Tall 911

The iconic Porsche 911 sports car has been turned into an attractive and powerful off-roader and is the perfect vehicle for Africa, says DIETER LOSSKARN, who attended its global launch in Morocco.

Maximum off-road performance is ensured by two new driving modes, never seen in a Porsche 911 before: Rallye and Offroad.

Imagine arriving the Richtersveld in South Africa, in Namibia’s Kaokoland or Botswana’s Okavango Delta in a Porsche 911. Crazy idea? Not any more. Porsche has just launched its most African 911 ever – the 911 Dakar – in the Sahara Desert.

It’s surprisingly well equipped for the rough and tough tracks our continent has to offer. Starting with the most vulnerable parts, the tyres. Usually on a 911, they are racetrack ready, but the Dakar’s rubbers are of the sturdy kind. Pirelli developed the extremely cutresistant and flank-reinforced tyres specifically for the Dakar.

The Porsche standard suspension is 50mm higher than in the ‘regular’ 911, raising a further 30mm with the lift button on the dash.

Front, rear and side sills are protected by stainless steel parts and the underbody is reinforced as well. The black widened wheel arch extensions give the car a menacing, self-confident stance. Already it looks wild, even standing still.

And in motion, all hell breaks loose. The engine is the same 3.0-litre boxer power plant with 353kW as in the GTS, as is the glorious sound emitting from the black end pipes. And from 0 to 100km/h, the off-road- er is only 0.1 second slower than the regular street GTS.

The Porsche 911 cockpit.

So let’s leave the tarmac behind to see what happens. Inside the cockpit it feels 100% 911, while outside the gravel is spraying in all directions, clicking against the under-ride protection. The suspension of Porsche’s first two-door, two-seater 4×4 is 50mm higher than in the 911 Carrera with sports suspension, resulting in an SUV-common ground clearance of 191mm. The wheelbase is much shorter than in the Cayenne, enabling great approach and departure angles.

Two new driving modes, previously never seen in a 911, allow maximum off-road performance. ‘Rallye’ is for loose, bumpy terrain and ideal for gravel roads, wet grass and muddy tracks. The focus in this mode is on traction in the rear, allowing glorious drifts. But when sand-surfing in the dunes, the driving mode of choice is ‘Offroad’, which gives optimal traction. We lower the tyre pressure to 1.5bar and hit the sand. I can’t fathom the fact that I am doing all this in a 911 sports car. Phenomenal.

The limited-edition 911 Dakar will only see 2500 units produced worldwide.

Unfortunately, Porsche will produce only a limited run of 2 500 911 Dakar units. And they are selling fast. I fear that most of them will end up with collectors and never do what they were meant to do. Which means that all the available Porsche equipment will remain unused. Starting with the roof rack on the ice-grey metallic version of the Da- kar. The robust roof basket with auxiliary LED headlights, powered by a visible 12V roof socket, can hold a 10-litre petrol reserve canister and a 12-litre water container. The pull-out spades with Porsche logo and the grey recovery boards come in handy if you get stuck in the sand. Or you can fit the practical and good-looking Porsche roof tent. It features two side windows and a skylight, perfect for watching the stars. After a good sleep, you pack the tent away into a black or dark grey hard-shell case. Seating area in the cosy roof house is 210x130cm.

The concept of the tall 911 is inspired by the first overall victory of the iconic Porsche sports car in the gruelling, legendary Paris–Dakar Rally. In 1984 a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2-litre (953) 4×4 took the hon- ours and the new 911 Dakar pays homage to this particular car. When customers choose the Rallye Design Package, their 911 Dakar will, for the first time in Porsche’s series production, feature a bi-colour paint job and decorative foiling. But because tobacco advertising is now banned, the former Rothman’s logo is replaced by the similar-looking Roughroads lettering. Any number between 0 and 999 can be select- ed for the race numbers on the doors. Guess what will be the most desirable three-digit number for the Dakar?

If you prefer the East African Safari rally heritage of 1971, 1974 and 1978, your Dakar can be foiled accordingly. Or you can choose the oak-green metallic or ice-grey metallic colours.

I just hope that at least a few of the 2 500 911 Dakars will find their way out of Franschhoek and Sandton onto some of the most adventurous rough roads in the world. They truly deserve it.

The Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain tyres are the most noticeable change to a regular 911. They are chunky and have reinforced, cut-resistant flanks.


ENGINE: 3.0-litre 6-cylinder boxer, paired with an 8-speed PDK auto
POWER: 353kW (480hp)/570Nm
TOP SPEED: 240km/h (limited due to off-road tyres) 170km/h on gravel
0 TO 100KM/H: 3.4 seconds
PRICE: from R4 250 000 (limited edition of 2500 units worldwide)