Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
1:00 AM 30th March 2024

The Ultimate 911? Porsche’s Dakar Model Driven

The Porsche 911 is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable cars in the world today yet trying to explain its appeal and resultant longevity takes some doing.

Said to be the quintessential sports car by many, it has consistently been a yardstick by which other performance cars are measured. Is it the iconic looks, fine German engineering and build quality or the sheer driver appeal that sets the 911 apart? It is most likely a combination of these factors and demand for good examples remains high.

So how did it all begin? Set up in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche as an engineering company, it consulted with Volkswagen which was in the midst of developing its Beetle. World War II saw the company engaged in the war effort.

When war ended, Ferdinand’s son Ferry developed the 356, the first model to feature the Porsche badge. A shortage of parts meant that lots of Beetle components were used, hence the rear-engined air-cooled layout. Suddenly it all starts to make sense!

The 356 therefore not only played a vital role in Porsche’s development as a sports car manufacturer, but also its role in underpinning the basic layout found in the 911. And of course, that self-same set up continues to this day.

The 356 enjoyed great success in motorsport and when the time came for its replacement in the early ‘60s, it was the rear engined 911 which was put into production. Thus, a star was born and despite the company’s best attempts to replace it, think 928, the 911 refuses to die. Continuous refinement over the years has allowed the car to always attract new buyers.

I came close to buying one some years ago when a good friend emigrated and offered me his 2009 Carrera. So convinced was he that I would buy it, that he lent it to me for a month, not expecting to ever see its return. I only baulked at the purchase (aside of course from the cost) as I already had too many cars and with press cars coming and going, I didn’t think I would get the chance to use it very often.

I have also been lucky enough to drive many of Porsche’s 911 press cars over the years and at the recent Cayenne launch in Northumberland, a very special 911 lurked in the car park, just waiting to be driven. I made a beeline for the striking 911 Dakar and was soon racing through the country lanes surrounding our lovely lunch stop.

So, what is the Dakar model all about? Some of this car’s ancestors competed in the famous Paris Dakar rally, so modifying a 911 for off-road shenanigans has been done before. Under the skin there is much 911 GTS componentry, but the ride height is up 50mm and suspension, tyres and bodywork are modified to cope with harsher conditions.

Sadly, I had not the time, nor the inclination to take the 911 Dakar off road, but I can tell you that it is super fast on the black stuff. A 0-60mph sprint time of a tad over three seconds feels readily achievable and even on damp roads, the all-wheel drive system ensures you can readily put all the power down with ease.

There are some new drive mode options in the Porsche Active Suspension Management system. ‘Rallye’ puts everything into attack mode, from the traction control to the diffs and throttle, whilst ‘Offroad’ calms everything down to enable smooth cross-country progress.

The 473bhp twin-turbo flat six engine offers a soundtrack like no other, encouraging the driver to hang on to each gear just that little bit longer than necessary. Left to its own devices, the eight-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox changing swiftly and cleanly, but using the paddles is definitely far more fun.

It is all too easy to stray way above the national speed limit, the 911 Dakar reaching 100mph in the blink of an eye, or so I am told… The cabin is a bit noisier than a standard 911, the blame lying perhaps at the more knobbly tyres.

The interior of the Dakar model has been paired down, so missing are the rear seats, though the space is still available for additional storage. A roll cage signals intent, whilst buckets seats are fitted which hold both driver and passenger securely in place when getting a shift on. I suspect they might get a bit uncomfortable after a long time at the wheel.

The spec sheet for the car tells me the list price is a heady £173,000 before options. The ‘Shade Green’ metallic paint (add £2,207) wouldn’t be my choice. However, I gather all the UK’s allocation is sold out and that they are now changing hands for over £200,000. What price exclusivity?

In all fairness, I would be quite happy with any new 911 and I am a big fan of their seven-speed manual gearbox. The Dakar is probably not for me then and perhaps not for you either dear reader. But if you have the wherewithal, I can see why real 911 enthusiasts and aficionados will be drawn to Dakar variant. Rare, desirable and oh so collectible.

Fast Facts
• Porsche 911 Dakar
• Price £179,025 (as tested)
• 480hp 2,981cc engine
• 570Nm torque
• All-wheel drive
• 8-speed PDK gearbox
• 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds
• Top speed 149mph
• Combined economy 25mpg