Ultimate Off-Roader: Porsche 911 tackles the world's tallest volcano

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  • A pair of Porsche 911s were modified to take on extreme conditions on the world’s tallest volcano
  • The cars used their stock engines but received numerous suspension and body modifications
  • We’re not sure why they did it, but perhaps some off-road racing is in the automaker’s future again

Performance drivers often talk about taking a Porsche 911 to its limits, but this isn’t generally what they mean. A team has taken a pair of them to the world’s highest volcano to see exactly what they can do.

The experimental 911s were driven on the slopes of Ojos del Salado in Chile, going as high as 6,007 metres (19,708 feet) on a trek that included gradients strewn with boulders, and ice fields where the temperature was -30 degrees Celsius. At that height, the air contains only half as much available oxygen as it does at sea level.

The team was led by endurance racer Romain Dumas, while the cars were modified under the guidance of Michael Rösler, Porsche’s chief engineer for the 911. “The 911 has already been proven on the track and, of course, on the road,” Rösler said. “With this project, we’re shifting the focus to where there are no roads. Testing our theories means finding the harshest possible environments to see if they work, and on the highest volcano in the world, we succeeded.”

Working with Romain Dumas Motorsport, the Porsche engineers used a 911 Carrera 4S, factory-equipped with a turbocharged flat-six engine and seven-speed manual transmission, which was modified with lower gear ratios. The cars were equipped with roll cages and carbon-fibre seats. Ground clearance was increased to 350 mm (13.7 inches) and the cars received underbody protection and off-road tires, after the bodywork was revised to accommodate them.

The cars also received something with the fabulous name of Porsche Warp-Connector, a device originally designed for motorsports. It forms a mechanical link between the four wheels, providing wheel load under extreme articulation for traction. Other modifications included manual differential locks, revised cooling system, and front-mounted winches.

Porsche apparently isn’t planning to put a 911 4×4 into production – though there are rumours a Safari-esque lifted version is in the works – and the automaker is tight-lipped about exactly why its low-slung sports car was sent up a volcano, but Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche’s VP of vehicle architecture, referenced the four-wheel-drive 911 that won the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1984. “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. Projects like this one are vital to who we are at Porsche…the first of what I hope will be many adventures.”

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