Its cars might be cute, but Peugeot’s sinister Dakar offroader is all business

Peugeot has announced it will return to the Dakar Rally next year with a diesel-burning off-roader dubbed 2008 DKR. The French automaker won the Dakar Rally four years in a row starting in 1987 but it hasn’t participated in the event in over two decades.

The 2008 DKR draws its name from the Peugeot 2008, a compact crossover sold primarily in Europe, but it shares only vague styling cues like its headlights and its radiator grille with its regular-production counterpart. The racer is taller and wider than the 2008, it only packs two doors and it looks considerably more menacing.

The off-roader is powered by a mid-mounted 3.0-liter diesel-powered V6 engine that generates 340 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque thanks in part to two beefy turbochargers. Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Fielding a rear-wheel drive off-roader in the Dakar Rally is a controversial decision because most competitors’ cars are equipped with all-wheel drive. However, Peugeot Sport explains two-wheel drive allows for longer suspension travel on both axles, a shorter front overhang and an overall lighter weight, attributes that the automaker hopes will help the 2008 DKR tackle even the roughest terrain South America has to offer.

Peugeot’s Dakar comeback will be spearheaded by seasoned pilots Carlos Sainz, Cyril Despres, and Stéphane Peterhansel.

If the 2008 DKR takes first place in next year’s Dakar, it will mark the first time a diesel-powered two-wheel drive car wins the event. However, before reaching the podium the 2008 DKR needs to fend off serious competition from the factory-backed MINI Countryman that has won the last three editions of the grueling rally.

The 2015 Dakar Rally is scheduled to kick off next January in Buenos Aires, Argentina.