Sundaes are a splendid dessert because there are countless variants to please every ice cream lover’s cravings. Begin with a good base flavor, mix and match toppings, and each new creation delivers a unique appeal. Substitute machinery for the creamery, and the same can be said about the iconic Porsche 911.
Porsche’s latest creation is branded the 911 T, with the “T” standing for “Touring.” It’s a model specifically engineered for the driving enthusiast with a purist approach (“Less is more,” says Porsche says about its newest sports car). In a nutshell, the German automaker has reduced vehicle weight and made a few of its performance options standard fitment — the result is a vehicle with a unique character and improved performance, without failing to mention its own special designation in the model’s storied history.
The starting point for the 911 Carrera T is the standard Carrera coupe, which is an excellent foundation. Today’s standard model — calling it a “base” model is irreverent — arrives with a torque-laden, twin-turbocharged, flat-6 rated at 370 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. The engine is untouched in the T, but the transaxle ratio is lowered so acceleration is slightly improved (expect a 0-60 sprint in about 4 seconds with the manual gearbox, and slightly quicker with the PDK). Top speed is just over 180 mph.
Other performance-enhancing upgrades include a standard mechanical rear differential lock, PASM sport suspension (which lowers the vehicle nearly half an inch), and a shortened shift lever (with a knob embossed with red numerals) on the manual gearbox. Rear-wheel steer is also on the options list. It is important to note that none of these are available on the standard Carrera.
To reduce mass, Porsche fits the Carrera T with lightweight Gorilla glass in the rear windows. While this sacrifices the rear defroster in the process, it saves nearly eight pounds. Sound insulation has been reduced, and the traditional door handles are dropped in favor of lightweight racing pull straps. (U.S. back-up camera laws prevent our market from deleting Porsche Communication Management, but other markets may opt out of the entire infotainment system.)
While optional on the regular Carrera models, the T is fitted with 20-inch Carrera S wheels (wearing 245/35-20 and 305/30-20 tires) and the sports exhaust system as standard fitment — wider tires enhance handling and the exhaust note is decidedly more aggressive (a button on the center console allows the operator to open/close a damper in the muffler, which will tone it down when desired). The T is also equipped with an abbreviated version of Sport Chrono, which adds the display software and engine rev-matching, but not the dash-mounted clock.
Cosmetically, the interior of the Carrera T features Sport-Tex seats, which look retro-cool and should prove very durable, and a smaller-diameter GT Sports steering wheel as standard fitment. Buyers can upgrade to the GT3 and GT2 RS’s carbon-fiber bucket seats, but that will delete the two rear seats. The exterior of the T gets a more aggressive front splitter, painted gray mirrors, painted gray engine louver, and a vinyl decal at the bottom of the doors. It’s a cohesive package that doesn’t come across as gaudy — overall, it is so discreet that few passers-by will even notice the difference.
And I would argue the same about the Carrera T’s enhanced driving dynamics — they are equally as subtle.
Sampling the new variant in southern France, along the same roads that British drivers Vic Elford and David Stone secured victories in the Monte Carlo Rally in a 1968 Porsche 911 T, the new Carrera proves to be remarkably capable. Despite being shod with winter tires, which adds a whole new level of anxiety to driving the narrow Alpine roads, the Porsche left me craving for more.
Altitude barely affects the turbocharged engine, which launches off the line with a level of authority — thanks to its low-end torque — that can’t be matched by its naturally aspirated siblings (we were playing cat-and-mouse with a new GT3 Touring, and the 911 T was quicker out of each tight hairpin!). Acceleration is accompanied by a subtle whistle, which is barely noticeable, from the spooling turbines. Kudos to Porsche’s engineers for being able to seamlessly integrate turbocharging into the powerplant without conspicuous turbo lag or the engine running out of breath at 5,500 rpm. Foot to the floor, the engine will pull eagerly to its 7,400 rpm redline with noteworthy linearity. It’s a jewel of a powerplant, one of the best on today’s market.
Porsche has also completely tamed any nasty trait of rear-engine architecture. Quick-ratio steering, unstressed brakes (my test car was fitted with the upgraded Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes — check that option box, as it’s worth every penny), and a stiff chassis allow a talented driver to take advantage of the rear weight bias. With the powertrain over the rear wheels, tractive grip is improved – and braking distances are shortened. Powering out of a corner becomes natural, especially after the driver becomes familiar with 911 driving dynamics.
While shedding a few pounds of mass is imperceptible without expensive instrumentation, the limited-slip differential is noted on the French curves and hairpins as the roads are slick and grip is minimal. Blasting out of each corner, the 911 T breaks both rear wheels free as it searches for grip on the wet, leaf-strewn, asphalt. The spinning wheels find traction moments later — the exercise is entertaining, and easily controlled from the driver’s seat.
After descending from the Alps, I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours on the open French highways allowing the Carrera T to demonstrate its impeccable high-speed manners. That aggressive front splitter, which is added to the lower front fascia, alters the aerodynamics of the nose of the coupe. This required Porsche to increase the raised height of its motorized rear spoiler — deployed, it is now visible from the driver’s seat.
After nearly two days with the Carrera T, I became convinced that it elevates the performance of the standard Carrera — by a solid decimal point. While that doesn’t seem like much, it’s significant in the big picture (more on that in a moment).
For the record, the most obvious variance between the Carrera T and its Carrera coupe sibling is cosmetic — the graphics, door handle straps, seats, and badging. Anyone expecting a radically different driving experience compared to the standard Carrera is in for a bit of a disappointment. Back-to-back, the Carrera T is a bit louder than its sibling, and it may put the power to the tires with more efficiency, but that’s the concise list. I’m sure a pro can wring an extra half-second out of it on a racing circuit.
The standard Porsche 911 Carrera, in base trim, is an extraordinary sports car — it’s a segment benchmark. But even though it’s a driver’s car through and through, most enthusiast customers end up putting another 15 percent of the cost of the vehicle into performance upgrades before they hit the “build” button on the automaker's configurator. With the Carrera T, Porsche has pulled a handful of special upgrades out of its tasty bag of tricks to craft a unique sports car optimized for the purist – these options aren’t available a la carte, and even if they were, the $11,000 premium that Porsche charges for the Carrera T model is an unquestionable value.
And, after taking that into consideration, I am going to point out two additional benefits – exclusivity, as these will unquestionably be built in low numbers, and the fact that this model will likely command a premium on the used market in the future. As a driving enthusiast, I find it a challenge to fault the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T as it accomplishes its original mission with near-perfection. The standard Carrera is a delectable driver’s treat – the new Carrera T is all that, with a sweet maraschino on the top.
Date Posted: January 9, 2018