Super SUVs are a distinctly modern phenomenon. In the face of slumping sedan sales and buyers still desiring speed to go with their extra cargo space and weight, there are now more fast SUVs than we can count. If we trace the lineage of the super SUV back to its most important point, it’s the original Porsche Cayenne. But there is one SUV that was a decade ahead of its time: the RUF Dakara.
Yes, it’s first-generation Cayenne based, building on the excellent platform that the Cayenne started with. It’s easy to forget how much of a step change the original Cayenne was. SUVs before were almost always large, body-on-frame, light off-roaders with poor road handling. Along with the original BMW X5, the Cayenne changed the trajectory of the modern auto industry. While the X5 handled well and drove like a car, the Cayenne drove relatively well and had serious off-road gear.
Famed Porsche tuner RUF got its hands on the Cayenne and created the Dakara in 2009. RUF doesn’t just do light tuning and a body kit, but comprehensively engineers its modifications and cars to the point of having its own VIN. Of the tuners, it was always one of the more serious ones, and RUF massaged the Porsche 4.5-liter twin-turbo V8 into outputting 600 horsepower. RUF also created a widebody kit for the car that replaced the infamous runny egg headlights with ones from a contemporary 997-generation 911.
RUF even stiffened the suspension to support the extra power and replaced the steel brakes with carbon ceramics. For the time, the Dakara was pretty trick and extremely fast with a 180 mph top speed. I think it looks cool, and the 997 headlights are pretty well integrated but still are lost in the vast frontal area of the thing. Between this and a new Lamborghini Urus, I’d have the RUF.
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