Sandracer 500GT: Enter the $450K dune bashing supercar
Zarooq is the Arabic name for the fastest snake in the desert. It's also the manufacturer of a new off-road supercar from Dubai -- the first of its kind from the Emirates.
The Sandracer 500GT, designed by Zarooq Motors, aspires to both the luxury of a Lamborghini and the capabilities of a hardened dune racer. Its specifications appear to back up that claim: a 6.2-liter V8 engine capable of 525 bhp, paired with a carbon fiber body and built in roll cage, means the 2,645-lb 500GT will go from 0-60 mph in under four seconds.
So can this vehicle signal the dawn of a new kind of super off-roader?
A city obsessed with supercars
Zarooq Motors claims to be the first Emirati car manufacturer, with Mohammed Al Qadi, one of the founders, at the helm of the company. He's been involved in motorsports for over 15 years and headed up the Yas Marina Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The initial design was first revealed in 2015 at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, and now the 500GT has become Zarooq Motors' first production car, with a run of 35 vehicles.
Manufactured with help from German car modification firm Mansory and Spanish grand prix engineers Campos Racing, the 500GT has been an international effort. But its makers argue its DNA is UAE through and through.
"This is a local product," co-founder Iannis Mardell tells CNN. "There's a sense of Arabic national pride for this car because it's made in the Gulf, for the people in the Gulf and by the people from the Gulf."
Most of Zarooq Motor's clients are princes from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, says Mardell, but its appeal is global. Car collectors in Europe have registered interest, as well as individuals from Kenya, Russia and Japan, he adds.
Standing out in Dubai
The UAE is the second largest automotive market in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after Saudi Arabia.
"People here love supercars but they also love to go off-road. Instead of having three different cars they can now just have the Sandracer," Mardell says.
For the "Rich Kids of Dubai" -- an Instagram account documenting the expensive tastes of young socialites of the emirate -- having a Ferrari or Lamborghini is not always enough. The wealthy and famous are anxious for new and exciting cars; models that stand out and look luxurious on the road, but are also eye-catching on social media.
"In my street I think there are three Ferraris, so you can't really stand out with one of those. You need something a little more eccentric, yet also positive," says Mardell.
Dubai is a playground for the rich, and cars like the Sandracer, with a starting price tag of $450,000, are status symbols. For that kind of money, you could buy the new Ford GT ($450,000), a Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV ($493,095), or two top-of-the-line Range Rover SVAutobiographies ($204,113) -- with change to spare.
The first of its kind?
"You have super cars like the Ferraris and Lamborghinis and they're basically the same high performance, luxury and quite exclusive car, and they're all track orientated," Mardell says.
"Lamborghini tried to do something called the LM002 in the 80s but it looked more like a Hummer than an actual supercar," explains Mardell.
Cars like the Rally Fighter, manufactured by American company Local Motors, focuses on producing high performance road cars that can go off-road. But the Sandracer, quicker off the mark than the Rally Fighter or a supercharged Range Rover Sport, and lighter than both, looks to add luxury into the mix as well.
Will the Sandracer fly?
Paul Wallace, creator of Supercars of London, thinks the Sandracer could be a hit: "Manufacturers are providing such a wide choice of car, why not create a supercar that can go off-road? It might be a little niche, but that hasn't stopped people in the past!"
Manufacturers are continuing to increase customization options and supercar fans seem to want more and more.
"Not being restricted to roads is one of the greatest freedoms you can get whilst driving," Wallace notes.