A Porsche 911 Carrera 4S drove to nearly 20,000 feet through ice, boulders, and snow.
It's no secret Porsche is working on an off-road 911, but the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S you see here is an entirely different kind of off-roader. It recently battled through some of the most hellish conditions on the planet - the slopes of Ojos del Salado, the tallest volcano in the world that sits in the Andes on the Argentina-Chile border.
The team, led by Romain Dumas, drove the extensively modified 911 up the volcano to an altitude of 19,708 feet. Conditions were ruthless, with temperatures dropping to -22F in some situations and almost half the oxygen available at sea level in the air.
"I guess the only machines anywhere in the world higher than us today were aircraft!" Dumas exclaimed. While the team's summit was prevented by ice and snow, Dumas says he's incredibly proud of both the car and the team.
"It's been magical to build a 911 like the world has never seen before - made possible by a small team of engineering enthusiasts," said the chief engineer for the Porsche 911, Michael Rosler. Porsche brought two 911s on the trip, but as far as we can tell, only one was brought as high as possible up the volcano face.
Both maintained power levels, producing 442 horsepower from a turbo flat-six engine paired with the brand's seven-speed manual transmission. But the engine is just about all that's stock on these cars.
Porsche says each car, built in collaboration with Romain Dumas Motorsport, received roll cages, new carbon fiber bucket seats, and harnesses to keep their drivers safe. These 911s now dwarf the upcoming Dakar with 13.68 inches of ground clearance thanks to massive tires and portal axles. Those tires, by the way, measure a whole foot wide.
Porsche gave us some other great details on the setup. The primary car had huge 305/70R16 meats, with the second car wearing 305/70R16 tires at the rear and 285/75R16 out front.
Porsche has also modified the transmission in each car. Lower gear ratios help make the 911 ideal for rock-crawling and off-roading, though the gearing also limits top speed to roughly 62 mph. Aramid fiber underbody protection was fitted to both vehicles.
Porsche also fitted something it calls the Warp-Connector. Initially built for the brand's motorsports efforts, the device "forms a mechanical link between all four wheels to allow constant wheel load even when the chassis is enduring extreme articulation."
That, combined with manual, switchable differential locks with a steer-by-wire system, ensured maximum precision and traction on the volcano's face. The front diffs are freewheel differentials that can be locked electronically. In the back, an electro-hydraulic locking diff was adopted from the 911 GT3 with a disc clutch from a 911 Carrera 4 was placed in the longitudinal shaft.
When the pair of cars did get stuck, Porsche added an electric winch to the modified front fascia to ensure the off-road 911s got unstuck. The bodywork was mainly modified to accommodate the massive wheels.
As a final touch, the cooling systems of each car were totally overhauled and moved further upward- clear of any wayward rocks or snow drifts that could cause problems.
On the subject of bodywork, each car got a distinct livery. One featured the same color palette as the 963 LMDh race car, and another was designed specifically for these cars by the brand's design team in Weissach.
"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 Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, VP, Complete Vehicle Architecture and Characteristics.