The 911 Carrera T is perhaps the new frontrunner as the smartest buy in the 'normal' 911 range. Its blend of raw driver interaction and value is hard to beat – just so long as you stay away from the expensive options list.
The 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T possesses the best manual gearbox I’ve ever tested – it really is brilliant. In fact, it’s a potent reminder of just how epic the 911 experience can be, when it’s not weighed down by the technical expectations of the more expensive models further up the Porsche food chain.
After a stirring week with the 911 T, I’m only left with one question. If you’re a potential 911 buyer who values purity, why wouldn’t you buy this exact car? Sure, the yellow might turn some of you off, but the drive experience is magical, it really is. So just order another colour and be done with it.
There’s a slightly lower ride height than the standard 911, and anything deemed unnecessary in weight terms has been shown the door. Reference the material straps instead of internal door handles and thinner glass in the rear. There is, however, a limited-slip diff and standard sports exhaust, though, as there should be with a 911 built to corner-carve more than slog to work. You will need to be careful not to scrape the lower plastic valance under the nose – it's low enough to be a factor, without being a complete pain.
The 911 T is beautifully retro too – no silly wings or unnecessary accoutrements, just 911 purity. Unless you’re silly enough to raise the electric wing, which a few CarAdvice luminaries did. Forget such garbage, leave the wing down, and enjoy the beauty of the pure 911 shape.
I’d challenge anyone to drive the T and come to the conclusion that they ‘need’ more 911 day-to-day. Forget the chest-beating of a Turbo, Turbo S or track-focused GT variant, none of them go any faster than the T when you’re stuck in traffic. And most of them are way too fast for mere mortals, even on the confines of a racetrack. I realise that bragging rights are often unrelated to usability, but this T is a pure driver’s 911, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a definite sweet spot in a very tasty model range.
And I’m no 911 fanboy either…
There aren’t too many manual cars we test these days that are genuinely as easy to live with in the city as their automatic brethren. This 911 is one of them, though. Its clutch feel, shift action and short throw combine to deliver an amazingly easy (and enjoyable) driving experience even in stop-start traffic. It’s only one of many strings to the 911 T’s bow, though.
Pricing starts from $238,400 before on-road costs, bringing into serious question the argument for the $220,900 Carrera, not to mention the $256,000 Carrera S – both also before on-road costs. Our bright-yellow tester has some options too: full leather package in black with contrasting yellow ($7490), interior package with contrasting seatbelt stitching, door opening loops, door handles and armrests in contrasting colour and sports seats with ‘Sport-Tex’ stripe centre ($6270), LED headlights in black including Porsche Dynamic Lighting System Plus ($6490), Adaptive Sports Seats Plus, 18-way electric ($5990), GT sport steering wheel and gear lever trimmed in Alcantara ($1890), satin-black wheels ($1390), privacy glass ($1290), tinted tail-lights ($1290) and the Sport Chrono analogue clock ($720).
That brings the total price to $271,220 before on-road costs. While some of those options are undoubtedly tasty, I’d argue the case for the bog-standard 911 T sans options altogether for the ultimate stripped-back 911 experience. You can argue amongst yourselves as to which options you’d want. In fact, feel free to list them in the comments section below.
The cabin is, like the exterior, eye-catching but sedated, if that makes any sense at all. The yellow seatbelts and other highlights throughout the cabin catch the eye, but it’s a relaxed retro vibe in here too. The seats don’t just look cool, they are comfortable too, and despite the low ride height, the 911 T is pretty easy to get into and out of.
Apple CarPlay was once again faultless on test, and the proprietary satellite navigation operated through the clear touchscreen also excellent. Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming is likewise rock solid. There is room for technological simplicity and sporting pretension then, and the 911 nails it.
There are obviously more powerful 911s in the range, but damn this iteration of the 3.0-litre flat six twin-turbo is brilliant. There’s 272kW and 450Nm on offer and an ADR fuel usage claim of 8.5L/100km. Around town in traffic, you’ll easily slot into the low 10s, and get beneath the claim on the freeway – 1700rpm at 100km/h in seventh gear anyone?
I’m usually the one advocating the efficiency of Porsche’s brilliant PDK flat-out on a racetrack, but I’m also usually ranting on about owners rarely taking their expensive investments for flat-out track blasts too. In that instance, it’s hard to argue against the 911 T’s utterly brilliant manual – and not just for driving purists either. It's so good it would even convert automatic fans to the old ways of self-shifting.
What the manual allows you to do best is wind the sensational engine all the way out to redline, which it does effortlessly. The soundtrack is lusty if not smooth, typical of flat-six engines, but it’s got a meaty growl to it. The engine is so enthusiastic for revs, you’ll go looking for corners, and probably forget the rev-matching feature in Sport Plus like I kept doing, meaning you get a double dose of revs as you downshift. Stop/start is actually quite smooth too. I still tended to disable it, but the car barely even registers a vibration as the engine kicks back into life each time when it is working.
Leave the exhaust open too, as the noise is too hard to resist, even at sedate speeds. With the exhaust open, I love the whooshing and whistling of the turbos, despite what naturally aspirated purists might say. You like your 911 naturally aspirated – you mean slower – do you? The 911 has always made more sense than most with turbos in the mix, and this T is rolled-gold evidence of that. Forget the ‘good old days’, they were slower – by a long way.
There’s road and tyre noise booming off the Pirelli P-Zero tyres and the drive experience is actually quite raw, especially on coarse-chip surfaces, but the engine note will ensure you couldn’t care less about any other noise you might hear.
Launch hard from a standstill and the traction capability of the 911 T is hard to get your head around. It rockets forward off the line and just keeps pounding hard through the mid-range all the way to redline, until you execute a lightning-fast gear change and start the process all over again. The rear will step out in typical 911 fashion if you’re pushing hard enough out of the right corners, but the balance is exceptional and the grip prodigious. Like most 911s, the vehicle's ability will almost always outperform the driver’s talent.
As ever, the ride is exceptional too – firm in Sport mode, but as good as you’d ever hope around town or on country B-roads. Given how well this 911 can tackle corners at speed, it should never be able to ride as comfortably as it does. You’d better believe you could live with a 911 T every day.
So, is the 23rd variant (yep, you read that right) to enter the 911 range the one you should buy? Almost certainly, if you can avoid the ‘I bought a Turbo S because I could afford it’ toughness of the models further up the pricing tree. It’s technically brilliant, beautifully understated, stunningly fast and easy to live with.
The 911 legacy of accessible sports car performance that you can actually live with shows no signs of abating. Oh, and long live the manual gearbox, especially when it’s this damn good.