991.2 Car­rera v Car­rera T

Porsche’s new Car­rera T can be had for a £7,000 premium over the base car – but how do the two com­pare? To­tal 911 pits them head to head to find out…

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune Pho­tog­ra­phy by al­is­dair Cu­sick

How does Porsche’s new Car­rera T de­vi­ate from the base Car­rera?

Lighter, more fo­cused and sim­ple. We like the sound of that here at To­tal 911, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to cars. We first heard about the Car­rera T some months ago and, frankly, we could barely con­tain our ex­cite­ment. On first de­tails it sounded ex­actly like the Car­rera should be, even if the ‘T’ moniker seems a lit­tle bit con­trived. The spec­i­fi­ca­tion sounds more like a Club­sport, the T’s Tour­ing badge wrapped up in the con­tra­dic­tions of the car’s lighter, more fo­cused spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Still, it fits with the Tour­ing ethos of the GT3 at the other ex­treme, Porsche’s nam­ing strat­egy some­what hap­haz­ard at present.

Nomen­cla­ture be damned, the Car­rera T’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion makes for in­ter­est­ing read­ing. The changes, in typ­i­cally Porsche fash­ion, are moder­ate in iso­la­tion, though add them up and they’re con­vinc­ing enough to make for a dif­fer­ing whole. Like the GTS above the S, the Car­rera T is a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise in spec­i­fi­ca­tion that en­hances and im­proves, while at the same time clev­erly adding a few unique el­e­ments that mark it out as dis­tinct.

Porsche’s mes­sage with it is ‘less is more’ and that it’s all about the driv­ing. Cer­tainly its spec­i­fi­ca­tion ad­dresses con­cern in some quar­ters that the 911 leans more to­wards the GT spec­trum in 991.2 guise than ever be­fore. Us­ing the Car­rera as its ba­sis, the 3.0-litre tur­bocharged flat six de­vel­ops the same 370hp as the en­try-level 911. There’s less weight, the quoted un­laden weight be­ing 1,425kg, Porsche say­ing that’s 20kg less than a sim­i­larly spec­i­fied Car­rera.

There is some smoke and mir­rors go­ing on here though, the Car­rera T’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion has the Mi­ami blue car here listed at that 1,425kg, while the spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the sil­ver Car­rera Coupe we’ve brought along to test against it reads 1,430kg. There’s 5kg dif­fer­ence in it then, and even that’s open to de­bate, as this Car­rera T comes equipped with a PCM mo­d­ule. How­ever, it does with­out rear seats, has the re­duced sound dead­en­ing and the win­dows from the driver and pas­sen­ger side out back are light­weight glass – this, like the rear seat and PCM delete, a no-cost op­tion to have as stan­dard.

The con­ven­tional door han­dles have gone, re­placed by door straps that any­one of RS per­sua­sion will ap­pre­ci­ate. It is all enough to have peo­ple like us tied up in con­ver­sa­tion about it for years, which is ar­guably the point. If Porsche is good at one thing, it’s for pro­vid­ing its fans with a talk­ing point. The nu­ances of the T’s dif­fer­ences will be de­bated ad in­fini­tum, help­ing cre­ate a leg­end, though I’ll try here not to get too tan­gled up in them.

Sit­ting in­side, it’s im­pos­si­ble for me not to fail on that im­me­di­ately. There’s red paint in the gear­knob pat­tern icon, the stick it­self is shorter, and there are cloth cen­tres (Sport-tex if you must know) on the Sports Seats Plus. ‘911’ is em­broi­dered on the head­rests, and there’s a 360mm GT Sport steer­ing wheel with Mode Switch for the stan­dard Sport Chrono Pack­age.

If you’re miss­ing the Sports Chrono clock on top of the dash­board, that’s been binned thanks to weight op­ti­mi­sa­tion. You can have it back for a few hun­dred quid but if, like me, you pre­fer your dash­board un­adorned then don’t bother. The Sport Chrono Pack re­tains the ac­tive en­gine mounts, while the Car­rera T is the only sub-s Car­rera that comes with the PASM Sport chas­sis, drop­ping it 10mm over the Car­rera’s stan­dard PASM chas­sis. You can also add the op­tion of rear-axle steer­ing, again ex­clu­sive for a sub-s.

Spend an hour or two on the con­fig­u­ra­tor as

I have and you’ll find all the slight dif­fer­ences. Spec­i­fy­ing a stan­dard Car­rera as close as is pos­si­ble to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of a stan­dard Car­rera T will see it sur­pass the Car­rera T’s price tag. Throw in the Car­rera T’s unique ‘light­weight’ bits and pieces and it all makes a bit more sense, the Ger­man-plated car weigh­ing in at £89,994. That is a creep of £4,368 over its £85,576 list price – thank paint and a few other non-es­sen­tial niceties like the Car­rera T in­te­rior pack that adds con­trast­ing sil­ver stitch­ing and door straps, but even then the clos­est I could get to the Car­rera spec­i­fi­ca­tion saw it rise to around £89,000 in com­par­i­son.

The sil­ver Car­rera here is close enough, be­ing £84,891. Vis­ually, ex­ter­nally it takes a keen-eyed

spot­ter to no­tice the dif­fer­ences. 20-inch wheels are stan­dard, while there’s a painted-grey fin­ish to the rear en­gine slats. Add some Car­rera T badg­ing in Agate grey and stripes along the flanks in the same colour, while the stan­dard Sports Ex­haust is tipped with black fin­ish­ers. Sport equip­ment wing mir­rors and a dif­fer­ing front lip spoiler also fea­ture, the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect be­ing rel­a­tively sub­tle.

It’s win­ter, we’ve a few hours of light and no clean­ing kit, so pho­tog­ra­pher Cu­sick and I make the ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion for a down and dirty shoot. If it’s good enough for Porsche and its Car­rera T brochure, then it’s good enough for us. That, and it means more time driv­ing, rather than mess­ing around with freez­ing dig­its and dirty sponges. I’ve driven here in the Car­rera, pick­ing up the T from Porsche HQ in Read­ing and head­ing out to some fa­mil­iar, en­joy­able roads about 40 min­utes away. All the way down I’ve been musing just how sweet a pack­age the stan­dard Car­rera is, my ini­tial en­thu­si­asm on hear­ing the T’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion slightly tem­pered when the full info came in re­gard­ing it. Will it be spe­cial, just dif­fer­ent enough to jus­tify its ex­is­tence or is it a parts-bin de­cep­tion to cre­ate some news? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to drive it.

Let’s get over the big­gest dif­fer­ence first: the T here is left-hand drive. Driven back from the launch event in the south of France (as you may re­call form Mr Si­b­ley’s first-drive ex­cur­sion in is­sue 162), I’m sat on the wrong side to­day. Not that it mat­ters. When it comes to shift­ing I’m gen­uinely am­bidex­trous, so the nu­ances here aren’t be­cause I’m us­ing dif­fer­ent hands, but be­cause of the phys­i­cal changes. That shorter shift lever has dropped in height enough to be seen, and the shift pre­ci­sion has moved up a notch be­cause of that. It’s quicker across its gate, more ac­cu­rate, that shorter throw adding some sharp­ness to the seven-speed man­ual. No bad thing, the throw in the stan­dard Car­rera isn’t overly long, but jump­ing straight from the T into it does high­light it could be bet­ter. It’s a mys­tery why Porsche doesn’t fit the shorter stick on all man­ual cars.

If there’s a dis­con­nect in the ‘box it’s as you get fur­ther up the ra­tios. Even with the shorter shift in the T it’s a some­times-clumsy shift above fourth gear, com­ing down from a cruise in sev­enth of­ten see­ing you se­lect fourth rather than sixth. Given the qual­ity of Porsche’s six-speed unit in the R, GT3 and its mi­dengined line-up, the seven-speed man­ual here, while dras­ti­cally im­proved from its orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tion, re­mains an oc­ca­sional frus­tra­tion. You can of course have PDK if you want the ease it brings, but the T in par­tic­u­lar lends it­self to the man­ual trans­mis­sion, even with its im­per­fec­tions, and per­haps even be­cause of them.

There’s talk of shorter ra­tios, but the re­al­ity is a shorter fi­nal drive, Porsche not go­ing so far as chang­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the gear­box in­ter­nals them­selves. The num­bers sug­gest the T is quicker to 62mph by a scant 0.1 sec­onds for a to­tal time of

4.5 sec­onds, that more likely the re­sult of its slight weight ad­van­tage al­lied to the stan­dard fit­ment of a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial. That dif­fer­en­tial makes it­self felt on the road, too.

The tar­mac is greasy, wet and slick, filth thrown up by the size­able amount of agri­cul­tural traf­fic re­duc­ing grip and mak­ing good trac­tion an is­sue.

The T puts down its power that lit­tle bit more con­vinc­ingly, while the Car­rera’s rear is squirm­ing as it man­ages the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. It’s a small but no­tice­able dif­fer­ence here, the T more ef­fec­tive at ex­ploit­ing its power, its rear bet­ter tied down, the Car­rera, by com­par­i­son, be­ing a bit way­ward and hap­haz­ard.

What is also clear is how much more alert it all feels in the T. The 3.0-litre unit’s char­ac­ter is no­tably

“Surely the Car­rera T is more of a Club­sport, or even a stan­dard Car­rera? The Car­rera here is more suited to the Tour­ing badge, given its more rounded na­ture”

dif­fer­ent – more dis­tinct than in the Car­rera – with an edge that sug­gests changes that Porsche isn’t ad­mit­ting to. The keen­ness to rev is enough to have me check­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tion to see if the fly­wheel has been changed from dual-mass to sin­gle. It hasn’t, but the dif­fer­ences here, its ea­ger­ness to chase the red­line and the low feel­ing of in­er­tia and im­me­di­ate re­sponse, sug­gest it has. That may be down to some ECU trick­ery, or sim­ply just de­vel­op­ment, Porsche more than any other man­u­fac­turer mak­ing slight changes to its cars spec­i­fi­ca­tions over time which can add up to a size­able whole. With the T it feels like some­thing of a leap.

The acous­tics are per­haps part of that revving sub­terfuge, the stan­dard Sports ex­haust, the lack of sound dead­en­ing, and here, seats al­lied to the thin­ner glass, mak­ing for a dif­fer­ing suite of notes, tones and res­o­nance from the flat six. The Car­rera sounds flat in com­par­i­son, even when, as is the case here, it’s fit­ted with the op­tional Sports ex­haust. The T’s thin­ner glass might be there for weight pur­poses, but its ef­fect is to al­low more sound from out­side in, too. That’s most ob­vi­ous when I can hear Cu­sick’s chat­ter to the pho­tog­ra­phy-track­ing car driver as he does his thing, re­peat­ing the process with the Car­rera damp­en­ing that out.

The need to re­peat­edly run up and down the same stretch of road for Cu­sick’s lens is highly demon­stra­tive, a use­ful ex­er­cise in high­light­ing the nu­ances that dif­fer­en­ti­ate the two cars. That gearshift is clear, so too is the en­gine’s more en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse – even with the mode switch at its most com­fort-bi­ased set­ting. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of those al­lied to the chas­sis tweaks that are most telling.

If you ever needed a demon­stra­tion at how trans­for­ma­tive the PASM Sport Chas­sis is on a 911, then the Car­rera T best de­scribes it. Es­pe­cially here, against a rep­re­sen­ta­tive, nor­mal Car­rera. The greater agility is clear; it may be marked by a slight de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in out­right ride qual­ity, but the pay off with the T is more suc­cinct en­gage­ment over that on of­fer from the stan­dard Car­rera.

In the T the sus­pen­sion seems to work greater as a whole, the front and rear axles seem­ingly more in unison than with the Car­rera. That’s down to a num­ber of rea­sons: the slight in­crease in feel from the steer­ing wheel, the in­for­ma­tion clearer and more de­tailed than that de­liv­ered by the Car­rera, its ac­cu­racy di­alled up a notch.

That im­proved steer­ing is cer­tainly a by-prod­uct of what’s go­ing on at the rear, the stan­dard lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial as well as the ac­tive en­gine mounts that man­age the en­gine’s mass more ef­fec­tively at the back al­low­ing for that more ac­cu­rate, in­ci­sive nose. It’s not that the Car­rera is lack­ing in agility, it’s just that the T winds up the in­ten­sity, adds sen­sa­tion and sharp­ens the re­sponse. It is sub­tle enough that in iso­la­tion you might miss it, but driv­ing the Car­rera and Car­rera T back-to-back is in­dica­tive of the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of the T’s dif­fer­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tion – and fairly re­sound­ingly, too.

This raises some ques­tions. The T for ‘Tour­ing’ badge sits un­com­fort­ably here, as the T is the sharper driv­ing car, ap­par­ently lighter, with a more fo­cused set-up that de­liv­ers greater en­gage­ment. It does come with a few not-un­wel­come com­pro­mises as a re­sult, though ones that are at odds with the T badge.

Surely the Car­rera T is more of a Club­sport, or even a stan­dard Car­rera? The Car­rera here is more suited to the Tour­ing badge, given its more rounded na­ture. I’ve long thought that Porsche’s badg­ing struc­ture is some­what out of kil­ter with what’s on of­fer, and the T is demon­stra­tive of that.

Badg­ing aside it’s still the Car­rera I’d ar­guably have, even over an S/GTS, the T’s spec fit­ting my no-non­sense sen­si­bil­i­ties, although it could be bet­ter still. I’m think­ing specif­i­cally of Porsche’s six-speed man­ual with its own ra­tios, and some more as­set strip­ping in­side. The T could eas­ily do with­out cup hold­ers, door stowage pock­ets and such­like, while out­side I’m think­ing stick­ers for badges – front and rear. A ju­nior R for the masses, a vol­ume, af­ford­able driver’s car dis­tanced from the GT depart­ment’s models in price and po­si­tion. It’s not quite there, but if the T high­lights any­thing it’s the pos­si­bil­i­ties on of­fer at the en­try-point in the 911 range. Over to you, Porsche.

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