Porsche revives another of its historic badges for the current 991-generation 911, this time appending a 'T' (which once stood for Touring) to the basic - for want of a better word - 370hp Carrera. In much the same way as a 911 Carrera GTS is (sort of) a Carrera S with some of the best options added for an overall premium that is less than each individual item would cost, the Carrera T is supposed to be a 911 that focuses on driving enjoyment first and foremost, cherry-picking some of the best extras for the Carrera, then adding a few items that aren't even available to buyers of the lowliest 911 and bundling the whole lot into a lighter package. So, is this newcomer any good? Is it? Is it...? Well, of course it is; it's a 991 Porsche 911, for goodness' sake!
In the Metal:
If you don't know what a Porsche 911 looks like by now, you must have been living on Tethys, never mind the Moon. OK, familiarity might breed contempt in some eyes, but there's an argument that goes around that says the simpler a 911, the better. This not only goes for the mechanics (which would rather make the feting of the unapologetic GT3 RS in all corners seem a bit odd), but also the looks, and the Carrera T is the most unadorned of the 911 family, based as it is on the entry-level Carrera.
There are a few differences: the T gets its own design of front splitter and a set of grey 20-inch Carrera S alloys, as well as grey door mirror caps. But in essence, on the outside, this is a 911 lacking for flared wheel arches and big spoilers and visual aggression. And it's all the better for it. We like the subtle T engine lid badging and the retro graphics along the bottom of the doors, and we like the clean, unfussy shape the 911 Carrera T presents at a standstill; don't forget, of course, that it has a small rear spoiler that raises into the airflow at speed to reduce lift at the rear.
If the outside looks little different to a Carrera with some options, specified correctly, the interior of the T will leave people in no doubt as to its status. Unless you tick a few no-cost option boxes (and we are sure some buyers will, primarily for resale purposes, but trust us, they'll be making a big mistake), then Carrera T owners will make do without any infotainment system (the centre stack having a two-tier 'shelving' unit instead), the vestigial rear seats of a 911 (only really useable if you've got kids under the age of eight) and will also gain thinner glass in the rear-most side windows and for the back screen - these panes taken from a 911 GT2. There's also some red stitching, plenty of 'Carrera T' badging and graphics in the instrument cluster, Sport-Tex part-fabric seats and little looped fabric pulls in place of the door handles. They're red. Of course.
All of the above is because the 911 Carrera T is supposed to be the lightweight, even sportier-than-sporty model compared to the Carrera. Now, with the spec we're about to list, the precise weight-saving is a little murky; some would say it is a mere 5kg in favour of the T, while Porsche itself will tell you a comparable, optioned-up Carrera would be 20kg tubbier than this car. So, alongside the 20-inch wheels and the interior treatment, this is what a Carrera T gains (or loses, in some cases) as standard: there's 'minimal' sound-deadening; it has the 20mm lower, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) sports chassis; the noisy sports exhaust; and a stubbier gear lever with red numbers on the top of it. There's also the option to specify rear-wheel steering, at cost, which - along with that 20mm lower PASM and a mechanical limited-slip differential - are options you cannot have on a Carrera, no matter how much cash you throw at the Porsche dealer.
There are further technical highlights. You also need to specify the seven-speed manual rather than the PDK automatic, because the three-pedal car has a shorter final drive (once again from the Carrera S) and the differential, both of which the PDK makes do without. Nevertheless, with the Sport Chrono pack also added, the PDK Carrera T is the faster accelerating of the pair, ripping off 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds with launch control, where the manual takes 4.5 seconds; hardly slow. Also, the manual is a little faster top end, at 293km/h vs. 291km/h for the PDK.
The price increase for all this, for the manual at least, is supposed to be less than what each of these options would tot up to if added to a Carrera, but - while the Irish price is still to be confirmed - we'd expect it to be at least a five-figure increase on the base Carrera's circa €130,000 ticket. So somewhere in the region of €145,000 would not be out of the question... and a standard Carrera S, remember, is €154,518. The 911 Carrera T is not a cheap car, then, by any stretch of the imagination. So it needs to be good.
When you're building from the 370hp, 450Nm 911 Carrera as a basis for a new performance model, you're starting with something that's incredibly talented already. So giving it a limited slip differential, bigger wheels, lower and more focused suspension and a weight reduction - no matter how small - is only going to improve the whole kit and caboodle.
That said, you're not going to get into the Carrera T and be blown away by startling, huge changes in the way it drives. This is an incremental performance package, one that subtly massages what was already there. So, if you're not on board with that as the theory, then the 911 Carrera T in practice is going to leave you disappointed.
But not us. Glory be, what a stunning, sublime sports car this 911 is. For a fast road-going machine with no pretensions of track use or lap times, the Carrera T is near-faultless. Acoustically, it's wonderful. The thinner rear glass, chair-less cavity in the back, lack of sound deadening and that superb sports exhaust all combine to bless the 911 Carrera T with a flat-six voice that sounds as good as some of the old historic 'boxers' Porsche has used. When the T is clearing its throat as it goes past 4,000rpm, it's truly spine-tingling stuff. You won't lament the switch to turbocharging in this 911, that's definite.
The steering, while perhaps not up to the most exalted standards of some of the greatest 911 racks of the past, nevertheless remains almost peerless in the modern era; only the Lotus Elise can really surpass the Porsche for feel, weighting and accuracy. That couples with another 911 tradition, that of compact dimensions and lack of mass (this particular car weighs in at 1,425kg), to make exploiting the Carrera T's potency on the road both a cinch and a total delight. Placing this car is a scientific art; you can point it where you intend to go and then, by using the brakes or the rapier sharp throttle or the gorgeous steering or the 911's rear-engined weight distribution, you've got a number of options open to you as to how you want to trim your line or adjust your cornering attitude. You'll also notice the differential working its magic in tighter bends, giving the Porsche additional traction and drive to fire it out onto straights at quite tremendous speeds.
And it works, and rewards, at so many levels. Wring it out through the lower gears and the hard-edged, metallic bark of the flat-six only enhances the blistering acceleration. Work it quickly up through the seven-speed gearbox (about the T's weakest aspect, it's all too easy to occasionally get 'lost' in so many ratios and end up asking for third then you want fifth) without ever passing 4,000rpm and it still has a lovely, gargling soundtrack and the sort of pace that would embarrass most hot hatches.
Better yet, as a Carrera, it's one of the most friendly, benign and comfortable of 911s, possessing an everyday civility and long-distance ride comfort that would elude a GT3. With the dampers and car in Normal mode, selected with the rotary dial on the steering wheel - refreshingly, the only switch you'll find there - the Carrera T can lope along motorways in seventh, having enough torque to lug itself away from 80km/h without a downshift and capable of returning mid-30s mpg economy in the process. Apart from a bit more tyre roar barrelling around in the rear of the cabin, it's excellent for more mundane driving work. It's therefore excellent in all circumstances. What more could you really ask for than that?
What you get for your Money:
It's kind of like a GT3 Touring, but for considerably less money, and with a more tractable turbocharged engine. Or it's like a GTS, only cheaper. Whichever way you cut it, the Carrera T is a great way to get a more focused, brand-new 911 without completely breaking the bank... but we do accept that a €140,000 car is hardly what constitutes a bargain. We suppose what we're trying to say here is everything is relative; on Planet 911, the brilliant T is comparatively affordable.
If you're an absolute avid Porsche 911 devotee, you might think our five-star rating for this latest Carrera a little OTT. We understand there will be plenty who see the T as needlessly resurrecting a historic marque badge for nothing more than a marketing exercise. Further, many will say the weight-saving programme the Carrera T has been on is not stringent enough, and that this is a missed opportunity that's overpriced for what it is; a base Carrera with a few trinkets bolted on.
Hmm... we can sort of see that argument. Yet, if you're not an aficionado of the brand and you simply come at the Carrera T to assess its capabilities as a sports car, you will be astounded. You do not need any more power nor poise on the road than this magnificent machine possesses. Its balance, steering feel, willing flat-six turbo engine and compact dimensions make it devastatingly fast in all situations, while the reduced sound-deadening, thinner rear glass and the standard-fit sports exhaust make for a terrific soundtrack. Yes, it's more expensive than a standard Carrera and yes, it's almost the same money as the 420hp/500Nm Carrera S, but in its purest, manual form, the Carrera T is an exceptional sports coupe that really does enhance the often-frustrating process of simply driving.
And, when all's said and done, when you consider it is actually one of the most accessible 911s in terms of its price, then we think this is a brilliantly executed revival of the T badging by Porsche. One of our very favourite Porsches of recent years, this thing - and that really is saying something.