According to Rohrl, inexperienced drivers can drift the Dakar safely.
Only the harshest of Porsche skeptics would need convincing that the new 911 Dakar is worth its salt as an off-road supercar, so if you were in any doubt, two-time world rally champion Walter Rohrl got behind the wheel to see what this dirt-loving 911 can do.
In the three-minute video, the 75-year-old legend and Porsche ambassador talks about various aspects of the Porsche's performance and also reminds us that he still has the reflexes of someone far younger than his years would suggest.
Revealed in November last year with a 473-horsepower twin-turbo flat-six, an increased ride height, some striking racing liveries, and two special driving modes - Rallye and Off-Road - it was immediately clear that this was no ordinary 911. Special enough, in fact, for Rohrl to start off the video by admitting it's a car that easily brings a smile to his face.
Although he says the 911 Dakar is one of the craziest projects the brand has embarked on alongside the Cayenne, he also expected it to come out sooner - that's no surprise since he drove the first prototype, the 911 Vision Safari, in Weissach around eight years ago.
Alternating between sand dunes, gravel roads, and snow, Rohrl was blown away by the 911 Dakar's multi-surface capabilities. "I have seen so many models, but this one is the most crazy," said the man who once set a Pikes Peak record in an Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2. "I was immediately enthusiastic when I was driving on snow and ice, and it was a lot of fun."
Rohrl referenced Porsche's rally experience and success with the 911 Safari as critical to the Dakar's abilities, with the lessons learned over the years manifesting in what may be the most widely capable 911 ever. "The traction is fantastic, the handling is fantastic, [and] if you are on a gravel road or snow road, the Rallye mode is the right one," he said.
When asked if this mode can stand up to a two-time world champ, Rohrl said, "In principle, yes. First of all, because the AWD is tail-heavier in the Rallye mode, which prevents understeering and allows me to keep the car in a light drift. And second, releasing the accelerator leads to relatively strong engine braking at the rear axle. The car can therefore turn slightly into the bend, which can be quite helpful for an inexperienced driver if they want to drift."
Rallye mode can be selected via a rotary switch on the steering wheel. There is also a Rallye Launch Control function that ensures quick getaways even on loose surfaces with wheel slippage of about 20%.
In an interesting exchange between Porsche and Rohrl, the experienced driver was asked why he had never competed in the Paris-Dakar Rally himself. In this event, the 911 emerged victorious in the 1980s. "Because I see it more as an adventure with a high element of uncertainly - that's not for me," explained Rohrl.
"When [the drivers] reach the top of the dune, they don't know if it drops 30 centimeters or eight meters on the other side. I've never done anything like that in my life. In the 1990s, I was offered as much money as I'd get for an entire world championship season to participate in the Paris-Dakar Rally. I told them they could offer me ten times as much, and I'd still say no."
Rohrl also said that the East African Safari in Kenya had all kinds of unpredictable obstacles like river crossings and mud holes, much like Dakar, and that this was not his cup of tea.
It's fascinating to hear that a driver with the skill level of Rohrl still has his own limits in competition, as this wasn't evident at his peak. But that hasn't quelled his desire to enjoy cars like the 911 Dakar. In fact, his 73-year-old wife pointed to the 911 Dakar's extra height as reason enough to get one, making it easier to get into and out of.
Rohrl obliged and said he had just configured his own 911 Dakar. "If it's up to me, I'll still be hauling myself out of a Porsche when I'm 80."
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