Don't think of the 911T as a cut-price GT3. Instead think of it as a base Carrera that has had a smorgasbord of goodies added to it by Porsche, bundled together at an attractive price and available with options you can't get on the base car. Once you understand what it's about, it represents a tempting and cohesive package.
WHAT IS IT?
The Porsche 911 Carrera T shares its 272kW turbocharged flat-six with the entry-level 911 Carrera yet Porsche charges a $17,500 premium for the newcomer. It's marginally lighter but may well be the go for those who value a Porsche of the old school.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We've come away with a certain level of admiration, if not adoration, for the 911 Carrera and the promise of a potentially improved version was too good to turn down. The 911 Carrera T has copped a bit of a mauling from some outlets with unreasonable expectations. Let's see if we can look at things logically.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
If you're shopping at the lower reaches of the Porsche 911 hierarchy, it's been easy to feel a little hard done by. Start picking a few bits from Porsche's options list and you've suddenly tacked twenty or thirty grand to the price of your 911 that won’t be reflected in its resale value.
The Carrera T bundles a big package of extras in for $17,500 and drives extremely well. What's more, you can specify four-wheel steering as an option that's unavailable on the base Carrera. So while it's hardly a headliner in the 911 firmament, the Carrera T is more than a worthwhile addition. Just don't get too hung up on its weight saving spiel.
PLUS: Looks great; benign handling; sweet and tractable turbo lump
MINUS: Fabric door pulls are cheesy; seven-speed manual not an outstanding 'box; so-so fuel economy
THE WHEELS REVIEW
HOW MANY times have we had it drilled into us that light is right? Weight saving is the mantra for car manufacturers, keen to stress the virtuous circle of cutting weight and improving dynamics and efficiency. Porsche is no exception and its latest Carrera T model rides in on the promise of a lightweight alternative to the base Carrera, albeit at a price.
So for an additional $17,500, once you've put back the no-cost options of rear seats and infotainment system – because you'd be a fool not to – the T tips the scales at a mere five kilos less than a stock Carrera. Its thinner side and rear glass, reduction in sound deadening and fabric door pulls help offset the addition of extras like 20-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential and adaptive dampers, but don't expect this car to feel like a budget GT3. It doesn't. Not even close.
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I know this because I'd had the opportunity to drive a manual GT3 Touring prior to the 911 Carrera T on exactly the same drive loop, and there's a marked difference in personality between the two cars, as you might well expect given that they're $88,400 and 96kW apart. The inconvenient truth for Porsche? As enervating as the GT3 Touring was, as a road car that would see everyday use, I think I'd be happier with the Carrera T.
There's not always a lot of dissent in the way that reviews deal with the Porsche 911. Most agree that the GTS is the 'sweet spot' of the range below GT3 level, but now the T has arrived, I'm really not so sure. For a start, it's quick enough. In a straight line it'll get to 100km/h in 4.5sec for the manual version and 4.2 if you opt for PDK. It's also extremely nimble, especially with the $5490 rear-steering optioned in.
The combination of four-wheel steering, relatively light weight, slicker shift action, lowered gearing, wider tyres and the standard limited slip diff make the Carrera T feel agile on the way into corners and seamlessly quick on the other side. Granted, there's not the manic rush to the redline that you get with a GT3, but the slight softness built into the ride, steering and throttle response is benign and reassuring, especially on bumpier roads.
The rear-axle steering system can't be optioned on a Carrera, so if you want that agility from your 911, the Carrera T is the most cost-effective way to get it. That might well be all the justification some potential buyers will require, but there are other compensations to the car too. For a start it looks fantastic. The standard-fit PASM Sport Chassis lowers the ride height by 20mm, really hunkering the car down onto the 20-inch Titan Grey wheels that are straight from the pricier Carrera S playbook.
There are other visual clues too. The Carrera T has a deeper front splitter which adds 28mm to the overall length, and decals down the side and on the engine cover. The seats are trimmed in Sport-Tex material with leather bolsters. There's Carrera T badging on the instrument dials and kick plates and there's those incongruous fabric door pulls protruding from a fully stitched leather-trimmed door card. If you're a genuine 911 tragic, you'll also notice that the gearchange map atop the gear knob in the manual car is finished in red rather than black.
There are a couple of caveats though. Maybe because of that shorter gearing, fuel economy is worse than a base Carrera. A PDK-equipped Carrera will see 7.4L/100km whereas an equivalent Carrera T will net 8.5L/100km. That's a 15 percent hit in efficiency for a supposedly lighter car with the same power. Maybe not such a problem in Australia, but in other markets where cars are taxed by carbon dioxide emissions, that could scotch the Carrera T's chances. Also, I can't help but think this car could have been slightly better planned in its specs. Turning the wick up just by a handful of kilowatts would have clarified the Carrera T's proposition no end.
You'll forgive it these issues on a good road. Unlike the sometimes staccato progress you'll find on-road in a GT3, the Carrera T is an easier car to work into a sympathetic flow. You feel you're getting something from it even when you're not pinging the redline at some horrendous speed, which is very much in the ethos of the original Porsche 911 T from half a century ago. That car was a depowered budget version of the 911, but its latter-day successor doesn't possess quite such a simple 'elevator pitch'.
Think of the Carrera T as the relatively affordable 911 for drivers. Real drivers as opposed to those who just want a big power number to brag about. Porsche has gone through the 911 Carrera and added a suite of well-judged bits at reasonable prices. There will be some who question the logic of paying an extra $17,500 for a car that's no more powerful, not a great deal lighter and significantly thirstier.
Nevertheless, almost everything about the Carrera T's cornering dynamics feel honed by an additional 20 percent over the base car. On that basis at least, it's a heck of a deal. But that would require somebody who knows what they're doing – and what the car is supposed to be doing – when confronted with a corner. That is by no means a given, even amongst 911 customers.
So if you genuinely get it (and you'll certainly get a nod of appreciation from any fellow Carrera T driver coming the other way), this car grants you access to the club within the club. Fabric door pulls notwithstanding, here's the no-nonsense driver's 911 Carrera we've been waiting for ever since the 991-generation car debuted in 2011. But keep that under your hat. This one's too much fun to share.
Model: Porsche 911 Carrera T
Engine: 2981cc flat-six, dohc, 24v, turbo
Max power: 272kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 450Nm @ 1700-5000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed manual / 7-speed PDK
Weight: 1425kg / 1445kg
0-100km/h: 4.5 sec / 4.2 sec
Economy: 9.5L/100km / 8.5L/100km
Price: $238,400 / $245,070
On sale: Now