Which 911 Dakar is the best?
The highly-anticipated 911 Dakar finally made its debut, and we're both joyful and sad.
We're happy because it's everything we hoped for. The 2023 Dakar is powered by the turbocharged flat-six engine found in the Carrera GTS, mated to an eight-speed PDK transmission. Power is delivered to an all-wheel-drive system, and Porsche went through the trouble of designing new driving modes and launch control for loose surfaces. On the downside, it will be a limited-production car and not part of the 911 range. This immediately increases the value of the Dakar, which means the owners will be less inclined to drive them sideways down a soggy gravel road.
Still, we digress. The 911 Dakar has no rival until Lamborghini officially launches the Huracan Sterrato. Lambo rained on Porsche's parade a bit by unveiling the official images a bit early, but the car itself will only be officially revealed at the end of the month.
So there was only one natural competitor left. The actual 1984 911 RS/SC (code name 953) that competed in and won the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Classic 911s will always look better than their modern counterparts. We understand why the 911 had to grow over the years, and there's no denying that the best 911 is the latest 911, but when it comes to style, the early cars have it nailed.
It's a bit difficult to see the difference with the livery, which is why we also include the standard cars in the image block below. Just look at how dainty the 911 used to be. And even though it was small, it flawlessly communicated its intentions with those wide hips.
As for the livery, the new 2023 Dakar's optional livery is silly. While we understand why Porsche couldn't use the famous Rothman's livery, the "Roughroads" replacement is awkward at best. Porsche should have left that space blank so customers could replicate the livery accurately on their own dime.
The 2023 Dakar has a lovely interior laden with luxury features. Over and above the standard 911's goodies, it comes with full bucket seats wrapped in model-specific Race-Tex upholstery and even has a 12-volt socket on the roof for the LED lights in the roof basket.
It also has a touchscreen interface with Apple CarPlay, climate control, and the famous analog tach in the middle of the split digital instrument cluster. Who says you can't rally in comfort?
The classic rally car has a steering wheel, shifter, two bucket seats, four-point harnesses, a 40-gallon fuel tank behind the occupants, and a roll cage. Even the manual windows were removed and replaced with tiny sliding windows, as illustrated by Walter Rohrl and his beautiful sweater in the image below.
Care to guess who wins this battle?
Earlier, we mentioned that the best 911 is always the current 911. The 2023 Dakar's output figures perfectly demonstrate this. Porsche borrowed the engine from the sublime 911 Carrera GTS, and its twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six produces 473 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Dakar will reach 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and is limited to 150 mph because that is the most the all-terrain tires can cope with.
Porsche never bothered testing the 0-60 mph time of the 953 because why would they? When competing in the Paris-Dakar Rally, 0-60 mph doesn't matter. Maintaining speed matters, and the 953 was obviously good at that.
The standard 3.2 liter Boxer air-cooled naturally aspirated flat-six produced 255 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The engine in the 953 was not standard, however. Because Porsche could not guarantee high-quality fuel while racing through Africa, it had to reduce engine compression.
One of these cars won the Paris-Dakar Rally, and the other is simply an homage. The modern Dakar may have 7.5 inches of ground clearance, all-wheel-drive, Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tires with reinforced sidewalls, but just look at the two cars side-by-side.
The 953 makes the 2023 Dakar look... cute. Once again, Porsche never provided figures for the rally car, but we know it was heavily modified. It had dual shock absorbers, rugged engine mounts, and Kevlar plates to protect its belly. Several components were also made from carbon fiber, including the fenders, trunk lid, and spoilers.
The rally car did not have an AWD system. It had a full-fat manually-adjustable 4WD system. The drivers could race in RWD in certain places, as the weight of the rear-mounted engine provided more than enough grip.
Here's another interesting tidbit for you. Porsche obviously put a 4WD system in the 953 to win the rally, but also to develop the AWD system that would eventually feature in the iconic 959.
Porsche will only make 2,500 911 Dakars. When it was launched, there were still some left. It has now been out for a few days, and we can almost guarantee they're all sold out. For the record, it costs $220,000. If you want to buy an excellent example from a flipper, expect to pay at least double that.
The winning 953 belongs to Porsche. It sits proudly in its famous museum and serves as a reminder that Porsche tends to dominate every motorsport it chooses to enter. Let's hope the same is true when it comes to Formula 1.
We'd have both. One to use as a daily because the 2023 911 Dakar is bound to be the most comfortable model in the current 911 range. And the 953 for the weekends, when you just feel like going sideways until all of the week's stress simply falls away. Either way, it's a moot point: both are practically unattainable.