The 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar is blasting fun in the sand

2023 porsche 911 dakar

Porsche 911 Dakar is laugh-out-loud fun in the sandPorsche

“Aired Down a Porsche 911” has never appeared on any bingo card we’ve ever kept, yet here we are, deflating the tires of our 911 Dakar before the game begins on a huge Moroccan sand dune formation called Erg Chebbi. It’s not immediately clear how we’ll fare in the great dunes, a visit to which normally requires a hired Toyota Land Cruiser Prado or a local camel caravan outfitter. So far, we’ve traversed the desert hardpan and gaped like tourists at the strange meandering single-humped dromedary as we tried to avoid rocks and well-meaning mounds hidden behind lingering hanging curtains of suffocating dust.

Earlier as we drove through dusty cities that seemed to inspire us Star Wars‘s Tatooine, the kids sometimes waved (that was a wave, wasn’t it?) as we rode by in our shiny Land Speeders. Then, at the last checkpoint before the open desert, local police stopped our three-car convoy, after which the lead driver was ordered to turn over. . . his Instagram handle. (The next day, on his way back, he would be required to perform… a launch control boot.)

2023 porsche 911 dakar


It turns out that the Erg, a dead ringer for Southern California’s Glamis sand dunes (that played the part of Tatooine, come to think of it), is quite literally the sandbox of the 911 Dakar. It makes sense, because the 911 Dakar is essentially a quarter-million-dollar dune buggy based on the mighty Carrera 4 GTS instead of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Like an OG dune buggy, the Dakar has a rear-mounted engine, flat floor, and wide rear tires that are proportional to the 911’s inherent rear-end weight distribution and provide comfortable float on sand. The lightening measures mean its curb weight is only about 20lbs heavier than a Carrera 4 GTS, so even though it weighs in at around 3550lbs, it makes far less of an impression in the sand than your average SUV and trims a Porsche Macan by base of about 600 pounds.

From there this Porsche takes the dune-buggy format several giant steps forward thanks to its wailing 473hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six engine from the GTS. This engine’s broad peak torque of 420 lb-ft from 2300 to 5000 rpm is even more critical. In the midst of it all, every time we looked at the speedometer, usually while yelling, “I can’t believe I’m doing this in a 911!” The engine invariably grinded it between 3000 and 4000 rpm, as happy as we were in mountains of dry sand.

Another incongruous element in all of this is the interior, which, despite the refined Dakar touches and trim choices, never misses an opportunity to remind you that you’re still in a 911. The microsuede-wrapped steering wheel is one example: the steering wheel is in so much constant motion as you’ve seen across the sand that the hash mark in the top center seems ridiculously useless. Ditto for the one-piece carbon racing buckets, which beat you like a boxing opponent when bouncing out there. Pro tip: Opt instead for the heated GT leather sports steering wheel (free) and ditch the hard-shell buckets for the 18-way power-adjustable heated sports seats (another free option).

2023 porsche 911 dakar


If you hadn’t already guessed, the Carrera 4 GTS also donate its all-wheel drive system with Porsche Traction Management and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus. To these, the Dakar adds GTS options such as rear wheel steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis system Control’s active anti-roll bars, and the combination of all of that, plus a load of caravanning software optimization, the added Rallye and Offroad driving modes offers some real teeth.

As the name suggests, Rallye shifts the torque bias rearward and sets active anti-roll bars and rear-steer systems to promote controllable rally-style oversteer on loose, gravel surfaces. But these are adaptive systems, so they can rewind things if the pendulum swings too far. Offroad mode offers a more even front/rear torque split and can relax the anti-roll bars and lock the rear differential to maintain progress over rough terrain. Both modes’ base torque splits are more like guidelines than actual rules, as the system has the bandwidth to divert torque anywhere from 88% front to 100% rear, depending on where is the traction.

For that, the Dakar has one final trick up its sleeve: increase in static ride height, plus an additional 1.2 inches of suspension lift. Deployed automatically in Offroad mode and manually selectable in other modes, the system lifts the belly of the Dakar from a healthy 6.3 inches of standard clearance (1.8 inches more than the GTS) to 7.5 inches of maximum clearance. The 911’s short 96.5-inch wheelbase results in a respectable 19.0-degree bump angle, which is firmly in crossover-SUV territory. This proved useful in the dunes, where high centering was never an issue.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Even with the reprofiled front and rear overhangs, the Dakar’s 16.1-degree approach and 18.2-degree departure angles are too shallow for truly rocky courses. If in doubt, enlist your passenger as an observer. The standard surround camera can only reveal so much, and there are bass turbos in the rear corners. Los Angeles driveways, however, should be a breeze. You don’t even need to activate the elevator to take them out.

The lift system employs coil springs which rest on an updated version of the hydraulic front lift, which is optional on other 911s. A similar lift mechanism is mounted at the rear, and the engineers added an accumulator and stronger pump so the system can maintain the lifted posture indefinitely as long as the speed does not exceed 105 mph. To further optimize the suspension for rough terrain work, the PASM front strut and rear shock bodies are longer and equipped for more travel, and the correspondingly longer springs are roughly 50% softer than their road-going counterparts. percent.

None of this would matter without proper tires, and Dakar’s custom-built Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus grips get the job done. With wheels measuring 19 inches up front and 20 inches out back, the Dakar’s wheels are each an inch smaller than those on the GTS. And the 245/45ZR-19 front and 295/40ZR-20 rear tires are also about an inch taller top to bottom, and that combination gives the rims an extra inch of protective sidewall. The enlarged air volume inside allows for a lower standard pressure and this helps the Dakar tackle rough surfaces better. Air them up to 17 psi on sand, like we did, and they provide flotation and traction without digging in.

On pavement, the Scorpion A/T tires aren’t excessively loud and also offer good directional stability and confident steering response. In fact, Porsche engineers were so pleased with their performance that they backed away from their original plan to offer them as options and instead made them standard. Summer tires are optional here, and rightfully so. Buyers who will spend nearly $225,000, for a car within $1800 of a GT3 RS, are likely doing so for the Dakar’s unique capabilities, and this footwear gives them the best chance of using Porsche’s latest dune buggy as intended .

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