- An eccentric off-road twist on the classic 911 coupe
- Lifted, rally-inspired sports car with 473 horsepower
- We drive the $223,450 911 Dakar on Moroccan sand dunes
Driven: 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar in the Dunes
Live out your rally car dreams
Porsche is a master of creating automotive niches we never knew we wanted, and here we are with the latest: the 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar. This is an all-wheel-drive 911 coupe inspired by the 911 rally car that won the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally and it's modified for high-speed, off-road antics by way of a suspension lift, protective plating and rugged all-terrain tires. You can check out our 911 Dakar First Look for detailed coverage of the car's mechanical changes and modifications. For this article, we traveled to Morocco to sample this limited-production 911 in its natural setting.
How does the 911 Dakar drive off-road?
Put the 911 Dakar on some sand dunes. Immediately. It's near-bliss, with excellent steering response and that screaming flat-six engine sending sand shooting into the sky behind you. In the Moroccan desert, the 911 Dakar drifted around a point-to-point dune course Porsche set up with ease. In that environment, with the swooping terrain and swinging rear end and joyous exhaust note, it produces a tremendous amount of theater. Stay on the power and you really can steer the car through the accelerator pedal, sending you more sideways by the millisecond.
The increased ground clearance, which is 6.3 inches and can be increased to 7.5 inches with the press of a button, provides some confidence on modest trails a standard 911 wouldn't dare. Even so, that's still more than an inch less clearance than what a Subaru Crosstrek has, for example. The ride is bumpy — suspension travel is limited and impacts are often loud — but the ability to burst into dusty drifts does not get old.
Beyond the dunes, however, the 911 Dakar's abilities wane. You'll notice the lack of suspension travel and ground clearance right away compared to a traditional off-roader. This is no 911 Raptor.
Where can you drive the 911 Dakar quickly as it's intended? Sand dunes and dry lake beds seem optimal to us. But we also had a spark of inspiration after watching this video of racing legend Walter Röhrl punt around the original race car on ice. Put some snow tires on the new Dakar and it could be the ultimate winter-beating 911. Maybe Porsche can take our idea and call its next 911 iteration the 2024 911 Siberia.
What's it like around town?
The Porsche 911 Dakar has an energetic feel to it, as if you've just taken an energetic yellow Lab out for its morning walk. The wailing 473-horsepower 3.0-liter flat-six engine is ready to leap when you ask, and the 911's sharp reflexes and smooth ride haven't been diminished by the new off-road equipment. You'll still feel bumps and cracks in the road but all-terrain Pirelli tires absorb minor vibrations well.
How's the 911 Dakar's interior?
There are only a few differences between the sleek, distinguished interior in standard 911 models and that of the 911 Dakar. You get the same dashboard layout, gear selector and 10.9-inch touchscreen, for instance. But you also get a snazzy plaque to indicate the build number of your 911 Dakar since Porsche will only make 2,500 of them. Decorative stitching is done in a striking Shade Green hue, which is unique to the 911 Dakar.
You may bring along one friend in the 911 Dakar, and one friend only. That's because Porsche removed the back seats and replaced them with a roll cage. But the two of you will find a pleasant cabin and composed ride. Tight build quality keeps squeaks and rattles to a minimum and even the all-terrain tires are relatively quiet on the road. We sampled the delightfully supportive carbon-fiber bucket seats, though you can option 18-way power-adjustable sport seats if you prefer.
Anything special about the tech?
Like the standard 911, the 911 Dakar suffers from subpar technology considering its price. The touchscreen is far away and offers small icons, for instance. But the digital speedometer, tachometer and other gauges are bright and clear, which is what you need in a Porsche anyway.
There is plenty of effective performance technology, however. The 911 Dakar comes with rear-wheel steering for greater low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. There's a hydraulic lift system attached to both the front and rear wheels to reach its maximum clearance height. And the center differential for the all-wheel-drive system has been retuned for performance in the dirt. Put it all together and the 911 Dakar has lots of helpful software at its disposal.
The 911 Dakar is full of character and will undoubtedly make the owners of the 2,500 units Porsche promises to build very happy. Take it to a Cars and Coffee event and it'll immediately stand out because, really, who doesn't own a GT3 or Turbo these days?