For Porsche aficionados, the 911 Carrera T should tick an awful lot of boxes. For starters, it's a 911, which always plays well with the enthusiasts, but it's much more than that. It's a stripped-out, lightened version of the 'basic' Carrera featuring a manual gearbox to provide arguably the purest distillation of the current-generation 911. The question is, will it appeal to the Porsche die-hards, or is it just another complication in the already complicated 911 range?
In the metal
Put simply, the Carrera T is a stock 911 with a manual gearbox and a couple of performance-orientated options, all designed to help create "one of the purest 911 driving experiences." Those are Porsche's words, by the way, not our own.
Chief among the upgrades is the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) sports suspension system that lowers the car by 10mm and allows the driver to adjust the damping to suit the road conditions. We realise 10mm doesn't sound like much - and indeed it isn't much - but it's enough to give the T a slightly more aggressive stance than the standard car.
Other additions help with the subtle-yet-sporty design upgrade, too. There are Titanium Grey alloy wheels measuring 20 inches at the front and 21 inches at the rear, and the grey theme continues with the Agate Grey exterior mirrors, the grey door logos and the trim strips on the rear grille. The sports exhaust system's tailpipes are finished in high-gloss black, too.
Even more subtle, and an indication of Porsche's dedication to performance, the standard car's glass is replaced with lighter panes. Reducing weight is key to the T's character, and nowhere is that more evident than inside, where the rear seats have been stripped out altogether. There's a GT sports steering wheel, too, and beneath all the interior trim panels you'll find most of the standard car's soundproofing has been ripped out.
But while the Carrera T is 35kg lighter than the standard 911 Carrera, it's no stripped-out sports car. You still get part-leather upholstery, climate control and a touchscreen, as well as a digital instrument display and heated seats. Our test car even came with a Bose sound system.
In truth, the basic 911 isn't that spectacularly equipped for a car of its price, but the T matches or beats it in every area, and a few options are all that's needed to make it an easy car to live with.
Perhaps more of a concern, then, is the blandness of the 911's cabin. The touchscreen and instrument displays are both great, with excellent functionality and sharp graphics, but it's the darkness of the upholstery, the dashboard trim and the door cards that makes the 911 feel a little cheap compared with everything else. In particular, the black plastic door handles look a little bargain basement, although they feel great under your fingers, and they work beautifully. Again, though, a few choice options will lift the mood noticeably.
Do that, and the 911's quality shines through, with a cabin that's of impeccable quality in almost every area. Every button, every knob and every panel feels solid and robust, and the materials generally feel very upmarket and expensive, even if they don't always look that way.
Space is pretty good, too, even though the Carrera T makes do without the versatility provided by the standard car's two occasional rear seats. They might never have been big enough for adults, but they were fine for children, particularly if those in the front seats weren't especially tall. In the T, however, the space has been given over to cargo capacity, offering a 264-litre luggage space behind the two front seats. It isn't huge, but it's a useful supplement for the 132-litre 'frunk' under what would be the bonnet were the engine not at the back.
With lightness very much at the forefront of Porsche's thinking for the Carrera T, some of the mechanical tweaks feel like obvious decisions. For example, the switch to a manual gearbox, which is not available on the basic Carrera, has shaved tens of kilos from the kerb weight, and it'll be a welcome addition for the purists, too. After all, a lightweight, rear-drive, manual 911 is everything they dream of...
And rightly so. because the Carrera T is a fantastic car to drive. Porsche hasn't given it any more power than the standard car - it gets the same 3.0-litre, turbocharged flat-six engine that produces the same 380hp - but sending all that to the rear wheels via a seven-speed manual gearbox makes it feel that bit more involving. Get your gear selection right and it'll feel more responsive, too, with no need to wait for the standard car's admittedly very slick automatic gearbox to get its act together.
When the accelerator pedal is jammed up against the firewall, though, the automatic gearbox is quicker to flip between ratios, and that means the Carrera T is technically slower than its sibling, despite having a better power-to-weight ratio. The sprint to 100km/h takes 4.5 seconds, and the top speed is just over 290km/h.
But the facts and figures aren't really the point of the Carrera T. It's all about feel, and there it delivers in spades. With much of the soundproofing gone, it's a far less refined car than the standard Carrera, and the road noise is quite noticeable, but that just brings you closer to the distinctive chatter of the engine and the mechanical aspects of the machine. It is more communicative and more involving than the standard car, without feeling quite as hardcore as, say, the GT3.
You might expect us to say the key to that is the gearbox, but that isn't really the case. While the manual change is a nice touch, the gear lever doesn't feel as intuitive as that of the old Carrera T, and although the seventh speed is less of an issue than you might expect, switching down to sixth is a bit of a tricky manoeuvre. Not that you'll do that especially often, because the engine has so much torque that means you don't have to stir the pot too much if you don't want to.
Anyway, we digress. The lightness and the directness of the Carrera T is really what makes it, allowing it to feel that bit more agile than a Carrera without ever feeling nervous, and permitting just a fraction more aggression in the way you can drive it.
It helped that our test car came with the optional rear-wheel steering, too, making it more manoeuvrable at low speeds and more stable at higher speeds. Don't get us wrong, it isn't like changing from a Focus to a Ferrari, but the Carrera T is definitely a meaner and leaner version of the 911. The result is a car that you just want to drive and drive and drive, and one that feels a little too capable to be exploited safely on the road. If you're planning the odd track day, consider a T over the base Carrera.
You don't even pay too much of a penalty in terms of comfort, although the new T is certainly stiffer than its predecessor. The body control is excellent, but the low-speed ride suffers slightly; thankfully it's supple enough once you're up to speed. Motorway driving is comfortable enough, as long as you can put up with the tyre roar. What you mustn't do, though, is press the little suspension button on the dashboard, because that turns it into a bit of a boneshaker. Our roads are really too broken for that sports suspension, and hitting a pothole at speed is really quite uncomfortable. Of course, you get a bit of extra body control as a result, but the Carrera T is stable enough without resorting to that. You'll use it on a race track, though.
What you get for your money
Carrera T prices start at €206,080 in Ireland, which makes it expensive by any measure, but it's less expensive than the Carrera S, and that makes it the second-cheapest version of the 911. Okay, everything's relative, but the fact is the T is considerably less expensive than a GT3 or even a GTS, and you still get plenty of creature comforts, from navigation to part-leather upholstery and from climate control to the hybrid instrument display that uses digital and analogue displays.
The Carrera T is not necessarily the best Porsche 911 in any one area - it's less comfortable than the Turbo, it's less engaging than the GT3 and it's more expensive than the Carrera - but as a compromise of all three, it strikes a good balance. It's light and agile enough for a track day, just about supple enough for the road and, though it's hardly cheap, it is at least less expensive than most 911s. If you're a 911 purist looking for an engaging rear-engined sports car for weekend blasts, the T is the best-value model in the range. It's also one of our favourites.