Off-Road Sports Cars Are the Craziness We Need from Time to Time

Porsche 911 Dakar and Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato arrived almost at the same time. They are a delicious reminder that there is more to cars than generic SUVs

Life often makes us gravitate towards mediocrity. Spending hours in traffic jams, looking for “value packs” when shopping for groceries, the necessity to do cleaning chores regularly… not to mention that there are entire jobs which embody mediocrity. It is like quicksand, from which we must at least try to escape.

When it comes to cars, there is always a mediocre category or two on sale. Models with no verve, usually not even an identity; they were created only to bring consistent sales to their maker. If you are thinking of SUVs right now, I get you. But today, you will have a break from them. And you should thank two cars.

Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato (credit: Philipp Rupprecht)

Off-road supercars

From a technical point of view, there is nothing surprising. Dakar and Sterrato use lifted suspension, black plastic bodywork, off-road tires, widened tracks, and re-tuned dynamic behavior. Lamborghini added rally lights and a roof scoop while Porsche included optional rack and even tent to be installed on the roof.

Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato (credit: Philipp Rupprecht)

We are going to comment more on them in the following paragraphs. For now, the main thing to know is that they are a new type of track toy. They are designed for wealthy drivers who probably already collect luxury and sports models. Off-road sports cars attract them simply because they do not have one yet.

The thing is, we need this. Even if we cannot afford those cars, true car enthusiasts need, at least, to know that companies still build such cars. Cars with character, created with passion. Cars that represent the best their maker can offer. In some cases, like those two, high sales are the natural consequence to expect.

Porsche 911 Dakar (source: Porsche)

Are they good at off-roading?

As much as they have to be. As previously mentioned, these are essentially track toys. They are meant for fast, but still casual driving on a desert or a beach. Giving them real off-road capabilities would demand a higher investment and, to be honest, it would not be worthwhile. Both companies already offer SUVs.

Porsche 911 Dakar (source: Porsche)

Parallel to that, off-road driving has different priorities. You can only focus on aerodynamics and speed on smooth tarmac. When you are driving on sand, gravel, mud, or a combination of those, responsiveness is the priority. Those changes make sure that the Dakar and the Sterrato respond well and keep traction.

Building on what Road & Track commented, these cars focus on their cool factor. They preserve the strong emotions brought by any sports car while adding those that typical off roaders bring. They are surely not rational, but that is the goal: there are too many rational cars. We need to escape from their mediocrity.

1973 Lancia Stratos HF (credit: Constantin Fischer)

Are there many off-road sports cars?

To be honest, not really. The fact that this is not a conventional recipe is a compelling argument against it. Not all automakers have registered record sales and the subsequent cash flow to invest in such a gamble. The Lancia Stratos is one of the best examples we can mention, but it is a rally car adapted to street use.

1981 AMC Eagle SX/4 (source: WheelsAge)

In the following decade, AMC took its chances with the Rebel. However, that was an entire family that had four-wheel drive as standard. Their goal was to combine the capabilities of each body style (sedan, station wagon etc.) with the additional “all-weather security” that comes from having traction on all wheels.

Other than that, we can only resort to particular cases built by exotic companies. The Ariel Nomad is one of those: it is actually a buggy, so it focuses on the “off-road” part. Such rarity renders the 911 Dakar and the Huracán Sterrato even more interesting: they have created a brand new, albeit fleeting, market niche.

Cabin of Porsche 911 Dakar (source: Porsche)

Porsche 911 Dakar

The model features an exclusive suspension that has widened its tracks and lifted the body by two inches. If you want, you can raise it by a third one. Style-wise, it has fender flares and an optional “Rallye Design” package with racing livery. There will be only 2,500 units of the off road Porsche, each one at $223,450.

Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato (credit: Luca Riva)

Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato

The Italian model applies the same ingredients, only in different proportions. There are deeper changes in terms of design, as the black body kit and the extra lights show. However, the suspension received smaller tweaks. The off road Lamborghini will only exist in 1,499 units, which have quickly sold out.

As we have mentioned, it is unlikely that off-road sports cars will become a market niche. What we should keep from the release of those cars is their principle. The more we cherish such ventures, the more the car industry will feel compelled to keep building. And the further we will stay from mediocrity, at least in this.

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