By Shari Prymak
The Porsche 911 lineup has quite a spread ranging anywhere from the limited-production GT2 RS race special all the way down to a comparatively run-of-the-mill Carrera. As nice as it would be to own one of Porsche’s highly-coveted GT models, the rarity and stratospheric values have firmly established them into collector status. Many would be apprehensive about driving one on a regular basis due to the risk of tarnishing their collectability; that is, if they are even able to attain one in the first place.
Therein lies the beauty of the latest 911 variant: the Carrera T. This is not some limited-run collector special destined for bubble-wrap incubation. What we have here is a 911 that applies the same sort of thinking behind the GT models to a dime-a-dozen base-level car. The result is a slightly lighter, semi-stripped, enthusiast special built in the mold of a GT3, but without the waitlists or collector car status.
In reality, the Carrera T (T for Touring) is little more than a strategically optioned Carrera 2 with a few weight-saving measures and a new name. The engine is the same twin-turbo 3.0L flat-six producing 370 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. Here it comes matched to a standard 7-speed manual gearbox with a shorter final drive ratio (3.59: 1 versus 3.44:1) and a limited-slip differential. PASM sport suspension, dynamic engine mounts, and a sport exhaust come standard, as does a steering wheel-mounted drive mode selector. Options not available on the base Carrera include rear-wheel steering and carbon-fiber full-bucket seats. The carbon seats, which delete the car’s rear seats, combined with thinner glass, reduced sound-deadening, and door-release straps, allow for a total weight savings of up to 20kg.
The Carrera T may be something of a cut-priced parts-bin special, but the overall philosophy behind it is really not too dissimilar from the original 911T from fifty years earlier. Conceived as a de-contented, entry-level 911 model, the 911T was a lower-priced offering that helped open the doors to Porsche ownership for prospective buyers. To see how the 2018 model stacks up against its historic predecessor, we brought along a well-kept 1969 example courtesy of a club member.
From a visual standpoint, both models share the same basic silhouette design, round headlights, and muscular rear haunches that have been 911 trademarks since the dawn of time, but that’s about where the similarities end. Next to modern touches such as the large 20 inch wheels, retractable rear wing, and aggressive front and rear facias, the most obvious difference between the two is size. The classic car looks absolutely tiny next to its modern cousin, a trait which is also obvious from the cabin.
Compared to the frill-free, intimate interior of the 911T, the Carrera T’s cabin is rather sophisticated and spacious. The smooth-operating infotainment system is both visually pleasing and responsive to inputs. The comfortable and supportive sport seats come wrapped in an attractive and somewhat retro-looking Sport-Tex material for the inserts and leather for the bolsters. The stubby gear-shifter and analog instrument gauges too are a nice nod to the past. Most of the interior surfaces and controls are well-conceived with excellent fit and finish and attention to detail.
With a curb weight of 1438 kg, about the same as a base Carrera with half a tank of gas, it is no surprise to learn that the Carrera T feels very much like its showroom mate from behind the wheel. The steering is incredibly precise and well-weighted, perfect for linking corner after corner. A firmer damper setting is available, but I found it best to just leave the suspension in its more comfortable setting where body control and chassis rigidity remain impressively high. Even when pressed hard beyond what most would deem reasonable, the Carrera T remains incredibly planted with endless grip granted by its ultra-wide 305-rear and 245-front Pirelli P Zero tires. More remarkable though is just how engaging and connected it feels. All of the inputs, from the steering to the brakes, have an immediacy and sensory feedback that’s comparatively numb in most competing performance cars.
With the most modest engine in the 911 lineup, the Carrera T isn’t going to set any dragstrip records, but that would be missing point. 370 horsepower and a 0-100km/h time in 4.5 seconds (4.2 with PDK) is more than sufficient for a regular-use 911, and every bit of it is fully exploitable on the road. A pair of turbos deliver instant torque with a smooth linear power delivery all the way to a 7400 rpm redline. The howl from the flat-six as it reaches its cut-off is intoxicating, although I would prefer a little less burbling on the overrun from the sport exhaust when Sport mode is engaged. I appreciate the attempt at theatrics, but it just sounds synthesized and serves as a reminder of the purity that’s been lost in the move to forced induction. Porsche may realize this as well, which could explain why the burbling appears in Sport mode, but oddly disappears in Sport+ mode.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of purity to be had from the smooth-shifting 7-speed manual gearbox that comes as standard equipment. A strong case can be made for the optional lightning-quick PDK gearbox, but for some, not even blazingly-fast gear-changes are convincing enough to forgo the involvement of a good-old three-pedal arrangement. The clutch pedal is perfectly weighted and well-match to the light, notchy feel of the short-throw shifter. Turning the dial into Sport or Sport+ mode activates an auto rev-match feature that automatically blips the throttle for smoother downshifts. It’s a deeply satisfying setup that’s perfectly suited to the back-to basics approach of the Carrera T.
At $116,500 to start, the Carrera T represents a $12,500 premium over a base Carrera model, which is pretty reasonable given the amount of added features and extra performance equipment. There’s nothing radical or ground-breaking about the Carrera T’s formula, and yet, its semi-stripped-down purity is enough to make it one of the most appealing variants in the 911 range. It’s as simple and driver-focused as a 911 can be without moving into GT3 territory. And without the cloud of rarity and collectability constantly lurking overhead, it may actually be the more enjoyable one to operate on a regular basis. For the enthusiast wanting a 911 to truly drive as it is meant to be driven, the Carrera T is about as good as it gets.
For more details, please visit the Porsche Canada website.