Rally-spec supercars have existed previously, albeit as a niche subset of racing cars, designed to dominate races like The Dakar Rally, as Porsche did in 1984 with its adapted 911. These cars look similar to their road-going siblings but come equipped with four-wheel-drive, robust suspension, reinforced underpinnings and chunky off-road tyres to survive being raced thousands of miles across harsh terrain and unforgiving conditions. While these qualities are seldom required for everyday driving, increasing numbers of manufacturers are nevertheless creating mutant “Mad Max” versions of their bestselling sports cars for private owners.

“Owners don’t want to worry so much about potholes, verges, kerbs, speedbumps and punctures – essentially it comes down to useability,” says Henry Siebert-Saunders, managing director of Somerset-based sports car maker Ariel Motor Company. “Things like Lamborghinis, Paganis and Ferraris can be used in fairly limited scenarios – the off-road supercar increases useability and reduces ‘supercar-worry’.”

Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, from £243,000
Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, from £243,000

The practicality factor is undeniable, with Lamborghini’s Huracán Sterrato and Porsche’s 911 Dakar both a dream to drive on badly maintained roads that are fast becoming an everyday hazard. But there’s also the fun factor. With their odd, raised stance and comical, chunky tyres, they invoke a childish curiosity in onlookers. Drive any of the current crop through a populated area and heads will turn.

Based in Somerset, Ariel was one of the first companies to explore the idea of a go-anywhere sports car when it launched the Nomad in 2015 as a more rugged sibling to its track-focused Atom. “We imagined a mix between an Atom and Land Rover Defender – something that’s fun on the road and could handle the rough and tumble of having rocks and mud thrown at it,” says Siebert-Saunders. With prices starting at £45,000 on the road, the Nomad has up to 300bhp from a 2.4-litre supercharged Honda engine and can be equipped with optional winches, spotlights and reinforcement panels for added hardiness.

Ariel Nomad, £55,000
Ariel Nomad, £55,000

Lamborghini and Porsche both entered the fray with the Huracán Sterrato and 911 Dakar respectively in 2023. As expected – particularly given it is said to be Lamborghini’s last fully combustion-engined car – the Sterrato is as bonkers on (and off) the road as it looks. It comes complete with all the gear, including spotlights mounted into its nose, chunky cladding over wheel arches that house hefty off-road tyres, a roof-mounted luggage rack and a snorkel to feed air into its 5.2-litre V10 engine at the rear. With a £243,000 price tag, the Sterrato is nearly £20,000 more than the current Huracán Tecnica model. 

Video description

Driving the Porsche 911 Dakar in Morocco

The Porsche 911 Dakar in Morocco © Porsche

The Dakar 911, meanwhile, takes its name from Porsche’s outright victory in the 1984 race, which saw its heavily modified 911 take on 7,500 gruelling miles between Paris and Dakar in Senegal. It is based on the latest version of the 911 Carrera 4 GTS and starts from £173,000. However, because the list of optional extras includes everything from carbon-fibre trim and a roof-mounted tent to additional lightbars and even a Porsche-branded folding spade to dig your way out of trouble, the Dakar’s price can rapidly rise to above the £200,000 mark. Complete with chunky styling, knobbly tyres and raised and rugged suspension, it is a more refined, restrained and practical version of its like-minded Lamborghini cousin.

Morgan Plus Four CX-T
Morgan Plus Four CX-T © Morgan Motor Company

For those looking for something classic and with a bit more character – not to mention a more accessible price – outfits like Estonian company Kalmar Beyond Adventure offer adventure-ready versions of classic Porsche 911s. Customised and capable of taking on everything from the sands of the Sahara to snow drifts in the frozen Arctic, Kalmar’s RS-6 conversions start from the €45,000 mark. While that excludes the cost of a reasonably priced early-2000s 911 donor car and tax, it’s still a significant saving on the modern equivalent.

Kalmar RS-6, conversion, from €45,000
Kalmar RS-6, conversion, from €45,000 © Kalmar Beyond Adventure

Over the years, supercar manufacturers have squeezed every last drop of performance out of the cars they make, with most models now too fast to be pushed anywhere near their limits on the road. Given that, the last remaining area for development and enjoyment is the off-road experience. For the many who are left numb by leviathan-like SUVs, the mutant supercar is here to save the day.  

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