It is becoming ever more clear that the Porsche 911 is about to enter a new era of extreme performance. For the last thirty years there has been a stark contrast between the 911 Turbo and the 911 RS/GT3 lines of thinking, where the Turbo models are about as high performance as you can get on the street, while the GT3 and RS lineups have been optimized for extreme track performance. Porsche is now adding a third branch to that tree with a 911 that is built to the extreme of off-road performance. The new version of the car—which hasn’t officially been announced, but look for it to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month—is rumored to be called 911 Dakar or 911 Safari. The car shown here is only a prototype for now, and was based on the 911 Carrera 4S with a set of portal axles attached to lift it a seriously impressive amount. The car now boasts nearly fourteen inches of ground clearance.
Racer and extreme performance enthusiast Romain Dumas set out with this prototype 911 to push the boundaries of what a 911 can do. He and his team set about an attempt to climb the face of Ojos del Salado in Chile. This is no ordinary mountain, it’s the tallest volcano in the world. Driving up to 19,708 feet above sea level is no easy thing, and adding in the grueling extremes of thin air, deep freeze temperatures, and a path littered with boulders makes this the kind of thing that would cause any normal Porsche 911 would run away screaming.
“This was a truly memorable and special moment in a place that’s both beautiful and brutal at the same time – I guess the only machines anywhere in the world higher than us today were aircraft! For the team and the car it was about learning – and right out of the box, the car was tough and nimble. We were hard on ourselves and really put it in the deep end for its first test, yet it felt at home,” said Romain Dumas, driver of the 911 and leader of the team. “We have enormous respect for those who have gone higher. No one has seen so much ice and snow up towards the top of the volcano, but despite this we went over 6,000 meters up, to the point where the walls of ice and snow meant we could go no further. We’re really proud of what the car and the team are capable of first time out – hopefully we can count on many more adventures in the future.”
“It’s been magical to build a 911 like the world has never seen before – made possible by a small team of engineering enthusiasts. The 911 has already been proven on the track and, of course, on the road. With this project, we‘re shifting the focus to where there are no roads,” said Michael Rösler, Director 911 Model line. “Testing our theories means finding the harshest possible environments to see if they work – and on the highest volcano in the world, we succeeded.”
Everything you know about the 992-generation 911 Carrera 4S applies here, as it has the standard 443 horsepower turbocharged flat six. It also features the standard 911 things you’d expect, with the rearward weight bias, wide track and relatively short wheelbase. The things that make the 911 a great sports car also make it a decent starting point for an off-roader. Two cars were built for the excursion, each fitted with a roll cage, carbon seats, and six-point racing harnesses to meet the safety requirements of a bunch of Germans (and a Frenchman) heading into the wilderness of mountainous Chile. Portal axles add height and ground clearance to the car without compromising suspension pickup points or engineering, effectively adding all of the height right at the outer edge of the car, rather than requiring longer suspension arms to be fabricated. The gearbox was fitted with a lower set of ratios to allow the car to crawl along, a bumper winch was added for when the car gets stuck, and underbody protection was added, crafted from Aramid, to prevent damage. Each differential was fitted with manual locking system, the steer-by-wire system was beefed up, and obviously a set of large off-road wheels and tires were bolted on.
“Over 30 years ago, a team of Porsche engineers fitted four wheel drive to a 911 to explore ‘what if?’ – and I’m proud that this natural curiosity and drive amongst engineers to explore the limits, to test new ideas and above all to inspire, is alive and well,” said Frank-Steffen Walliser, , Vice-President, Complete Vehicle Architecture and Characteristics at Porsche AG. “Projects like this one are vital to who we are at Porsche. As they began their journey, the team literally aimed sky high. The first of what I hope will be many adventures.”
It isn’t yet known what Porsche is planning for the street-legal version of the car, but we can only hope that it will come with all of these awesome factory fitment pieces. And we can only hope for a reprisal of Porsche’s efforts at Dakar in the coming years, efforts which saw the sports car company win the famed rally twice in the mid-1980s.