Which is the best off-road supercar?
We've been waiting decades for Porsche to bring back the concept of a 911 Dakar, and within the same month it's revealed, we get not just one, but a second off-road supercar in the form of the Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato. What a time to be alive!
Before we compare these two cars, it's perhaps best to answer a pertinent question. Why do they exist? Also, how did Porsche and Lamborghini come up with the same answer to a question nobody asked?
There's a longer answer to this question, and we'll dedicate an entire opinion piece to it, but for now, let's just say that these cars are more practical in the real world than the cars they're based on. If anyone ever told you that you could daily a Huracan, they were lying. It's an aggressive car that doesn't like sitting in traffic, and it's difficult to see out of. The Porsche 911 is a much better daily car, but even it has its limitations. Lift them a little, and suddenly they become usable-no more worrying about imperfections in the road, potholes, or steep driveways. Adding a bit of lift gives you complete peace of mind.
So, here we are, staring out the window, looking for a suitable metaphor or simile to explain why these cars look so cool. You know, other than merely existing. Just look at them. A collection of Hot Wheels on the window sill led to a stunning realization. These cars are real-life Hot Wheels in the sense that they combine two things that should not go together.
Famous examples include RocketFire, Road Runner, Dragon Blaster, Rodger Dodger, and the Roller Toaster. A lifted supercar (or sports car in the case of the Porsche) should not exist. That's why these companies also build performance SUVs, and yet the formula works because all car lovers are a little bit childish at heart.
As for which one looks best, we have to give the nod to Lamborghini. The 911 Dakar looks sensational, but it's not quite radical enough in this company. Leave it on the street, and most people will think it's just another 911.
The Lamborghini has the upper hand going into this battle because it's based on a rare piece of exotica. It then adds a lift, some angry nostril-like LED spotlights (optional), a sizeable air intake on the roof, and more black body cladding than your average entry-level workhorse truck.
Both manufacturers have extensive customization programs, but Lamborghini comes out on top by offering more zany options. We built a purple Sterrato with bronze wheels and blue brake calipers without diving too deep into the configurator.
Both can be specced with roof racks and baskets galore, and the Porsche even lets you spec a knock-off Rothmans livery inspired by the one worn by the original 911 race that won the Paris-Dakar Rallye.
The 911 Dakar ditches the rear seats and adds a 12-volt socket on the roof if you want to mount some LEDs. It comes with bucket seats as standard, but the rest is standard Porsche. That's not disguised criticism but rather the opposite. The current 911's interior is pretty special, albeit slightly clinical.
Lamborghini leans in the other direction. There's some sensible Audi-ness in there, but mostly it's the same Huracan interior we know and love, plus new graphics for the new Rally Mode and an inclinometer, geographic coordinate indicator, and a steering angle indicator within the instrument cluster.
We love both interiors, but we're inclined to lean in Lamborghini's direction. The fighter pilot interior theme may be aging, and a little immature, but few things in life are as satisfying as flicking that starter button cover up to wake the beast mounted right behind you.
For the 911 Dakar, Porsche borrowed the engine from the 911 GTS, launched last year. It's the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six, but in GTS guise, it produces 473 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Lamborghini is equipped with one of the all-time greats. That sonorous 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 produces 602 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. So guess which car is the quickest...
Nope, it's the Porsche. The 911 Dakar gets from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds. The Sterrato does the same in 3.4 seconds. The Lamborghini is faster, however. Both vehicles are limited because of their tires, but Porsche limits the Dakar to 150 mph, and the Lambo can go 10 mph faster.
These figures are meaningless, however. The other reason we love these cars so much is because they have the potential to be fun at relatively slow speeds. The same can't be said of their road-biased brothers. Let's ask a simple question to illustrate the point. What scenario sounds more fun; doing 120 mph on a dead straight highway with a cop lurking around the next bend or going sideways around a corner on a gravel road at 40 mph with the engine screaming at 7,500 rpm?
Because the engines are so dissimilar, they'll be epic in different settings. The Sterrato's high-revving NA V10 should be lovely on a wide, nicely kept-gravel road. The Porsche's forced induction will help it along at higher altitudes, where these cars will likely be found.
We can totally see a 911 Dakar owner strapping a pair of skis to the roof and heading up to Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Practically speaking, we can see owners of these cars using them in cold-weather states to go skiing, and that's pretty much it. While both are lifted, they're also extremely limited by long overhangs and poor approach, breakover, and departure angles.
But that's practically speaking, and let's not kid ourselves. We can sum these cars up in a single famous Doc Brown quote: "Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads!" Lamborghini perfectly illustrated the point in a video of the Sterrato going up against the track-biased Huracan STO at the Nurburgring.
Both cars have a Rally mode, which might as well say, "push this button to go full send sideways." We haven't driven these cars yet, but Porsche may have the upper hand, given its long history of rallying and building off-roaders. But then again, the Urus is pretty impressive on the rough stuff, so it's safe to assume the Huracan will be too.
It's impossible to choose, so we'll cop out and say we need both. The Porsche has the whole heritage thing going on, and it's bound to be easier to live with, but then you look at the Lamborghini and its silly exterior and think of that screaming V10...
Luckily, few will have to make a choice. Porsche is only producing 2,500 911 Dakars, each retailing for $220,000. It was announced last week, so there's a 100% chance all of them are already spoken for. Only 1,499 Sterratos will be made. Lamborghini did not reveal pricing, but if you have to ask how much a Lamborghini costs, you're probably not the target market.
We can only hope that these two limited edition cars are successful enough to convince their makers that they need to be a permanent part of the range, not just a special edition that comes along only once in a lifecycle.