Getting bigger and heavier as you get older is something many of us can relate to. Even the sportiest of cars is not immune to this unfortunate extension. The Porsche 911 weighed just 1,089 kg when new in the early 1960s and was only 4,191 mm long. Since then, it has grown over a foot (300 mm) and has packed over 800 pounds (363 kg).
Mind you, the 911 is still a fantastic car, sublime indeed, but the extended girth has changed the Carrera from a proper sports car to something that sits on the sporty side of a comfortable touring machine. Now, however, with the return of the Carrera T, the 911 is returning to its roots – again. After spending a wonderful evening carving canyons in California, I am happy to say that the result is remarkable.
The T in Carrera T actually stands for “tour”, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Here it is a designation for a lighter weight, edgier, more engaging flavor of Carrera. The first Carrera T premiered way back in 1968, a simpler 911 that most famously conquered the Monte Carlo Rally in the hands of Vic Elford.
After 1973, that model was withdrawn and was resurrected in 2017 for the then 991.2. Since then, Porsche has slapped a T on the 718 Cayman, 718 Boxster and even the Macan, which always means something that’s a little more laid-back and performance-forward.
What did Porsche do to create the new 911 Carrera T? Well, it starts with a base Carrera, with rear-wheel drive, 379 hp (283 kW) and 331 lb-ft of torque from a 3.0 L, twin-turbocharged flat-six engine. That’s well short of the 443 ponies (330 kW) the Carrera S offers and way below the GTS’s 473 (352 kW), but trust me when I say it’s more than enough. More on that in a moment.
Porsche then paired it with a seven-speed manual transmission, augmented with a subtle short-shift kit, although an eight-speed PDK transmission is available as a no-cost option if you’d rather not row your own. Porsche’s torque-vectoring, limited-slip rear differential is available if you choose that gearbox, and regardless of the number of pedals, you can optionally equip a rear steering system.
Interestingly, these two options are not available on the base Carrera. That alone makes the T a tempting choice, but the exclusivity doesn’t stop there. Porsche also fitted lightweight glass and a slimmer battery, removed some of the sound deadening material and even deleted the rear seat. The net result is a 911 with plenty of desirable performance options priced at $116,600. That’s $10,500 more than a base Carrera, but 45kg lighter.
Remember that it still weighs 1472 kg. Not exactly Spyder territory, but the reduced weight, plus the 10mm lower adaptive suspension and all the other sporty options, result in a Carrera that sounds and feels significantly different from the base machine. And with gray staggered wheels – 20in front and 21in rear – plus some subtle graphics on the door, it looks the part too.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I drove through LA traffic on my way to Angeles Crest outside of Pasadena. Cruising down the highway, except for a little more road noise and a little extra hug from the sublime Full Bucket seats (a $5,900 option), it all felt much like any other Carrera. In other words: no real compromises.
Off the highway, as the road began to climb and double back, the perspective changed. The Carrera T really came alive. A quick spin of the mode selector on the steering wheel brought me into Sport Plus, and with the sports exhaust open and the throttle sharpened, I began to appreciate just how good this car was.
Cutting through to every apex, the T not only understeered by angling the rear wheels, but bent the laws of physics that govern our lives. The shortened shifter reinforced that feeling. Shifts are shortened and firm, over before your arm has fully committed to the movement. Taking the next gear was such a joy that I jumped between ratios far more often than strictly necessary.
And what about the 3.0 L flat-six engine that powered it all? It is enough. Sure, various other versions of the 911 offer far more power, but this 911 isn’t about outright power. The Carrera T is all about the experience. Just as a manual transmission increases engagement at the expense of outright speed compared to a PDK, more power doesn’t necessarily make a car more fun.
In my book, the Carrera T is the one to buy. At least it is if you really want to maintain the flavor of what the 911 was originally meant to be. Sure, Porsche’s iconic coupe has grown a lot since 1964, but the pure feel of the Carrera T shows that its roots are still firmly planted.