Less powerful 911 Carrera manuals don't look set to return; the T is a perfect reminder of why they should
By Matt Bird / Tuesday, November 3, 2020
The 911 Carrera T is a classic case of how poor timing can influence perception of a product. Back in the autumn of 2017, the world had just seen – and collectively marvelled at – the GT3 Touring, a car that infuriated 911 R speculators and brought joy to anyone transfixed by the idea of a 500hp flat six in a more subtle 911. But it was also the time of the 'British Legends Edition' 911s, £120k Carrera GTSes that drew plenty of derision in the PH forum – the Michael Schumacher Seicento was mentioned within five comments…
Against that backdrop, a marginally lighter and fractionally more focused Carrera Touring was destined to struggle. Because despite the shared nomenclature, the specifications made it patently clear that this wasn't going to be a GT3 on the cheap. And those who had justifiably sneered at the BLEs could find plenty to pick apart in the Carrera T deal, from lightweight sport seats (that were electrically adjustable), a nominal weight saving (that required the PCM to be deleted) and a list price of £85,576. When a standard Carrera cost £77,891. With the same power.
However, there were one or two spec inclusions that made the T notable. The standard seven speed manual received shorter ratios, the locking differential and PASM not available on the Carrera was standard, and the standard two-seat configuration – along with reduced sound insulation and thinner glass – promised a little more grit in the experience that some suggested turbos may have robbed the 911 of.
Back then, the Carrera T was as predicted: a slightly sweeter and sharper Carrera, and thus about as good a sports car as was available for the money. Now, though, the context is slightly different. Not only as a manual gearbox is confirmed solely for the more powerful Carrera S version of the 992, the Carrera T is a very rare car – there are more UK GT3s of the most recent generation 911 than the T. So is it worth seeking out?
Search for a 911 Carrera T here.
In that trademark Porsche way, the understandable spec sheet cynicism does ebb away somewhat when presented with the Carrera T reality. You'll know that having a radio back in spoils the weight saving and that it cost as much as a Carrera S, but it still looks handsome as anything. The suspension drop helps, as does the new front splitter and the Carrera S wheels; for those willing to look, it is something just a little more than another 911 Carrera.
Same goes inside. Obviously the T is recognisably a 911 Carrera, albeit with a sufficient amount of extra details – the red etchings on the smaller gearlever, the missing rear seats, the door pulls, the smaller GT sports steering wheel – to mark it out. You'll read this as reluctantly as it's written, but there's a sense of occasion that isn't quite there in the standard car.
On the road, the T serves as a reminder of what's lost when the 911 doesn't have a manual gearbox option. There's so much more interaction, so much more involvement in the process of driving a car when left leg and arm are engaged. Many don't seem to want it anymore, which perhaps makes the experience feel all the more special. Whatever the case, chasing almost 8,000rpm with three pedals and stick remains a privilege like little else.
And yes, that statement stands true even with Porsche seven-speed manual. By the time of the T, the PDK-with-a-clutch-pedal gearbox was vastly improved over its initial application in the 991. With gear length and lever size reduced for this car, there's a greater sense of both urgency and reward going up the ratios; going back down is just as good with nicely spaced and weighted pedals. Nobody would describe it as better than any Porsche six-speed – the action can still be unsatisfying on occasion, and the seventh cog remains a bit awkward – but it's far, far better than you've heard. And leagues ahead of something like an Evora or F-Type manual.
As a driving experience, there's a lot that the T does really rather well indeed. Crucially, they are model-specific features that ever so slightly elevate it beyond a basic Carrera experience. The lighter glass and the expanse of space behind does bring in more flat-six howl (further aided by the sports exhaust), the driver more aware of changes in pitch and tone through the rev range than usual; which, given how sweet the turbocharged 3.0-litre sounds, is certainly welcome.
The suspension drop works similarly; it's a less refined experience, with more texture and detail about the road's surface, but to an appropriate amount in a car pitched as a driver-focussed 911. In its standard setting the PASM is both adequately absorbent and consummately controlled in almost every situation. The 'Sport' setting initially seems abrupt, though it takes all of about three imperfections to clock that, while appreciably firmer, it's a long way from intolerable. Work the T harder – something that's pretty hard to resist doing – and the standard locking diff with torque vectoring can be felt working to straighten corner exit just out of sight of the traction control's beady eye. There's just more going on as a 911 driving experience, something more alive and more vivid without being overbearing or excessive. As the 992 faces further accusations of aloofness or detachment from the driver – which replacement 911 hasn't? – so the Carrera T's blend of talents further appeals.
Is it fast enough? Yeah, most probably. As we all know from putting daft exhausts on Fiestas at 18, more noise always heightens the impression of speed, and the slightly shorter ratios do wake up a car that could occasionally be hauling each gear for a while. Ample torque and a greedy appetite for revs makes the twin-turbo a really nice everyday powertrain, usable and docile as well as exciting. Seventh might feel a bit odd, but it'll get you comfortably beyond 30mpg at a cruise as well…
Probably. The T idea certainly deserves greater attention for its focus on 911 manuals (there are five on PH currently, and just two turbo Carrera manuals) and grafting some additional driver appeal onto the base model. Trouble is that with a chunky initial RRP, some expensive options (the car you see here, with ceramics, was once £100k) and rarity on its side, the Carrera T has retained its value as well. You'll still need more than £70k for one, and lower mileage cars are on offer at nearer £80,000. And there won't be many who need reminding of what else is on offer from the Stuttgart stable for that money: GT4s and Spyders, new GTS 4.0-litres, GTS 911s… if they aren't more powerful than the T they offer the emotional pull of an atmospheric flat-six, and that appeal needs no further explanation.
As a weekend 911, the T is perhaps still a little, well, regular to have you hunting out every B-road and traipsing across the country for a track day. However, as an everyday sports car, one to brighten each journey with one detail or another and impress in every situation, the T is a hard one to fault. It modestly if tangibly improves the Carrera's credentials as a driver's car, without significantly impinging on the famed 911 usability. (Because everyone uses the rear seat for stuff and not people, right?) Bring all that together with a car that looks as good as the T does and has rarity on its side, and it isn't hard to see the temptation. Let's hope that temptation extends to its maker, too, and that the manual currently only confirmed for more powerful 992s makes it to a future 911 like this. Even in the world of Porsche sports cars – perhaps especially in the world of Porsche sports cars – less can most certainly be more.
SPECIFICATION – PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T (991)
Engine: 2,981cc, flat-six turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 370@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,700-5,000rpm
Top speed: 182mph
Weight: 1,500kg (EU)
MPG: 29.7 (NEDC combined)
Price new: from £85,576
Price now: £70k+
Search for a 911 Carrera T here.
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