Porsche sure knows how to celebrate an anniversary, in this case, 60 years of the 911. The German sports car maker offers plenty of “special” models, including the Porsche 911 Carrera T. We drove the machine to Hell (Michigan) and back and can tell you what kind of beast it is in our review.
It’s been a big year for Porsche as it marks the 60th anniversary of the iconic 911. The German automaker has launched several special models to celebrate that anniversary, including the Porsche 911 Carrera T. If the name inspires a moment of déjà vu that’s because it harkens back to 1968 when the “T” badge first appeared on a 911.
A lot of things have changed since then, and the latest versions of the iconic sports car are far more sophisticated and feature-rich. But of all the many variants in the current lineup, the Carrera T most clearly evokes the 911’s rich heritage.
This is definitely not a GT3. The 911 Carrera T is motivated by Porsche’s base flat-6 engine which makes a comparatively modest 379 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. But what Porsche has done with the T is transformative. It’s stripped out some of the luxury touches found on the rest of the 911 line-up. The Carrera T also has been stripped down when it comes to mass — with the loss of its rear seats, among other things, and the fact that it’s available only with Porsche’s 7-speed manual gearbox.
Going to Hell
As is my wont whenever I get into a 911, whether for a few hours or an entire week, my first inclination is to go to Hell. Hell, Michigan, that is, where some of the best roads in the Great Lakes State converge. And what I discovered was a devilishly delightful package that — despite a few flaws — reminded me of why the Porsche 911 long ago earned such a vaunted reputation and a loyal following.
No, it’s not the fastest car off the line, though it’s no slouch with 0-60 times of around 3.8 seconds. And while I didn’t have the opportunity to log track time, the folks at Motor Trend and Car & Driver have reported breaking the beam after a quarter mile in around 12 seconds, at speeds approaching 120 mph.
What really matters, however, isn’t straight line performance. There are plenty of muscle cars capable of delivering even better numbers. Heck, you could go for a Tesla with Plaid mode, or the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT with the Performance Pack and get off the line more quickly. The retro-tinged Porsche 911 Carrera T is, as it should be, all about the entire driving experience. And that’s what I set out to test during my time in Hell.
The Devil is in the details
At a base $118,500, the Carrera T is a hefty investment, and some potential buyers might be put off by what they get for the money. It’s not only that base engine but an interior that is decidedly plain, even drab. There are only a few of the luxury accents and details found on other 911 variants, with the exception of the red seatbelts in my test vehicle. And numerous familiar features, such as the – admittedly cramped – rear seats have been removed.
One plus is that the 911’s traditionally limited storage space gets a boost because there’s now a nice parcel shelf in back. The power front seats, meanwhile, lose all adjustments but recline and the ability to move fore and aft. The good news is that they’re well bolstered and supportive.
Porsche did include one high-line feature in the package, a standard-issue Sport Chrono system that is useful for clocking your performance.
Cue the Valkyries
Porsche claims it has stripped about 100 pounds off the weight of a comparable 911 Carrera S. And some of the changes do affect creature comfort. There’s less sound deadening material, including thinner glass. And even those who love to hear a Porsche engine at wide-open throttle might find the sound levels a bit deafening — especially at highway speeds.
I had a few other complaints, notably the placement of some gauges which were all but blocked by the steering wheel.
Power to the Pavement
As earlier noted, the Porsche 911 Carrera T gets the least potent engine package available, and makes just 379 hp and 331 lb-ft. By comparison, the Carrera S jumps to 443 ponies, though it maintains the same torque rating.
Only the Porsche 7-speed manual is available. That might be cause for instant rejection by millennials, many of whom have no clue how to drive stick. And even those who do might complain that Porsche’s incredible PDK transmission is actually quicker and smoother. But for those who love to row their own, this was clearly the right choice.
Power is directed to the back end with its wide and grippy, 21-inch wheels and tires. The T gets 20-inchers up front.
It’s all about handling
While Porsche may have opted for a minimum of luxury features, it did load up the 911 Carrera T where handling matters. The now two-seater gets a mechanical limited-slip differential and the automaker’s semi-active PASM suspension with sport-tuned dampers. And the T carries over the rear steering capabilities of other 911 models, which allow the back wheels to point up to 2.8 degrees, depending upon speed.
It didn’t take me long to discover how well everything comes together. The roads around Hell aren’t especially well maintained. There are plenty of rough spots, sudden and sharp turns, off-camber corners and, well, just about anything you can imagine running into that might test the mettle of a sports car.
The Porsche 911 Carrera T delivered on all fronts. Steering was firm but natural. Handling was precise and predictable, with even the roughest pavement barely disturbing the PASM suspension. There’s a Japanese automaker that likes to talk about how “rider and horse” become one. That’s certainly the case here.
About the only time my concentration was jarred was when I had trouble working my way through the 7-speed gearbox. The transmission is reluctant to let you jump gears, say, from fourth to seventh.
The last word
A lot has changed since the original Porsche 911 made its debut 60 years ago. Today’s buyers expect plenty of high-end features, whatever they’re driving. The Carrera T isn’t a true retro-mobile but it is likely to resonate with purists who couldn’t care less about 20-way power seats and audiophile sound systems.
True, it can be loud as Hell when you’re slamming the throttle. And you’ll need to work on coordinating left foot and right hand to get the most out of the 7-speed manual.
But for those who want to experience a truly balanced machine that readily delivers all its capable of, the Porsche 911 Carrera T comes through.