A Porsche is now the highest-driving vehicle on the planet. A Porsche 911, with racer Romain Dumas behind the wheel, drove to new heights. Dumas reached 22,093 feet up the side of a volcano and beat the old record set by a Mercedes Unimog just a few years ago.
On December 2, 2023, Romain Dumas ran his highly modified Porsche 911 to the peak of the west ridge of Chile’s Ojos del Salado volcano. It was on that same volcano in 2020 that a team drove a Unimog to the previous four-wheel record of 20,013 feet as part of an expedition to set the record while installing emergency radios along the way.
12-Hour Summit Attempt
Dumas headed for the summit at 3:30 a.m. and reached the top just over 12 hours later. Porsche didn’t say how long it took to get back down, but we’re guessing it was a quicker trip.
The Porsche 911 Dumas used (there were two 911s on the climb, but only one gets credit for the record) was extensively modified for the event. It started life as a 443-horsepower turbocharged Carrera 4S model. Then, Porsche fitted portal axles and a raised suspension.
With the new bits, the record-setting 911 had 13.7 inches of ground clearance. That’s more than a Ford Raptor offers. For extra safety from volcanic rocks, Porsche fitted aramid-composite skid plates, and the driver got a carbon fiber seat and a five-point harness.
While the gearing in the portal axles helped the driver make more precise inputs (and probably helped acceleration), there were few performance changes made. The car still used its factory engine, letting the original engine management system compensate for the altitude.
Porsche did fill the engine with its eFuels. The eFuels synthetic gasoline is carbon neutral. It is also made at an HIF Global plant in Chile co-owned by the automaker.
Porsche’s Second Trip to New Heights in Chile
This was Porsche’s second trip up the volcano. The company tried in 2022 with the same cars, making it to 19,708 feet above sea level. Porsche calls that an “exploratory” attempt. It was also meant to build hype for the 911 Dakar off-roader released a few months later. But the attempt was hampered by snow and ice. This time, snow wasn’t an issue.
It took the team 2 weeks to make it high enough up the volcano to make the summit attempt. They gained altitude slowly each day to help ensure that the driver and crew did not suffer from altitude sickness. The thin air and cold temperatures can quickly turn deadly, and two doctors were part of the team.
Will a Vehicle Ever Drive Higher?
This record could stand for quite some time. The record it broke was set on the same volcano, as was the one that record topped. The Guinness World Records for both cars and motorcycles were set here as well. The motorcycle record was set in 2020 at 21,476 feet, well short of the Porsche. For reference, the tallest mountain in the U.S. is Denali, and this record run climbed 1,783 feet higher in altitude.
The issue is that Porsche reached the summit of the highest volcano in the world. Any taller mountains will be much more difficult for a car to ascend than the largely pyramid-like volcano. Not that we’re calling this an easy climb.
A new record attempt will have to find a more favorable mountain, wait for Ojos del Salado to erupt and get taller, or bring their own dirt to climb. None of which are likely.