The Peugeot 2008 DKR was one of the most beastly off-roaders we looked at in 2014. Its large, rugged looks didn't translate to success at Dakar earlier this year, however. So Peugeot regrouped and began reworking the car the minute Dakar 2015 ended, developing an even bigger, gnarlier 2008 DKR for Dakar 2016. This is the Peugeot 2008 DKR16.

Peugeot returned to Dakar this year after a 25-year absence. Between that headline, an effective media campaign and a 2008 DKR appearance at last year's Paris Motor Show, the 2008 DKR was a highly anticipated competitor at Dakar 2015 back in January. Its performance fell quite short of the hype, though, as the two of three DKRs that finished came in 11th and 34th.

While the Dakar result wasn't anything to get excited about, the Peugeot Total team did run the two cars cleanly without any major technical issues and put together some real-world experience from which to refine the design of the car.

"In terms of performance, while the Peugeot 2008 DKR has shown a certain potential by fighting for stage wins on two or three occasions, it’s not yet at the level required to be a contender for overall victory," Peugeot Sport director Bruno Famin said after Dakar. "There is no lack of ideas when it comes to future development and a lot of work is already underway. We’re now going to define our road map for the future by incorporating everything we learned from our experience in 2015."

Peugeot Sport has been busy doing that ever since, and it's starting to pay off. With help from some technical modifications and a more experienced team of racers, Peugeot Total ran the 2008 DKR to the top two spots at the 3,382-mile (5,442 km) China Silk Road Rally earlier this month. The team of Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret took first place, and that of Cyril Despres/David Castera came in second.

The team ran a modified, interim-specification version of the rally car dubbed "2008 DKR 2015+" at the China event, using the rally as a proving grounds for the refinements that had been in the works since January. Shortly thereafter, it pulled the cloth on the closely related 2008 DKR16. The 2016 car's front and rear tracks have been widened by 7.9 in (20 cm), and its overall length and wheelbase stretched by the same amount. The increased dimensions promise to give the new car better stability on the ever-changing surface below. The car sits lower, but thanks to its shorter front and rear overhangs, it should have no trouble sailing over big rocks, steep sand dunes and other Dakar obstacles.

Peugeot has lowered the center of gravity and cut some weight by replacing the two-piece aluminum wheels with one-piece magnesium wheels. A new set of Michelin tires cuts weight further. Downforce is better distributed thanks to a redesigned air intake system on the hood and roof.

Peugeot has also retuned and increased the power of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel engine up to 350 bhp. Output is still directed solely to the rear wheels, and a retuned suspension helps in better handling the variable terrain under-tire.

The body includes a tighter, more aggressive front-end, a more open rear-end design, and spare tires tucked below the smoothed-out side bodywork. The DKR16 looks every bit as mean and hungry for dirt as the original, if not a tad more so.

"You can really feel the difference now that the car is longer and wider, with a lower center of gravity, because it’s a lot more stable so cornering speeds are faster," comments Stéphane Peterhansel. "You can feel the difference in the engine as well - not only is it more powerful but also you can use all the power even at low revs. We’ve almost got a 'problem' now of how to manage all that power most effectively, but this is a very nice problem to have. We’re still not at the maximum of our capabilities, but testing has been very productive so far."

It remains to be seen how the development program behind this angry lion translates into Dakar performance, but so far so good. The car will make its competitive debut sometime this year before tackling Dakar in January.

Watch the DKR16 evolution and action in the video below.

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