Supercar manufacturer Marc Philipp Gemballa explored a little-known part of Porsche's heritage to turn the 911 into an off-roader called Marsien. It's powered by a RUF-tuned flat-six engine, and it's on its way to limited production.
Gemballa spent over two years figuring out how to make the latest, 992-generation 911 off-road-worthy. His dream wasn't unprecedented; Porsche entered the 911 in several rally events during the 1980s, and its 959 (one of the most influential supercars of the decade) earned a one-two finish at the 1986 edition of the grueling Paris-Dakar.
Fast-forward to 2021, and the Marsien is an entirely different beast. It's visibly based on the 911 Turbo S, but nearly every body panel was redesigned by the Gemballa team. The most obvious change is out back, where the coupe wears a 959-like wing that flows from the quarter panels. The front bumper gains a splitter with flaps, the wheel arches are vented and wider than the ones on the production car, and the door mirrors are new-look rectangular units. All exterior components (including the body panels) are made with carbon fiber to keep weight in check.
RUF, the German tuner who built the old and new versions of the famed Yellow Bird, handled the engine. Power comes from a flat-six that's twin-turbocharged to develop between 750 and 830 horsepower (depending on how each buyer configures it) and up to 686 pound-feet of torque. For context, the stock Turbo S offers 640 and 590, respectively. It exhales through a custom Akrapovič exhaust system, and it sends the Marsien from zero to 62 mph in 2.6 seconds. Keep your foot down, and the six won't stop going until the speedometer displays 205 mph.
Note those figures are only valid when road tires are installed, which might not always be the case. Fit for off-road excursions, the Marsien offers up to 9.8 inches of ground clearance with its adjustable suspension system pumped all the way up; that's over an inch more than a Subaru Crosstrek. Alternatively, dialing it down (to explore the speedometer's upper echelons on the autobahn, for example) lowers ground clearance to 4.7 inches.
The driver can choose from the standard Porsche driving modes, which have never lacked variety, and a host of new additions to the menu called gravel, mud, sand, and snow. Regardless of which terrain you're on, the underpinnings are protected by a solid aluminum skid plate that covers the car's full underbody. And, for more hardcore off-roading, Gemballa offers an off-road package with a fixed ride height and additional ground clearance.
Photos of the interior haven't been released yet. We're told the cabin features either leather or Alcantara upholstery, a lifted center console made with carbon fiber and inspired by the Carrera GT's, and a numbered metal plaque. As is normally the case with high-end cars, buyers with deep enough pockets can customize nearly every interior part.
Gemballa notes it put the Marsien through extensive tests in the Al Faya desert in the United Arab Emirates. One of the car's target markets is the Middle East, but it's also expected to be road-legal in Europe and in America.
Pricing for the Marsien starts at 495,000 euros, a sum that represents about $585,100 at the current conversion rate. On top of that, buyers will need to add miscellaneous taxes and duties, shipping, options, and the cost of a donor Porsche 911 Turbo S, which carries a base price of $207,000 in America. In other words, it's not cheap. And yet, Gemballa notes that demand has been shockingly high. Production is limited to 40 cars, including 10 launch edition models, and over half of the available build slots have already been spoken for. Production will start later in 2021.
What about Porsche?
Gemballa's Marsien is completely wild; it's wildly powerful and wildly expensive. And yet, it's a concept that works surprisingly well, at least on paper, and the 911's untapped off-road potential isn't lost on Porsche. While absolutely nothing is official, there's no shortage of rumors, reports, anonymous tips, and intriguing spy shots suggesting that some sort of Paris-Dakar-inspired 911 variant is secretly being developed in Stuttgart, Germany.
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