Peugeot has made a new, evil Dakar car

This is what happens when you turn a humble SUV into an off-road monster

After a rough and underwhelming return to the gruelling Dakar rally in 2015, Peugeot Sport slinked back to its secret bunker and set to work on the next iteration of its off-road monster. Earlier this year, that went and stomped the two-week off-road endurance race serving Stéphane Peterhansel his 12th Dakar victory. For next year’s race, Peugeot Sport has gone back to the drawing board and built an all-new car.

No longer based on the hum-drum 2008 crossover, for Dakar 2017 Peugeot are using the bigger 3008 SUV that’s set to debut at the upcoming Paris motor show as a basis. But don’t worry, it’s still about as 3008-y as the old 2008 DKR was 2008-y.

 Due to that dastardly rule book, the dimensions of the 3008 DKR haven’t changed compared to its predecessor. Yes, it’s still longer and wider than the unstable first generation DKR car, but the footprint is no different to the current car – which has proven to be a lot better at ironing out South America’s undulations.

You may also notice it’s quite squat. That’s to help lower the centre of gravity. Something those two spare tyres that are hidden in its cheeks also helps with. And those short overhangs at the front and back allow it to bash and crawl up and over pretty much everything it can get its thick tyres onto.

Apparently, the main areas of improvement over the old car are reliability and driveability. Both crucial elements given the DKR’s bread and butter is to compete in a race that’s 10,000 kilometres long, pretty much flat-out and takes place in every weather condition Earth can throw at it.

The 3.0-litre mid-mounted V6 twin-turbo diesel engine now delivers greater amounts of crucial torque at lower revs. This wasn’t easily achieved given there’s been a rule change imposing a smaller restrictor on the engine (38mm as opposed to 39mm), sapping around 20 horsepower.

The dampers and suspension geometry have also been further honed to provide a more stable and better ride for pounding across the desert. Plus, the air con system has been upgraded to make sure the driver and navigators don’t boil in their race suits.

But Peugeot is still going against the grain of its top-level competitors by sticking to a two-wheel drive layout instead of four. Which means all 330bhp and 590lb ft of torque heads to the rear wheels. Which means lots of sandy skids. But there’s more to it than that. 

With no power heading to the front wheels, there are less mechanical connections to potentially fail. It also keeps the 3008 DKR in a less restrictive class, loosening up the regulations to which Dakar’s dominant four-wheel-drive competitors must adhere.

So that updated suspension offers a hell of a lot more travel than four-wheel-drive cars (460mm against 250mm), it can run bigger wheels, plus a trick inboard remote tyre-pressure system that allows the car to inflate/deflate its rubber on the move.

Will the 3008 DKR help revive Peugeot’s Dakar dominance of old? Well, they have an off-road dream team of drivers – Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Cyril Despres – which helps. But we’ll just have to wait until January to find out for sure.