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Look, I'm sure the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS is a fantabulous machine; editor-in-chief Tim Stevens just raves about it. But I firmly believe that a high-performance car is only as good as the standard model on which its based, and indeed, so many of the things that make the GT3 RS great are attributes baked into every single flavor of the delicious Porsche 911.
The new 911 Carrera T is a salute to that solid framework.
The T -- for "Touring" -- is a parts-bin special in the best way. It adds only a few select goodies from the expansive 911 catalog, a sort of modern interpretation of the 1968 Carrera T and its ethos of puristic bang for your buck. This is how I would spec a 911.
Based on the rear-wheel-drive Carrera Coupe, the T uses the 911's 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-6 in its lowest state of tune: A still-plentiful 370 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with Porsche's excellent 7-speed manual transmission that uses a shorter 3.53:1 final drive ratio in this application, as well as mechanical limited-slip rear differential. The result is a base 911 that will accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds -- one-tenth quicker than the normal Carrera. You can spend $3,730 to add the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic if you really want, but in this purist-spec 911, a manual gearbox is most appropriate. Plus, the T's shorter-throw shifter makes it one hell of a rewarding joystick with which to control that torquey flat-6 grunt.
Every T is fitted with Porsche's PASM sport suspension which lowers the ride height by 10 millimeters. In its most comfortable setting, there is as much damping compliance to smooth out minor imperfections as there is stiffness to keep the 911 Nebraska-flat through every turn. That's while riding on 20-inch Carrera S wheels finished in Titanium Grey, shod in 245/35 front and 305/30 rear Pirelli P-Zero tires.
Optional extras include rear-axle steering ($2,070) and carbon ceramic brakes ($8,520), neither of which are available on the base Carrera. The former option is a must, simply for how it improves the 911's already incredible ability to rotate 'round a tight apex. But unless you're pressing your Carrera T into frequent track duty, I'd leave the beefier brakes on the table. After a morning of hard driving along the redwood-lined backroads of Northern California, the standard 13-inch, 4-piston aluminum monoblock stoppers remain surefooted and silent.
You could track this car like you could any 911, but it's along those incredible roads north of Napa where the Carrera T is perhaps at its best. These impeccably smooth stretches of asphalt, with their quick elevation changes and decreasing-radius turns, highlight the sheer balance and poise of the 911. Light, direct steering delivers detailed reports of front-end grip, sent through an Alcantara-wrapped wheel that's of perfect size and thickness for precise manhandling. Overestimate your traction and minor instances of slip are quickly mitigated by minor steering corrections. Keep the engine on boil in third and fourth gears while you connect a long series of undulating switchbacks. The Carrera T rewards smooth, confident inputs with a feeling of absolute connection between car and driver, a roar of blissful flat-6 wail right behind your ears, accompanied by cracks and burbles from the standard sport exhaust.
All that aural delight is amplified in the Carrera T, thanks to thinner rear and side glass, a bit of engineering brought over from the 911 GT2 RS. In addition to reducing sound insulation, the thinner, defroster-less rear window and side glass cuts eight pounds of weight. Fit your T with the carbon fiber full bucket seats -- that require the removal of the rear seats -- and you'll have a 911 that's 44 pounds lighter than a base Carrera. The carbon buckets make ingress and egress a little awkward (yes, I fell), but they look so cool. They provide incredible support without sacrificing comfort. After half a day in these lightweight seats, my butt and back feel just fine. That said, they also cost $5,200, so...
Otherwise, the Carrera T is as lovely inside as every other 911. The standard seating arrangement consists of four-way power chairs with Sport-Tex centers, though you can also order 18-way adaptive sport seats for $2,640. All Carrera Ts come with the GT Sport steering wheel design, wrapped in either leather or optional Alcantara, and the manual shifter's embossed pattern is finished in Guards Red.
You can add a $1,600 Bose or a super high-end $5,300 Burmester surround sound system to the PCM infotainment system, which uses the same responsive, easy-to-navigate interface as every other 911. Other markets can spec the Carrera T without an audio/infotainment head unit, but since backup cameras are now mandatory in all US market vehicles, Porsche has to keep the touchscreen intact for us. Besides, as much as we purist car types love to say how we'd totally go with the delete option if we could, admit it, you'd miss being able to play your tunes on longer drives. I sure would.
The interior may not be any different, but sharp-eyed Porschephiles will surely notice what makes a T, a T. It uses the normal Carrera body, not the extra-wide hips of the all-wheel drive and GTS models. The front lip gets a more pronounced aero spoiler. Agate Grey paint adorns the SportDesign mirrors, badges and the louvers on the rear deck above the engine. It's all tastefully done -- even the side stripe is an on-point bit of classic flair. And it's just enough to set the T apart from other base Carreras.
You'll need $102,100 to get into a Carrera T, which is $11,000 more than the starting MSRP of a regular 911 Carrera. Despite its nicely equipped standard status, Porsche will still let you waste money on things like leather-covered air vents, personalized sill plates and all manner of extravagant don't-needs. But please, friends, have restraint. The Racing Yellow car you see here is perfect, with only the rear-axle steering, carbon buckets and Alcantara GT Spirit steering wheel as options. It costs $111,350, including $1,050 for destination, or $1,000 less than a 911 Carrera S with the sport pack and nothing else.
The 911 Carrera T is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's a base-spec car with S- and GTS-level performance bits, and no less satisfying to drive. It's a shining example of why Porsche's Carrera is one of the finest sports cars in the entire world, and why the inherent greatness of every 911 starts right here at the bottom.
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