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2024 Porsche 911 Dakar Review: A Most Surreal Test Drive

2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange
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Daniel Rufiange
A Porsche 911 with an off-road driving mode is surreal in itself

•    Auto123 reviews the 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar.

I've been test-driving at least one vehicle every week for almost 17 years now. Add to that all the new product launches I've attended. By rough calculation, I've been behind the wheel of over 1,300 vehicles of all types over that time. 

Every year, some of them are a highlight, for all sorts of reasons. Striking, even surreal. 

That's exactly the feeling I had when I drove the 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar. 

And don't think it's just because it's a Porsche, and a 911 at that. I get something out of driving any model that's different, unique or full of character. I’ve had memorable test drives of a Nissan Micra, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, smart car, Aston Martin Vantage V8, Ford Super Duty twin-axle pickup… even a Mercedes Sprinter. 

And as 2023 draws to a close, I add the Porsche 911 Dakar to the list.

The all-new 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
The all-new 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange

For driving and racing enthusiasts, the name Dakar evokes a specific event: the Paris-Dakar Rally, held since 1979. The place where it’s held has often changed, not least for safety reasons. That's why today we simply refer to it as the Dakar Rally. 

Here’s what you need to know about this event: it is extremely demanding on both human and machine. Also, a machine is just a machine and can be replace. Human lives is another matter: over the years, 78 lives have been lost in connection with the event, including 32 participants. 

The race is historic. Among the models that have earned top honours is a Porsche, the 911 Carrera 3.2 4x4 Paris-Dakar. Modified to be able to withstand the rigours of this tough endurance race, the car won the event in 1984.

This is the car Porsche paid tribute to with a new special edition presented at the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show. The vehicle's code name, 953, was clearly visible on its doors. 

At Porsche, respect for history plays a key role. It doesn’t take an expert to recognize the similarities in style between a 2024 911 and a 1964 edition. We also regularly get models paying tribute to the brand's rich past. The 2024 911 Dakar does just that. 

Exterior design of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
Exterior design of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange

The modifications
A first glance makes clear this new variant is taller on its feet, due to a chassis adjustment that raises it by 50 mm compared to the regular version. Better still, its specially adapted suspension can be raised by another 30 mm when the Off-Road mode is activated, to provide the necessary clearance.

It’s also evident that Porsche has dipped into its toolbox to concoct it. The hood and rear spoiler, made of carbon-reinforced plastic, were borrowed from the 911 GT3, no less. It was essential that this 911 Dakar not be any heavier than necessary. Even the side windows and windscreen are made of lighter glass. At 1,605 kg, the Dakar is only 10 kg heavier than the 911 Carrera 4 GTS.

The Dakar’s 3.0L turbocharged 6-cylinder engine comes from that 911 Carrera 4 GTS. Its performance is the same at 473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, and the fruits of its labour are relayed to all four wheels via Porsche's 8-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) transmission. 

What's new are the engine mounts, stiffened in anticipation of more aggressive use of the model by owners. 

2024 Porsche 911 Dakar grey
2024 Porsche 911 Dakar grey | Photo: D.Rufiange

Note also that this version is fitted with tires that are wider at the rear (295/40) than at the front (245/45). This is standard throughout the 911 range. This Dakar comes standard with all-terrain tires, but if you're not planning to leave paved roads, summer rubber is available. Because we tested the model in December, we were riding on winter tires. In all three cases, the tires feature reinforced sidewalls, ideal for off-road driving... and weathered Canadian roads. 

The specific colours of the 911 Dakar
You can go the more traditional route with white or black, at no extra charge. For $3,730, Porsche offers Shaded Green Metallic, Shark Blue or Ice Grey Metallic. GT Silver Metallic is available free of charge, as is the Rallye Design package, which takes the two-tone approach of that 1984 winning car. You can even choose the number (one to three digits) to be affixed to the sides. 

There’s more, because of course there’s more. For $16,830, you can go with a pre-selected colour; I counted 118 on the Porsche Canada website. You can even provide your sample and, if technically feasible, Porsche will serve up your 911 Dakar in YOUR colour. Add eight months for delivery and $42,420 to the cost for that. 

Did someone mention cost? Yes we did, for the sake of formality. But for most Porsche buyers, and especially for those who want this variant, cost is secondary. Still, for the record: In its basic configuration, the 911 Dakar is priced at $247,200 CAD. Our test model was priced at $280,910 CAD, including fees but before taxes. It takes very little effort to reach the $350,000 CAD mark by ticking off a few more options. 

Yes, it's very expensive, but you have to pay for exclusivity of this kind. 

Interior of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
Interior of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange

Inside the 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar

Where the 911 Dakar changes least compared to other 911s is inside. We get the same layout as the range’s other models, with a few exceptions. There's a serialized plaque on the dashboard, indicating the model's place (1,251 out of 2,500) in the production chain of this exclusive model reserved for the 2023 and 2024 model-years.

There's also a fire extinguisher under the front passenger seat, a $210 option that reminds us we're in a different kind of 911. There's also an analog tachometer right in front of us. 

Steering wheel of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
Steering wheel of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange

What really catches the eye on the road, however, is the steering wheel-mounted drive mode dial. In addition to the usual settings (Rain, Normal, Sport), it offers Rally and Off-Road parameters, which enhances the suspension. 

The Rally mode takes Sport mode, which sharpens the suspension, revs up the engine and makes the gas pedal more responsive, but has the revs rise to a higher notch, which is important when you’re driving in sand. Rally mode also sends most of the torque to the rear wheels - a real joy! The gears also follow one another at lightning speed, and when downshifting, we're treated to a backfire that has a direct effect on body hair. 

Finally, a word about the seats. To maximize performance, the standard carbon-fibre bucket seats are lighter, but stiffer and not necessarily more comfortable for long rides. Fortunately, our tester came with the more welcoming sport seats, offered as a no-cost option. In the rear, Porsche simply removed the seats.

2024 Porsche 911 Dakar, profile
2024 Porsche 911 Dakar, profile | Photo: D.Rufiange

Driving the 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar

You can guess that this 911 is a real treat to drive. Our test drive followed a winter storm that left a number of roads snow-covered, so we were able to see for ourselves what this model was made of... and have some fun in the process. 

Balance is at the forefront, but you have to be careful with this version which, despite its obvious agility, can't keep up with the other 911s in the range in certain circumstances. Above all, choose the right driving mode at the right time. Acceleration is lightning-fast, and doubly so with Launch Control. The symphony is exponentially more intoxicating as you turn the driving mode dial.

In gentle driving, the almost farm-machine-like sound of this 911 is surprisingly seductive. Ironic coming from a brand that once made farm tractors, it should be remembered. 

All in all, a surreal experience.

Testing of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
Testing of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange

The final word
This isn't the first time Porsche has paid tribute to its past with a commemorative model. What's noteworthy here is that more than mere aesthetic trappings have been used to nod to the past. The 911 Dakar is a worthy heir, designed to achieve the same feats as its legendary ancestor. 

We can only hope that some owners will take advantage of this model's performance, robustness and endurance; it would be a crime not to, especially after having paid a small fortune for it.

Strong points

  • Incredible versatility
  • Rear steerable wheels
  • Stunning performance
  • The feeling of driving a unique model
  • Limited edition of 2,500 units (added resale value)

Weak points

  • Limited edition of 2500 units (availability more difficult)
  • In normal mode, the transmission is brusque on some starts.
  • Yes, it's expensive
Front of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar
Front of 2024 Porsche 911 Dakar | Photo: D.Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists