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

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

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

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