Porsche's Wild Portal-Axle 911 Gets Really, Really High

Having nearly 14 inches of ground clearance certainly helps.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
2 min read
Modified Porsche 911 climbing a volcano
Enlarge Image
Modified Porsche 911 climbing a volcano

If you could pick any vehicle to climb a 20,000-foot volcano, it probably wouldn't be a Porsche 911. Or would it?


A 19,708-foot Chilean volcano is certainly an interesting place to put a sports car. But the wild minds at Porsche made it happen, albeit with a whole host of modifications that somehow makes the 911 more badass than it normally is.

Porsche has converted a pair of its 911 Carrera 4S coupes into volcano-traversing adventure machines -- in part to test its hallowed sports car in some of the most extreme conditions known to man. And these conditions are definitely extreme: When climbing Chile's Ojos del Salado, temperatures can drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius, and there's only about half the oxygen in the air as ground level. Rocks, ice, snow, it's all there, and it needs to be traversed.

Sending unmodified 911s up there probably wouldn't end very well, so Porsche's engineers worked with Romain Dumas Motorsports to prepare the two cars for the rigors of the adventure. Their interiors were fitted with roll cages, carbon fiber seats and harnesses. Under the bodies, Porsche installed portal axles, a type of off-road suspension that tucks the axles as high up in the body as possible, well above the wheel's centerline. It also boosted ground clearance to nearly 14 inches.

This Portal-Axle Porsche 911 Is Basically a Moon Buggy

See all photos

But wait, there's more. The cars feature lower gear ratios for better low-speed control, in addition to underbody panels made from aromatic polyamide (Aramid) fibers, which are also found in body armor fabric and marine hulls. The bodies were also massaged to make room for the portal axles and the chunky off-road tires that wrap around the cars' wheels. Cooling systems were moved out of harm's way, manual differential locks were installed and there's even a device that Porsche calls the Warp-Connecter, a motorsport-born creation that helps even the load between the wheels to improve traction.

And it worked! Romain Dumas, a racing driver who is no stranger to doing wild things in Porsche's cars, traversed Ojos del Salado with a team of engineers. They didn't quite make it to the top, as they encountered truly impassable walls of ice and snow, but the team managed to reach heights that very few cars ever do.

If you're wondering how this could even remotely translate to Porsche's road cars, there's an answer. The automaker is allegedly working on an off-road-friendly 911, although it's unlikely to use something as extreme as portal axles. But the idea of a dirt-hungry supercar isn't exactly pie-in-the-sky thinking -- Lamborghini might have one on the way, too.