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Carrera T - a true Porsche 911 in spirit and soul: The car that would be King

2018-08-23 05:30

Egmont Sippel

Image: Janine Van der Post / Wheels24

If sports car history should be written as a play and a single model be picked as the main protagonist, that car – surely – would have to be the Porsche 911.

And if, in a very Shakespearian way, the main protagonist is also king – King Lear, Henry VIII, Macbeth, etc. – you’d have to crown the 911 as King of the Sportsters, or at the very minimum as royal blood.

King of the crop

In terms of longevity, timelessness and proper iconic indestructibility, there really is no other. But which derivative amongst the current crop is King of the Royals?

READ Part 1: Carrera T, GTS, GT3, GT2 RS... latest Porsche sports car quartet in SA - How the legendary 911 changed the way performance cars are perceived forever

In the previous instalment of a four-part series on a quartet of new 911 derivatives to have been released over the last 18 months, we looked at the GTS and the GT3.

Today, we bring you the very latest to have been launched in South Africa: the 911 Carrera T.

911 Carrera T

Porsche has a knack of perpetually unearthing new truths about their product. And with each and every little shift in focus, with each new dimension and facet being highlighted and polished, we get a sibling that brings a slightly different character and personality to the royal family.

READ Part 2: The car that would be King - Porsche's 911 razor-sharp GTS and the thrilling GT3


READ: New Porsche Carrera 911 T in SA: 'Driving the Carrera T will make you feel alive'

Take the 911 bloodline. We get the Carreras on the one hand, and the GT’s on the other; the more road-orientated derivatives and the track-ready beasts.

And then we get the in-betweeners: the Clubsport models of yore, the GTS’s, the new T.

So, we’re not talking facelifts or model changes here. We’re talking special editions and niche product, like a 911 Carrera with less sound deadening, thinner windows, fabric loops instead of conventional door handles, a dropped suspension.

By itself, these measures are not substantial enough to position the finished article as a separate 911, the new Carrera T rolling – as it is – on the same wheels and tyres as the base 911 Carrera and firing from the same 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-6, channelling 272kW and 450Nm to the rear axle.

Less weight and a lowered tummy are indicative though, of the conceptual background underpinning a car like the new T – namely to step back from the modern-day focus on gadgets (although you still get electric windows and mirrors) precisely to prioritise first principles: lighter, lower, leaner, meaner.

Not that 911’s are overstuffed with luxury items. But they’re not devoid of them, either. There is room for Zuffenhausen to manoeuvre in. 

A driver’s car

The Carrera T, for instance, won’t pamper you with adaptive cruise control or heated and cooled seats. You can furthermore delete the infotainment system and rear seats to save even more weight, over and above the 20kg that’s already been taken out of the car via thinner windows and the like.

And you can have a polished new version of Porsche’s 7-speed manual (with a shorter throw, cleaner gate and slicker shift action) instead of the conveniently robotized 7-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission.

The focus is on purity and authenticity then, to kick-start the justification for a separately monikered 911 sibling.

Porsche’s blurb, by the way, is that the “T” derived from 1968’s 911 T rally car which was a stripped out 911 with a mechanical diff lock and shortened gearing for better traction and acceleration, yet Zuffenhausen might just as well have referenced the limited edition 3.2 Clubsport of the late 1980’s.

Porsche, in fact, would have liked to name this car “Clubsport” but BMW now owns the trademark.

Still, the mission is clear – even though the best bits about the T are yet to come. A manual box, after all, is optional on the standard 911 Carrera as well.
Yet, on the T, a manual box will also score you a mechanical diff lock at the rear which you won’t get if you choose PDK transmission. 

A cheaper GTS

Okay, twin clutch transmission – in this case, identical to the standard Carrera’s PDK – is a lot more convenient on wet roads and in traffic, whilst it secures a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.2 seconds compared to the manual’s 4.5 seconds.

The latter is a tenth quicker than the standard Carrera’s run, precisely because a final-drive ratio of 3.44:1 on the base car has been shortened to 3.59:1 for the T which, incidentally, has been borrowed from the Carrera S manual.

V-max, in tandem herewith, drops from 293 to 291km/h, whilst consumption jumps by about a litre to almost 10 liter/100km. The T is further differentiated by a PASM equipped sports chassis, a weight-optimised Sports Chrono Package and a leather-covered GT sports steering wheel with a driving mode switch – plus two must-have options that you won’t find on the Carrera’s tick list: full bucket seats and rear-wheel steering.

Throw the latter into the mix and suddenly the base Carrera’s 272kW and 450Nm, powering a lower centre of gravity via a limited-slip diff and a sharper snap between gears, take on a whole new character, especially if you factor in the more vocal grunt of the sports exhaust.

The final product is the slightly more raucous and outgoing sibling of the sub-GTS Carrera gene pool. The T is certainly sportier than the Carrera, with a more focused demeanour.

All the main inputs and responses have been sharpened by a smidgeon to deliver more speed, precision and control than you’ll ever need, even on wet roads, whilst the ride remains surprisingly good; the T is eminently usable, even if it really connects as a driver’s car.

                                                               Image: Janine Van der Post/Wheels24

As a purpose shaped tool, it is simply a purer and more authentic expression of the classic 911 soul. Is it a mini-GT3?

Conclusion

Given proper focus and execution, less engine and more wheel can be as enthralling as more engine and less wheel. The T is a great car, exciting and involving to drive, especially with a manual box. It goes right to the heart of the matter.

Is it a mini-GT3? No. But dynamically it reminded me of a mini-GTS – for about a quarter of a million less. Would I take it? Any day of the week. I love the precision, purity and clarity of the T.

But if I had the extra grand or two in my back pocket, I’d put it down on the GTS without thinking. With almost 60kW more than the T it is simply the optimum price-versus-performance bargain out there in the market, the T’s very attractive offering notwithstanding.

More engine and less wheel, executed equally properly, will – ultimately – be better than less engine and more wheel. A good big ’un will always beat a good little ’un.

But don’t let the comparison distract you one little bit. The T is a great car in its own right.

Soon: In the fourth and last instalment on Porsche’s latest quartet of 911 derivatives, Egmont Sippel will analyse the Big Daddy of them all, the GT2 RS.

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