Porsche Built a Safari 911 Concept to Climb Volcanoes

Could this be a revitalization of Porsche's legendary rallying history?

  • Combining company heritage and aftermarket success, Porsche reveals an experimental off-road focused 911, known as the High Altitude 911.
  • Based on a 992-generation Carrera 4S, Porsche's own engineering team worked with Romain Dumas to create the ideal adventure-ready concept, complete with lifted suspension, portal axles, and switchable differential lockers.
  • Porsche put it to the ultimate test, sending two units up to an altitude of 19,708 feet in Ojos del Salado, Chile, on the side of the highest volcano in the world.

    Safari-style Porsches are a thing of dreams for most automotive enthusiasts: a balanced chassis mixed with a powerful flat-six engine, improved ground clearance, and the ability to drive on just about any surface. The aftermarket has taken to building rally-ready versions of classic 911 models in recent years, but it was Porsche itself that inspired these builds with its 20th-century rally pedigree. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer wants to remind you it's more than capable for some modern off-road adventures. On the backs of meticulous engineering and a history of rally wins, the present-day Porsche 911 Carrera 4S High Altitude was born as a concept.

    When Porsche goes on an adventure, it clearly doesn't take the term lightly. The company tested the experimental off-roading High-Altitude 911 by taking it up the largest volcano in the world, located in Ojos del Salado, Chile. At an altitude of 19,708 feet, the testing team was forced to traverse sheets of ice, a bed of volcanic rock, and a lack of oxygen while testing the model in sub-zero temperatures. With Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas behind the wheel, however, it's not a surprise the car made it up in one piece.

    "For the team and the car it was about learning—and right out of the box, the car was tough and nimble," said Dumas, driver of the 911 and leader of the testing team. "No one has seen so much ice and snow up towards the top of the volcano, but despite this we went over 6000 meters up, to the point where the walls of ice and snow meant we could go no further."

    Beyond the wheel skills and navigational prowess of Porsche's testing team, the experimental model's hardware played a significant role in this accomplishment. Based on a 992-generation 911 Carrera 4S, the 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-six drivetrain was left largely stock, with a potent 443 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque fed through a 7-speed manual transmission to all four wheels. Beyond the engine and transmission, nothing was left untouched by the jointly working Porsche's Weissach-based R&D team and Romain Dumas Motorsports group.

    That’s not quite what the interior of a typical Carrera 4S looks like...

    Trying to climb up sheer slopes typically requires a granny gear or two, at minimum. In trying to keep the original 7-speed manual transmission, Porsche fitted lower gear ratios to allow for low-speed crawling and more direct throttle inputs. Knobby, 310-mm off-road tires paired with 350-mm portal axles make even the biggest rock deposits passable, and the special lightweight Aramid fiber underbody protects the important pieces underneath. Given that safety was the utmost priority, the model had a roll cage, as well as carbon-fiber seats and harnesses.

    Kicking up rocks and dirt sideways is one of the main goals of the High Altitude 911.

    The most critical mechanical piece that allowed the car to climb tens of thousands of near-vertical feet is something Porsche calls Porsche Warp-Connecter. Forming a mechanical link between all four wheels, the Warp-Connector allows for each wheel to carry a constant wheel load, even if the car is propped to one side. In true off-road fashion, a series of mechanical differential locks were used in conjunction with a steer-by-wire system to ensure the model wouldn't get stuck. In case it did, however, Porsche fitted a traditional winch to the front of the car. Porsche also moved the cooling system of the car further up, avoiding the kind of adventure-ending damage that a cooling system failure entails.

    Visually, the two units were styled with heritage at heart, though each model has its own story. One follows the history of the 963 LMDh racer, painted in a factory Porsche Motorsports livery, while the other was an all-new 911-themed livery from the R&D team.

    Race car style switches are always appreciated, especially when they’re installed in an overlay of carbon fiber.

    And while consumers won't see these particular models for sale, the exercise in adventure sets a new tone for the Porsche brand. Serious as ever, the High Altitude 911 shows an off-road-focused side we haven't seen for some time. And this change is at the behest of Porsche's executives, signaling this could be a new direction in Porsche's future.

    "Projects like this one are vital to who we are at Porsche," said Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, vice president of complete vehicle architecture and characteristics at Porsche AG. "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."

    Do you think there's a future for a production version of the Porsche High Altitude 911, if it were to move beyond concept stage? Please comment below.

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