First test of the Porsche 911 Carrera T: simplify, then add the right options

Enlarge / Lighter and less powerful, the 911 T benefits from some desirable options not available on other 911s.

Tim Stevens

Getting bigger and heavier as you get older is something many of us can relate to. Even the sportiest of cars is not immune to this unfortunate expansion. The Porsche 911 weighed just 2,400 pounds (1,089 kg) when new in the early 1960s and was just 165 inches (4,191 mm) long. Since then, he has grown over a foot (300 mm) and accumulated over 800 pounds (363 kg).

Mind you, the 911 is still a stellar car, sublime indeed, but that enlarged girth has changed the Carrera from a true sports car to something on the sporty side of a comfortable touring machine. Now, however, with the return of the Carrera T, the 911 is going back to its roots, once again. After spending a great evening carving canyons in California, I’m happy to say the result is remarkable.

Like the 911, this one is aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts.
Enlarge / Like the 911, this one is aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts.

Tim Stevens

The T in Carrera T actually stands for “tour”, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Here it is a designation for a lighter, bolder and more engaging flavor from Carrera. The first Carrera T was created in 1968, a simpler 911 which notably conquered the Monte-Carlo Rally at the hands of Vic Elford.

After 1973, this model was retired and was resurrected in 2017 for the then current 991.2. Since then, Porsche has slapped a T on the 718 Cayman, the 718 Boxster and even the Macan, always meaning something a bit pared-back and capable.

What did Porsche do to design the new 911 Carrera T? Well, it starts with a base Carrera, powered by 379 hp (283 kW) and 331 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged 3.0L flat-six engine. It is much less than the 443 ponies (330 kW) the Carrera S offers and well below the 473 of the GTS (352 kW), but trust me when I say that’s more than enough. More on that in a moment.

Porsche's bucket seats can be tricky to install and remove, but once inside, they're wonderful.  There is no rear seat in this version, however.
Enlarge / Porsche’s bucket seats can be tricky to install and remove, but once inside, they’re wonderful. There is no rear seat in this version, however.

Tim Stevens

Porsche then paired that with a seven-speed manual transmission, complete with a subtle short shift kit, although an eight-speed PDK transmission is available as a no-cost option if you’d rather not row your own. Porsche’s torque-vectoring, limited-slip rear differential is available if you opt for this transmission, and regardless of the number of pedals, you can optionally fit a rear steering system.

Interestingly, these two options are not available on the base Carrera. That alone makes the T an attractive choice, but the exclusivity doesn’t stop there. Porsche also fitted lightweight glass and a thinner battery, reduced some of the sound deadening material and even removed the rear seat. The net result is a 911 with plenty of desirable performance options priced at $116,600. That’s $10,500 more than a base Carrera, but 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter.

Be careful, it still weighs 3,254 lbs (1,472 kg). It’s not exactly Spyder territory, but that reduced weight, plus the 10mm lower adaptive suspension and all the other sporty options, results in a Carrera that sounds and feels very different from the base machine. And, with gray offset wheels – 20-inch front and 21-inch rear – plus subtle graphics on the door, it looks the part too.

Door graphics let other Porschephiles know you're into something interesting.
Enlarge / Door graphics let other Porschephiles know you’re into something interesting.

Tim Stevens

I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I drove through LA traffic on my way to Angeles Crest outside of Pasadena. As I drove down the highway, other than a bit more road noise and a bit more added pressure from the sublime full bucket seats (a $5,900 option), it all sounded pretty much like any what another Carrera. In other words: no real compromises.

Leaving the freeway, as the road began to climb and back on itself, my perspective changed. The Carrera T really came to life. A quick twist of the mode selector on the steering wheel took me to Sport Plus and, with the sports exhaust open and the throttle sharpened, I began to appreciate just how good this car was.

The T cut through every vertex, rear steering not only by tilting the rear wheels, but by bending the rules of physics that govern our lives. This shortened gear lever reinforced this feeling. Shifts are abbreviated and firm, before your arm has fully engaged in the movement. Seizing the next gear was such a joy that I jumped between gears far more often than strictly necessary.

Less horsepower plus a manual transmission equals winning 911.
Enlarge / Less horsepower plus a manual transmission equals winning 911.

Tim Stevens

And what about the 3.0L flat-six engine that powers it all? It’s a lot. Sure, various other 911 versions offer a lot more power, but this 911 isn’t an outright push. The Carrera T is synonymous with experience. Just as a manual transmission increases engagement at the expense of pure speed compared to a PDK, more power doesn’t necessarily make a car more fun.

In my book, the Carrera T is the one to buy. At least it is if you really want to retain the taste of what the 911 was originally meant to be. Sure, Porsche’s iconic coupe has grown a lot since 1964, but the pure feel of the Carrera T shows that its roots are still firmly in place.

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