Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive: Simplify, Then Add the Right Options

Zoom in / Lighter and less powerful, the 911 T benefits from some desirable options that other 911s don’t have.

Tim Stevens

Getting bigger and heavier as you age is something many of us can relate to. Even the most sporty car isn’t immune to this unfortunate expansion. The Porsche 911 weighed 2,400 lb (1,089 kg) when new in the early 1960s and was only 165 in (4,191 mm) long. Since then, it has grown by over 300mm and packed in over 800lbs (363kg).

Mind you, the 911 is still a great car, really cool, but this enlarged size has changed the Carrera from a proper sports car to something that sits on the sporty side of a comfortable touring machine. Now, though, the Carrera T is back, the 911 is back to its roots—again. After a lovely evening carving canyons in California, I’m happy to say the result is amazing.

As 911s go, that goal is squarely aimed at the driving enthusiast.
Zoom in / As 911s go, that goal is squarely aimed at the driving enthusiast.

Tim Stevens

In fact, the Carrera T’s T stands for “touring,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Here’s a designation for a lighter, edgier, and sexier Carrera flavor. The first Carrera T was shown for the first time in 1968, a simpler car than the 911 most famously made for the Monte Carlo Rally’s conquest by Vic Elford.

After 1973, this model was discontinued and was revived in 2017 for the current 991.2. Since then, Porsche has bumped the T on the 718 Cayman, 718 Boxster, and even the Macan, always signifying something a little pared-down and performance-forward.

What did Porsche do to make the new 911 Carrera T? Well, it starts with the base Carrera, with rear-wheel drive, 379 hp (283 kW), and 331 lb-ft of torque coming from a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged engine. That’s well below the 443 (330 kW) ponies offered by the Carrera S and far less than the 473 (352 kW) of the GTS, but trust me when I say it’s more than enough. More on that in a moment.

The Porsche bucket seats can be hard to get in and out of, but once you get in they are great.  There is no back seat on this version, though.
Zoom in / The Porsche bucket seats can be hard to get in and out of, but once you get in they are great. There is no back seat on this version, though.

Tim Stevens

Porsche then paired that with a seven-speed manual transmission, backed by a short, stealthy shift train, though an eight-speed PDK transmission is available as a no-cost option if you’d rather not self-park. Porsche’s torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential is available if you choose that transmission, and aside from the number of pedals, you can optionally equip rear steering.

Interestingly, these two options are not available in the base Carrera. That alone makes the T an attractive option, but the exclusivity doesn’t stop there. Porsche has also fitted lightweight glass and a snappier battery, got rid of some of the sound-deadening materials, and even deleted the rear seat. The net result is a 911 with several desirable performance options and a price of $116,600. That’s $10,500 more than the base Carrera but 100 lb (45 kg) lighter.

Keep in mind that it still weighs 3,254 lbs (1,472 kg). Not exactly Spyder territory, but that lower weight, plus the adaptive suspension lowered by 10mm and all the other sportier options, results in a Carrera that sounds dramatically different from the base machine. And with staggered gray wheels—20-inches in the front, 21 in the rear—plus some subtle graphics on the door, it looks the part, too.

Door graphics let other Porscheville cars know you're in for something interesting.
Zoom in / Door graphics let other Porscheville cars know you’re in for 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 cruised down the highway, other than road noise and a bit of extra pressure from the plush Full Bucket seats ($5,900 option), it felt pretty much like any other Carrera. In other words: no real compromises.

Off the highway, as the road started to climb back up and back into itself, my perspective changed. The Carrera T really came alive. A quick turn of the mode selector on the steering wheel brought me to Sport Plus, and with the Sport exhaust open and the throttle refined, I began to appreciate just how good this car was.

A T has been sliced ​​to every apex, and rear steering not only angles the rear wheels but bends to the rules of physics that govern our lives. The short shifter reinforced that feeling. The transitions are brief and steady, before your arm fully commits to the movement. Grabbing the next gear was such a joy that I switched between ratios more often than was absolutely necessary.

Less power plus a manual transmission equals a 911 win.
Zoom in / Less power plus a manual transmission equals a 911 win.

Tim Stevens

And what about the 3.0-liter flat-six that drove it all? It’s a lot. Sure, various other versions of the 911 offer a lot more power, but the 911 isn’t all about direct drive. Carrera T is about experience. Just like a manual transmission enhances engagement at the expense of direct speed compared to a PDK, more power doesn’t necessarily make a car more fun.

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

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