Getting bigger and heavier as we age is something many of us can relate to. Even the sportiest of cars is not immune to this unfortunate expansion. The Porsche 911 weighed just 2,400 pounds (1,089 kg) when new in the early 1960s and was just 165 inches (4,191 mm) long. Since then, he has grown over a foot (300 mm) and weighed over 800 pounds (363 kg).
Mind you, the 911 is still a stellar car, truly sublime, but that enlarged girth changed the Carrera from a fully-fledged sports car to something on the sporty side of a comfortable touring car. But now, with the return of the Carrera T, 911 is returning to its roots, again. After spending a lovely evening digging canyons in California, I’m happy to say that the result is remarkable.
The T in the Carrera T actually stands for “touring,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Here is a designation for a lighter, edgier and more engaging flavor of Carrera. The first Carrera T premiered way back in 1968, a simpler 911 that swept the Monte Carlo Rally at the hands of Vic Elford.
After 1973, that model was retired and was resurrected in 2017 for the then current 991.2. Since then, Porsche has slapped a T on the 718 Cayman, 718 Boxster and even the Macan, always meaning something a little stripped down and performance-oriented.
What did Porsche do to make the new 911 Carrera T? Well, start with a base, rear-wheel-drive Carrera with 379 hp (283 kW) and 331 lb-ft of torque coming from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine. That’s well below the 443 ponies (330 kW) offered by the Carrera S and far below the GTS’ 473 (352 kW), but trust me when I say it’s more than enough. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
Porsche then mated it to a seven-speed manual gearbox, boosted by a subtle short-shift kit, although an eight-speed PDK gearbox is available as a no-cost option if you’d rather not row yourself. Porsche’s torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential is available if you opt for that drivetrain, and regardless of how many pedals you have, you can optionally equip a rear-wheel steering system.
Interestingly, these two options aren’t 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 thinner battery, reduced some of the sound deadening material and even eliminated the rear seat. The net result is a 911 with many desirable performance options priced at $116,600. That’s $10,500 more than a base Carrera but 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter.
Mind you, it still weighs 3,254 pounds (1,472 kg). Not exactly Spyder territory, but that low weight, plus the 10mm lower adaptive suspension and all the other sporty options, results in a Carrera that sounds and feels significantly different from the base machine. And, with offset gray wheels—20 inches up front and 21 in the rear—plus 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 the Angeles Crest outside Pasadena. As I hit the highway, aside from a little more road noise and a little extra compression from the sublime Full Bucket Seats (a $5,900 option), everything felt about the same as any other Carrera. In other words: no real compromise.
Off the highway, as the road started to climb and back on itself, my perspective changed. The Carrera T really came alive. A quick flip of the mode switch on the steering wheel put me into Sport Plus, and with the sport exhaust open and the throttle sharper, I began to appreciate just how good this car was.
The T cut through every apex, steering not just by leaning the rear wheels, but by bending the rules of physics that govern our lives. That shortened gearbox reinforced that feeling. The turns are shortened and stopped, before your arm is fully engaged in the movement. Grabbing the next gear was such a joy that I jumped between gears far more often than absolutely necessary.
And what about the 3.0-liter flat-six engine that drove it all? It’s abundant. Sure, various other versions of the 911 offer a lot more horsepower, but this 911 isn’t about total thrust. The Carrera T is about experience. Just as a manual transmission increases engagement at the expense of outright speed compared to a PDK, more horsepower 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 keep the flavor of what the 911 was originally meant to be. Sure, Porsche’s iconic coupe has grown a lot since 1964, but the sheer feel of the Carrera T shows that its roots are still firmly planted.