Rub Some Dirt on It: Porsche 911 Dakar

In the 1980s, Gordon Gekko famously declared “greed is good.” Back then, Porsche was chasing a different kind of greed: horsepower. As they prepared to launch a new 911 Turbo, engineers faced a crucial question—how much power could they squeeze through just two wheels? Porsche’s CEO at the time, Peter Schutz, had a bold answer: “Why not four?”

This led to the birth of the Porsche 959, a groundbreaking prototype aimed at pushing performance to new heights. To expedite its development, Porsche ventured into Group B rallying—a series known for its extreme danger to drivers and spectators alike.

Thus began Porsche’s cautious foray into the realm of the “killer Bs,” where innovation and risk collided on the edge of motorsport history.

Jumping ahead almost four decades. How many sports car enthusiasts today celebrate the Paris-Dakar rally as Porsche’s AWD coming-of-age? Maybe six or seven, at least. Porsche claims there are more, hence this 959 look-alike in front of us. Our test car, number 329 out of 2500, skips the optional 62-pound roof rack and extra lights for better aerodynamics and more accurate acceleration tests, per Porsche’s request.

The 911 Dakar is like the Carrera 4 GTS coupe ($159,850), which also has a 473-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six engine. It adds a bit of rear steering and active anti-roll bars, so it handles well on any surface—whether it’s smooth roads, dirt, or rough terrain.

Inside, there’s an electronically controlled clutch pack in the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It adjusts how much power goes to the front and rear wheels, from 88 percent front to 100 percent rear. It’s so smart, we saw it chatting with an owl!

It starts strong with a 19.0-degree break-over angle and has red hooks on both ends Porsche calls “non-removable retaining lugs.” With front and rear hydraulic lifts, it takes about nine seconds to raise its clearance to 7.5 inches—just a bit less than a Nissan Rogue’s 8.2 inches. If you forget to lower it back on regular roads, no worries; it lowers automatically above 105 mph, which you could test in your own driveway.

The 911 Dakar stands out with its unique dual-carcass Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tires, resembling a distinctive feature akin to Fu Manchu on Marjorie Taylor Greene. These tires aren’t meant for snowy or muddy conditions and come without a spare. Instead, there’s a bottle of sealant and a small air compressor in case of a flat.

Interestingly, the owner’s manual strictly states that only authorized Porsche Partners should mount these tires. What’s surprising is that if you need to replace them, it’s not as expensive as you might expect: about $402 for the front tires and $514 for the rear. It could be the most affordable repair bill you’ll ever see for a 911.

Some facts about Porsche 911 Dakar 

  • The Dakar shares its passive engine mounts with the 911 GT3.
  • In case of theft, there’s a tracking system, perfect if the carbon seats have already punished the thief.
  • The optional roof rack must be removed for automatic carwashes.
  • The door handles stand proud unless central locking is engaged, and they can likewise be damaged in carwashes.
  • A front-center radiator is obviated by two electric fans from a 911 Turbo. Show off your engine and all you’ll reveal are plastic blowers resembling 1980s-era Pioneer speakers.
  • The hood and fixed deck spoiler are fashioned from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic.
  • A dashboard switch supplies “acoustically optimized exhaust.” We tried it. Then we smoked a Rothmans.