With more than two-dozen variants on sale today, sifting through all the permutations of the 911 can be a daunting task even for diehard sports car fanatics. Thankfully, the Carrera T manages to stand out in the crowd.
Slotted between the standard Carrera and the Carrera S with a base MSRP of $116,600 for 2023 models, the Carrera T is aimed at the enthusiast who appreciates the track-tuned capability of GT-division 911 models like the GT3 and S/T, but isn’t willing to take out a second mortgage in order to put one in their driveway. While some of the Carrera T’s character can be replicated with a base model and a strategic use of the options sheet, there are other elements — both aesthetic and mechanical — that are normally reserved for significantly pricier high-performance models, as well as a few bits and pieces that you can’t get anywhere else.
The Carrera T — that “T” stands for “Touring,” by the way — can trace its lineage all the way back to the 911T that Porsche offered in the late 1960s, a model that was particularly appealing to sports car purists because it was the lightest and least expensive 911 in the lineup. The automaker revived the T moniker back in 2017 for the previous generation 911, and since then the package has been brought over to the Cayman, Boxster and even the Macan. Although it’s no longer the most affordable trim level available in these model lineups, its purist spirit remains the same.
Here the formula starts with a standard 911 Carrera and its 379-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine, but things quickly deviate from the norm. While the base car is only available with an eight-speed PDK automatic transmission, a seven-speed manual gearbox is standard equipment for the Carrera T. A torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential is also part of the deal, as is Porsche’s PASM active suspension system with sport-tuned dampers and springs that lower the car by 10mm – a suspension package which is also not available on the base Carrera. A staggered set of wheels and summer tires (20-inch wheels with 245mm-wide tires up front, 21-inch wheels with 305mm tires in the rear), an active sport exhaust system, the Sport Chrono Package, and agate gray exterior trim are included as well, while rear-axle steering is optionally available.
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Even with the additional equipment, the Carrera T tips the scales at a svelte official weight of 3,254 pounds, which makes this car 100 pounds lighter than a standard Carrera. Porsche accomplished this feat by turning to some of the weight-saving measures that the automaker uses on hardcore track models like the 911 GT3, which include deleting the rear seat, reducing sound deadening material, using thinner glass and installing a lightweight battery.
While enhanced performance is the main focus of the package, the Carrera T is surprisingly accommodating in a more mundane context. I’d probably spring for the optional 18-way adjustable sport seats largely for their lumbar functionality, but the standard chairs are plenty supportive during spirited driving sessions yet comfortable enough for longer stints at the wheel. The seven-speed gearbox is satisfying to use even when puttering around town, too, and the clutch’s take-up point is clearly communicated through the pedal without the need for fatiguing heft.
Although the suspension’s sport-focused tuning delivers a relatively firm ride on L.A.’s pockmarked asphalt, and the loss of the rear seat and the reduction of sound deadening material allow more road noise to enter the cabin, these compromises aren’t particularly egregious in practice, and it’s ultimately a small price to pay for the enhanced driving experience that the Carrera T can deliver on a good stretch of road.
While its straight-line acceleration won’t drop jaws in the same way that a Turbo S or GT3 will, the Carrera T is a legitimately quick machine that will sprint to 60 mph from rest in 4.3 seconds. Opting for the PDK automatic drops that figure down to 3.8 seconds, but I’d consider the additional engagement offered by the manual gearbox to be well worth the penalty of a few extra tenths. The combination of reduced sound insulation and a sport exhaust system also delivers an authoritative flat-six soundtrack that urges you to wind each gear out to the 7,500-rpm redline, and the sensation of rowing through the gears while the engine is on full boil is something that paddles simply cannot replicate.
Either way, it’s more than enough shove to keep things lively in the canyons. Out on the ribbons of twisting tarmac that are draped over the Angeles National Forest, the Carrera T’s greatest strengths are laid bare, not least of which is a fantastically balanced chassis that’s eager to change direction and more than willing to get a bit rowdy should you purposely choose to exceed the limits of grip.
I noted that the suspension seemed a bit more settled in its Normal setting when dispatching the sorts of bumps and undulations that are commonly encountered mid-corner and during hard braking on mountain roads, but the Sport setting’s firmness offered additional body control that would likely come in handy on a well-maintained road course surface. I’d probably swap out the brake pads for something more aggressive before heading to a track day, though — while there’s plenty of stopping power on tap, I found the initial bite to be a bit soft for my taste. I’d also opt for a tire more like the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, which is standard equipment on the 911 GT3. While my tester’s Pirelli P Zero summer tires are well-behaved on the street and relatively quiet, more track-oriented rubber would likely sharpen the Carrera T’s reflexes even more and bring additional information in through the steering wheel.
But those minor critiques really just illustrate what an incredibly capable and engaging sports car can be found in the Carrera T. The softer edges make this 911 easy to live with on a day-to-day basis, but the package also brings together a collection of hardware and tuning tweaks that ultimately deliver a compelling performer.
Porsche’s GT-division 911s might make all the headlines, but on the right road, the Carrera T will leave you wanting for nothing. And if you have any concerns about its status in the 911 hierarchy, keep in mind that a guy in a GT3 Touring brought traffic to a halt in his lane just to give my tester a thumbs up.
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