Porsche now builds far more Cayenne and Macan SUVs and Panamera sedans than it does 2-door sports cars, yet the 911 still sits as the irreversible nucleus of truth for the company.
With 20 individual model series under its umbrella, Porsche’s diversity rainstorm showers down around a 911 cloudburst. And with the debut of the 911 Carrera T, a new storm cell emerges, mixing its focus on modest power (by today’s nutty standards, where 350 horsepower is commonplace) and true enthusiast-driver appeal. And so as not to bury the lead here – and to extend the metaphor – the new 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T floods the road with driving appeal, connectedness, and verve.
However, if Porsche’s own history is a guide, the new Carrera T is misnamed. Borrowing a designation from the old 911 T dating back to 1968 (which was a “decontented” 911 in modern terminology and even did away with counterweights on the engine’s crankshaft), this new one is anything but shorn of convenience features.
When back-to-basics isn’t exactly basic
The “T” denotes “Touring,” a somewhat toney appellation which simply means lots of driving on fun roads, with some luggage, with a spouse or friend, looking for nothing in particular and where the adventure itself is at least half the destination. The new Carrera T lacks no real luxuries, though. More importantly, the name doesn’t really spell out how this may be the perfect 911.
When two-up on a drive to no particular place (to pinch a great Chuck Berryism), there’s plenty of room in the front trunk and in the back seats for luggage, as long as you don’t overdo it. And even if you do, Porsche offers optional roof bars and cargo boxes for extended trips, or bike racks for the driver/cyclist.
The 911 Carrera T is an amalgam of parts from other models, too. It’s fitted with the base Carrera engine, a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter flat-six churning out a beautiful wail with its 370 hp and 331 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s the lowest output engine throughout the 911 range, but in no way is it lacking anything. Acceleration to 60 mph arrives in just 4 seconds flat with the PDK dual-clutch automatic and 4.3 seconds with the 3-pedal manual.
This new version of the 911 Carrera also standardizes a version of the Sport Chrono Package from other Porsches, which actually presents itself as a rotary dial on the steering wheel from which you can adjust powertrain modes. Select Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual where Sport and Sport Plus set the throttle and transmission to react to inputs more quickly and aggressively. On Individual, you can call up settings you’ve customized prior to driving, while Normal is the default, which sets everything effectively to, well, medium.
To the dismay of purists, any driver can attain hero status
Wrapped only in the narrow-body Carrera’s bodywork, the T is not available with wider 911 Turbo fenders. Porsche installs lighter-weight and thinner glass for the rear window and side panes, something the T shares with the hyper-expensive GT2 RS in order to pare about 8 pounds off the car. Continuing the sharing-caring theme, the T’s 20-inch wheels are borrowed from the 911 Carrera S.
Either a standard 7-speed manual or an optional dual-clutch PDK automatic with paddle shifters serves transmission duties, though I tested only the PDK-equipped version. Porsche also fits a wonderfully effective limited-slip differential as standard, which makes digging out of corners with the throttle a grippy pleasure.
Through Porsche’s constant honing and improving the 911 over its 50-plus years – especially over the past 10 – the automaker has made hero drivership attainable no matter what your level of expertise. Long-time 911 purists might take issue with that (not having to work especially hard to find the driving rewards), but nobody else will, and nobody else cares. The chassis structure and suspension mostly defy the conventional laws of dynamics and weight distribution, because it handles not as if more than 60% of the car’s weight is perched over the rear axle. Of course, it is, but it doesn’t drive that way, nor does it matter.
Diving further into the nuts and bolts, a 2-mode Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) suspension is standard. It both lowers the car by 0.4 inches relative to the standard 911 Carrera and offers adjustable shocks.
Most upgrades for the 911 Carrera T are unnecessary
A relatively sparse, sober cabin sees interior door releases made from pull straps rather than levers (echoing prior enthusiast-focused and minimalist 911s of years ago). The optional carbon-fiber seats with extra-firm bolsters might not be for everyone. Plus, this upgrade also deletes the car’s admittedly small rear seats, cleaving off 44 lbs. compared to a standard Carrera. As a dad, I’d keep the seats, no matter how small they might be. Besides, the standard front seats are plenty grippy and more comfortable over longer tours.
Porsche offers rear-axle steering ($2,090) on the T, an upgrade unavailable on the base Carrera, as well as carbon-ceramic (PCCB) brakes ($8,250). But these are two items that I’d also skip, since this is both supposed to be a somewhat minimalist, tech-light 911. These options would add about 10% to the T’s already lofty base price of $103,150, which is already about $11,000 more than the base 911 Carrera.
The standard brakes are more than up to the job, the sole exception being if one plans days at the racetrack. This is not, however, what a Porschephile might think of as a “Club Sport” edition of the 911, a thinly veiled racecar also useable on the street. There are other models in Porsche’s range for that, though they are admittedly more expensive, such as the $144,650 GT3.
Porsche delivers a driving experience absent in most modern cars
The deep charm of the Carrera T is usability. Yes, it’s a pure driver’s car, but that’s a bit easy. It will reward anyone manning the tiller, regardless of skill, and that’s a hardermountain to climb, and in this car’s case, those rewards need no special training or special automotive genetics to perceive. Anyone who drives it will recognize that quality of connectedness.
Despite being the most modestly powered 911, the Carrera T churns out the grunt like a bigger, brawnier engine with nearly no turbo lag and a rich, sultry, but not overbearing exhaust note. It is also always easy to hold grip and extra braking capability as a buffer and as a margin of safety.
Over the high-paced and aggressive 200-plus miles I put on the Carrera T, driving the alternately smooth, rough, and sand-swept roads of Northern California, the latest 911 offered a mix of response, feel, sound, and simple deliciousness absent in most cars today. While we should always tip our caps to the hyper-efficient people movers that conserve our resources, we must also doff them for high-achievers in the sporting car arts.
The new 911 Carrera T is worthy.