Porsche 911 Dakar first drive

Porsche 911 Dakar first drive

It does the same sort of thing in Off-Road mode, but at a far lower threshold, presuming that you’ve made that selection because you want to actually make progress rather than go stupidly sideways.

So far, so very good. But it’s when you see a mountain of sand rising up before you that this 911 becomes something else again. Think about the assets: a kerb weight half a tonne lighter than many off-roaders and a full tonne lighter than some. A belly-crawling centre of gravity compared with all of them, a power-to-weight ratio they could scarcely imagine and a set of tyres designed specifically for the car and the job. All it asks of you is that you commit.

Out here, more than in any other environment you may encounter, momentum is all. So don’t be shy. Don’t tentatively aim it up that treacherous hill of constantly shifting sand but gather as much speed as you can, trust that the car can take it and hurl at the wall. Select manual mode, keep your foot in and, if that means the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six spends some time bouncing off its limiter, sand spraying in every direction and dimension, let it get on with it.

If you have to traverse a dune (usually something done with extreme caution in SUVs through fear of tumbling side over side to land in a wrecked heap at the bottom), just get on with it. Your nerve will run out long before you reach the Dakar’s tipping point.

Drawbacks? It’s harder to see over stuff, because you’re that much closer to the ground. That’s it.

It’s a shame, then, that next to no Dakars sold outside Africa and the Middle East will ever be used for the purpose for which they were designed. And initially that made me think it of it as nothing more than a frivolous toy. But then I thought again. I thought of a Dakar stripped of its livery, in a dark, sober colour. One with summer or winter tyres rather than off-road rubber that for almost all will have more drawbacks than advantages.

I thought of people who live down the end of steep, muddy tracks, who get cut off by snow, who enjoy winter sports and many other pursuits for which specialist equipment is usually needed. And then I saw it in a different light: that of the world’s most versatile version of what has always been the world’s most usable sports car. And having come close to dismissing it as a plaything, I realised that it actually brings an entire new dimension to owning a 911. It’s just that, contrary to appearances, it has nothing to do with sand, gravel or the Dakar Rally.

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