing its ground clearance. The Dakar gets a 2-inch lift in its suspension compared to the standard Carrera GTS. This alone gives it nearly 6.3 inches of clearance - an improvement but not drastically higher than a regular performance coupe.

The real magic comes from a new hydraulic lift kit that can raise the 911 Dakar an additional 1.2 inches at the push of a button. At full lift, the Dakar has a very impressive 7.5 inches of ground clearance.

Combined with the lifted suspension, the 911 Dakar runs on custom Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tires optimized for traction on loose dirt and gravel. These knobby tires might not hook up quite as well on pavement, but they are specially engineered to avoid punctures out on the rough stuff.

Skid Plates, Cladding, Overhang, and Tow Hooks

Beyond just the lifted suspension and tires, Porsche equips the 911 Dakar with serious protective gear and off-road upgrades.

Up front is a prominent skid plate to protect components under the bumper when cresting hills and obstacles. Rock rails along the doors and widened plastic cladding over the wheel arches protect the bodywork from side impacts with brush or boulders. And out back, a beefy rear skid plate prevents damage to the exposed engine components.

The 911 Dakar also gets a shortened front overhang compared to the standard Carrera 4 GTS. Combined with improved approach and departure angles from the ground clearance, this allows the Dakar to drive over steep inclines and into divots without scraping its nose or tail.

Finally, heavy-duty front and rear tow hooks allow the 911 Dakar to be easily extracted when needed out on the trails.

Carbon Fiber Hood and Fixed Rear Wing

In addition to the mechanical upgrades, the 911 Dakar visually distinguishes itself with a lightweight carbon fiber hood up front featuring cooling vents reminiscent of the GT3 model. Out back, a prominent fixed rear wing replaces the active spoiler.

The carbon fiber hood provides a performance benefit by reducing weight and adding front-end downforce. And while the gigantic rear wing might seem excessive for intense off-roading, it certainly looks the part on this rally-inspired 911.

Rally Design Package Takes the 1990s Safari Look Up a Notch

While the standard 911 Dakar exterior already appears ready for the dirt, the available $28,500 Rally Design Package takes the style up several notches. This factory option pays homage to the classic Rothmans-sponsored 911 that raced in the East African rallies of the late 1980s and early 90s.

The classic white, red, and gold livery over Dakar's pumped-up body will transport any Porschephile back to the 911's rally heritage. Instead of "Rothmans", the modern Rally Design Package appropriately says "RoughRoads" in the era of banned tobacco sponsorships.

Off-Road Drive Modes, Roof Lights, and Camping Accessories

Not only does the 911 Dakar look the part of a rugged rally car, but it also comes equipped with specifically tailored drive modes and accessories for authentic adventures.

Two new off-road settings are available - Rally and Off-Road. Rally mode allows for more wheel slip to blast out from gravel or dirt. Off-Road prioritizes all-wheel-drive traction and keeps the suspension as high as possible.

Up on the roof, integrated LED flood lights can illuminate the path ahead when navigating dark desert trails. And handy accessories like a rooftop tent, jerry cans for spare fuel, and a plastic trunk liner allow you to pack this 911 for serious camping weekends. Who needs a crossover?

Supercar Speed Meets Off-Road Agility

Clearly, the 911 Dakar checks all the boxes for looking and playing the part of a lifted off-roader. But this is still a Porsche 911 at its core. Excitingly, Dakar delivers an abundance of supercar performance along with its new talents off the tarmac.

The turbocharged flat-six provides a relentless wave of torque and acceleration. Porsche quotes 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds in the Dakar - plenty brisk by any measure. The top speed is limited to 150 mph due to the all-terrain tires.

Around corners, the softly sprung 911 Dakar can't quite match the razor-sharp moves of a 911 GT3. But the chassis remains impressively buttoned down and responsive given the high center of gravity and extra suspension travel.

Pricing and Availability

The 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar carries a hefty base price of $222,000 in the US, and about $250,000 with typical options added. Only 2,500 will be produced globally, so high demand will lead to significant dealer markups as well.

But compared to the Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato - Dakar's closest competitor - it's practically a steal. The Sterrato starts around $275,000 and exceeds $340,000 when optioned. So while costly, the 911 Dakar provides an intriguing off-road excursion at a six-figure discount.

For Porsche enthusiasts seeking adventure beyond paved roads, the rare and outrageous 911 Dakar delivers huge thrills. It expands the 911's capabilities in a surprising yet exciting new direction.

This special off-road iteration may not handle like a typical 911, but it lets you experience the Porsche badge in places it has never gone before.

2023 porsche 911 dakar specs

First Drive Impressions - Rally Car Meets Sports Car

Finally, I had the tremendous privilege of taking a new Crayon Grey 911 Dakar for a brief test drive on the winding back roads around Porsche's North County San Diego dealership. Here are my initial impressions from saddle time in this wicked 911 rally car.

The moment you sit down in Dakar's saddle, the elevated seating position is immediately apparent. You perch much higher in the cabin than a standard 911. The view over the curvaceous hood and phantom-like fenders enhances the perception.

In Off-Road mode, the 911 feels tall and mighty. Body control is looser than a track-tuned GT3, but superb for an off-road-ready vehicle. The Dakar soaks up bumps, divots, and uneven terrain that would send a rigid sports car bucking wildly. And yet, it remains supremely poised at speed.

Turn the steering wheel and the wide tires and lifted suspension mean you lose some immediacy versus a 911 Carrera. Nonetheless, the Dakar remains eager and agile with weighty, direct steering. This is still very much a driver's car.

That massaged flat-six growls gloriously out the back. Dip into the throttle and it pulls with authority through all 4,000 revs right to the redline. The urgent acceleration seems unfazed by the extra weight and rolling resistance. Credit the massive torque from the twin turbos.

While 0-60 mph takes just over 3 seconds, the Dakar feels most alive carving a sinuous backroad. The healthy grip from the specially developed Pirellis keeps the Porsche planted through sweepers taken at decidedly imprudent speeds.

The brakes prove strong and fade-free. Yet they deliver a soft initial bite likely optimized for loose surfaces. At the limit, the all-wheel-drive system pulls the Dakar neatly through corners without obvious understeer. The rear-engine layout and lift-off oversteer potential bring welcome hints of old-school 911.

Rocketing down a battered ranch road with the suspension lifted, few vehicles could keep pace with this outrageous 911. The Dakar provides a driving experience, unlike any previous production Porsche.

Conclusion - A Fresh New Dimension for the 911

With the new 2023 911 Dakar, Porsche has breathed exciting new life into the venerable 911. Visually menacing, mechanically enhanced, and enriched with accessories for adventure, the Dakar transforms the 911 into a sports car/rally car like no other.

Yet its essence remains quintessentially 911. The Dakar delivers incredible speeds across uneven terrain alongside four-wheeled agility and driver engagement. While it won't attract 911 collectors in the short term, it promises immense driving enjoyment here and now for Porsche die-hards seeking fresh thrills.

The 911 Dakar is an instant collectible and future classic that brings welcome uniqueness to the 911 range. This wild off-road interpretation stretches the 911 concept into new dimensions and possibilities. Bravo to Porsche for having the vision to build the unlikeliest 911 yet - the world's first ultra-high-performance luxury off-roader.