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…
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.