911 T FINAL DRIVE
Words: Steve Bennett Photography: Antony Fraser With the new 992 model 911 almost with us, it’s time for one last drive in the 991, with 991 sceptic, Bennett, at the wheel. However, he thinks the ‘enthusiast’ aligned T version might just win him over
It’s nearly the end of the road for the 991. Editor Bennett takes the enthusiast’s ‘T’ version for a final fling, plus we take a drive in Litchfield’s modified 911 T
Time to take an analogy and run with it. If the 911 were my favourite band, then the 991 would not be my favourite album. Indeed, were it such a thing, then I would have played it a mere handful of times in the 991’s seven-year production span. By means of a comparison I reckon the 997 was rarely off my playlist. Indeed, the 997 probably qualifies as my favourite 911 album. Indeed, I can even name my favourite 997 track, that being the gen 1 GT3 RS, a car that was still analogue in the great scheme of things.
It's not quite for want of trying to like the 991. When it launched in 2011, it was, of course a big, big deal. Certainly a big deal for a magazine that's very cornerstone is the 911. The 991 was only the second all new, clean-sheet reboot for the classic 911 concept and the first in 14 years for the modern, water-cooled iteration. There was a lot to understand and it deserved our full attention, which we gave it in the form of a first drive that lasted three days and took us to the far north and some of the best driving roads we know.
At our disposal was a base 3.4-litre Carrera 2, which seemed fitting, on passive suspension and only PDK to spoil its enthusiast-like spec, but necessary thanks to my being on crutches after a cycling accident. The seven-speed manual, which sounded impressive (I mean who wouldn't want a seven-speed gearbox to play with), would have to wait for another time, although colleagues whose opinions I trusted, were not complimentary.
Back then, in 2012, I felt like I really had to like the 991, and I don't mind 'fessing up that perhaps swayed my judgement to a degree, but deep down, for me, some of the magic had gone. I just wasn't quite prepared to admit it to myself, justifying my analysis with the inevitable progress of 50-years that had smoothed off some of the 911’s quirks and rough edges.
Further drives followed – the launch of the C4S, a long distance blast to catch a stage of the 2012 Tour de France, the odd group test, GT3 x 2 and then the gen 2 turbo cars, which we marked with a two car test in Wales, with both the base Carrera 2 and the C2S. That was over two years ago and I haven't driven a 991 since largely on the basis of: if you can't find anything good to say, then...well you get the drift (funnily enough, that doesn't apply to the 911 Turbo, though, which I consider to be a 911 in name only these days). Not that I hid my disdain, far from it. It was my Ratner moment. It wasn't so much the inevitable turbocharging, but the accumulative effect of the 991's various systems weighing it down, and the turbos just added to a general bloated feeling. This was a car that was no longer light on its loafers, particularly since to fill the wheel arches they had grown to 20in of premium rubber, with equally massive brakes. And then there was the artificial addition of rear wheel steering and torque vectoring and all sorts of other guff to try and make the 991 feel rather livelier than it really was. I said all that stuff, too, and absolutely nobody disagreed. But then I'm just a harmless print media journalist. Good job I'm not an 'influencer', eh?
And I stand by it. The 991 hasn't captured the enthusiast’s market and the GT cars have just made the enthusiast market cross, thanks to Porsche's bloody minded approach to production and allocation. And surprisingly Porsche got
the message. What was required was a stripped out Carrera 2 and lo it was born in the shape of the 911 T. Sure there was a certain amount of smoke and mirrors going on, and typically less means pay more (the 911 T costs £8000 more than a base Carrera 2), but hey, we were grateful for the crumbs and the junior GT car vibe. Now here was a 991 that I might like...
And with the 991 leaving us and the 992's arrival imminent, now seems like a good time to say goodbye to the 991 and to take a drive in what I hope will be a case of saving the best until last. No, I'm not expecting the 911 T to elevate the 991 to the position of fave 911 album, but I'm open to it becoming my fave track of a thus far personally disappointing collection.
I hate to have a pop before I've even driven it, but first impressions are not good. The less is more ethos of the 911 T is comprehensively trashed because this particular test fleet example is loaded with enough extras to take the on the road price to just £17 shy of £100,000, which is crazy and surely missing the point. It's got the lot: rear steer, torque vectoring, £6k’s worth of carbon ceramic brakes, rear camera reverse, heated seats, cruise control. With that little lot to haul about, the fabric door pulls and rear seat delete and thinner side and rear glass just seems slightly cynical. The German registered version that colleague Dan Trent drove back in the early part of 2018, with no fripperies and not even a radio, was far more the thing. On the plus side, though, it looks the business in Speed Yellow, with Titanium Grey wheels and hunkered down by 20mm on its Sports PASM suspension. And it's manual, too.
And so to the North Yorkshire moors and Blakey Ridge, the very same terrain that challenged that early 991 3.4 back in 2012, albeit minus the February snow. Purist and normally aspirated as it was, the 3.4-litre, 350bhp engine was lacking in torque and didn't really have the required grunt to overcome the 991 ecobiased gearing, its 324lb ft at 5600rpm no match for the 911 T's twin turbo 332lb ft between 1700rpm–5000rpm. Torque talks in real world conditions and this second encounter with the 991's twin turbo power pack is a more positive one, especially with the steering column mounted rotary dial tuned into Sport, which sharpens up the throttle response and magically gets blippy on the throttle
for you on the downshifts.
Downshifts? Ah, yes, that manual sevenspeed. The shift quality is superb, but you can't twang the lever round the gate like you can with, say, the Boxster/cayman sixspeed. Coming down from seventh to sixth and the lever is pulled straight to fourth, which can leave you in a right old muddle, unless you take evasive action and add your own bias correction. Even leaving seventh out of the equation, the spring biasing still works against you, taking the lever to a plane you don't want. Put rather more simply, something that should be intuitive demands far too much thought. Which is a shame, because the manual benefits from the T's shorter, more dynamic 3.59:1 final drive, unlike the PDK T's 3.44:1 final drive, which is the same as the standard C2.
The chassis is rather more successful, even if it is artificially enhanced. Grip is never in question, particularly in the dry, but 20in tyres have that effect. Rather more reflective of the 911 vibe is the way the 911 T moves around when worked hard. The added turbo torque wakes up the rear weight bias and the T feels more like the 911 we know and love, even if some of the agility is provoked via the rear steer trickery and torque vectoring rear diff. Whatever, it moves about, it shimmies and twists, in a way that was almost absent from the earlier gen 1, normally aspirated 991 experience. Over the crests and dips of Blakey Ridge, the PASM dampers offer strict control, but without ever being harsh or crashing and banging. Sure, it's no magic carpet, but body roll and contact
Above left: 991 sceptic, Bennett, at the wheel and presumably stirring for a gear. Handling and grip on massive 20in wheels and PASM Sport suspension is mighty
Not for the shy and retiring, but 911 T looks terrific in Speed Yellow. Massive PCCB brakes might be £6k spec overkill, but they don’t half work