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2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T Review: All the Best Performance Goods, None of the Excess Weight


June 12, 2018 Cars By Photo by Nick Caruso
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Let’s not mince words: the Porsche 911 is a god-tier car. And — spoiler alert — the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T ($102,100) is among the greatest right now. That’s no surprise — the 911 was an instant, desirable performance hit in the 60s, and in its every form, for decade upon decade, it has remained a benchmark, a Wonder of the Sports Car World, a perennial winner of both racing awards and suburban lust. Few automakers have such a literal track record, but even fewer boast the kind of legacy Porsche can; few, if any, are capable of simultaneously maintaining progress and honoring the past. The 911 is remarkable in that regard, and the 911 T is its most current triumph.

That is as much hyperbole as I can ascribe to the 911 T. It is not “insane” and its performance is not “mind-bending.” I haven’t even been “fundamentally altered” by the experience of driving the car and nor am I doodling pictures of its familiar form on my notebooks during meetings. It is not “my new favorite car” either. But it is now my favorite 911. It is my favorite Porsche. And, I think, that’s because it is the best Porsche.

1968, a year the History Channel calls “one of the most tumultuous single years in history,” was fraught with absolute global hell: the Tet Offensive and the Vietnam War at large, the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Nixon entering the White House to begin his corrupt and truncated couple terms. On the bright side, Apollo 8 orbited the Moon that year, prepping humankind for the next year’s lunar surface stroll. I suppose this is me cheating on the “no hyperbole” promise from before, but one other glint of splendor found its way into very fortunate garages that year: the original 911 T, the T standing for “Touring,” was then considered an entry-level version of the 911. It featured the base engine and simple visual differentiators, like chrome grilles and bumpers and side mirrors, plus a silver Porsche emblem. Today’s 911 T is a fair bit more special.

Yes, the 911 T is almost a base-level Carrera. It features the base engine, which produces 370 horsepower, compared to S models, which get 420. And while it is very pared down — more on that momentarily — it is arguably not as driver-focused and hot-rod-fun as Porsche’s 911 GTS, which pushes out 450 horsepower, put down through special wheels and a Porsche-tech-heavy suspension. The GTS is rear-drive only, like the 911 T, but is faster overall, and meant to be driven hard on a track or very challenging road. But, like the old saying “there are no small parts, just small actors,” all 911s are meant to manipulate pavement, some are simply more — or less — outfitted to do so than others.

The 911 T is still faster than a streak, but it’s also faster and lither than the actual base 911, despite sharing an engine. Thanks to myriad weight savings improvements and some of that suspension tech, the 911 T weighs in at just 3,142 pounds and is, according to Porsche, “the lightest model in the 911 Carrera range.” To reduce its weight, the rear windows and back windscreen are made of lightweight glass. Interestingly, it was pointed out to me that the rear windscreen has no heating elements embedded within, making it completely clear — a rarity these days. Further mass reduction comes in the form of loop-style door releases and removal of some sound deadening materials; choose full bucket seats up front, and your 911 T’s diet consists of a rear-seat delete as well.

My test car was equipped with a seven-speed manual transmission which, along with being objectively the most fun transmission type available… is also the transmission type you’d expect me to think is the best. It fits the 911 T well, though. Porsche’s PDK automatic is absolutely riveting to use — it’s far smarter and quicker than I could ever hope to be with a stick, and you get fully-automatic Launch Mode, which makes your friends giggle a lot. It’s magnificent, but if you go with the 911 T, I say manual or bust. Because the car itself is lighter, it feels so much more like an actual machine than sports cars so often do these days. Be one with the machine: row your own gears.

The 911 T features options not available on the standard Carrera range. One such option is PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), which continuously adjusts the suspension based on road conditions and feedback. But I think the most important available option here is rear-wheel steering. This is technology that continues to show up in more and more applications as time marches on — Porsche has made it available for years now on the 911 — and it completely changes the car’s dynamics. By pivoting the rear wheels counter to steering inputs at low speed (for a tighter turning radius) and in lockstep with the front wheels at high speeds (for increased stability), the car almost literally feels alive under you. You get used to the feeling quickly, but in the midst of a corner, the car seems to transmute from a straightforward A-to-B machine into a hypersonic physics crusher. Rear-steering doesn’t do things you don’t expect; it does more of what you do expect. Coupled with the 911 T’s 0.39-inch lower overall suspension, it’s a required and remarkable sensation.

In addition to all the tech, there are plenty of visual cues to set the 911 T apart from the rest of Porsche’s 911 range: dark gray side mirrors and details, red accents on the shifter, 20-inch wheels, logo headrests and more emblazon the 911 T, making it a bit boy-racer, but also noticeably unique. It’s very cool-looking and very fun to behold. That’s important to enthusiasts, and it should be.

All this less-weight and more tech will cost about $10,000 more than the standard (and relatively boring) 911 Carerra ($92,100). For about nine percent more money, you get approximately 25 percent more experience. That’s a great deal any way you look at it and makes me think that perhaps I should start doodling the 911 T in meetings.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T

The Good: Excellent for enthusiasts: less weight, more suspension and steering tech; faster than the 911 Carrera. Good looks: great wheels and graphics. Sounds glorious. Is a 911, so it’s, you know, excellent.

Who It’s For: The driving enthusiast who doesn’t need to drag race supercars.

Watch Out For: More expensive than a base 911. The graphics may be too much for some. Certain bucket seats are somewhat uncomfortable after long stretches (not so much “Grand Touring” as “Face Melting Touring”) and therefore difficult to extricate yourself from. That said, it’s a sports car, so deal with it. No back seats. Not a ton of luggage room, though more than you might expect.

Alternatives: The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 ($79,495) is technically an option, though its styling is overwrought, it’s big and it’s just kind of lame in comparison to a Porsche anything. The Mercedes-AMG GT C ($124,400) is another somewhat pared-down version of a desirable sports car, but is wilder and more expensive than the 911 T by a hell of a lot. For a bit more than the Benz, consider the very new and probably more liveable Aston Martin Vantage ($149,995) — it’s fantastic. Even more expensive yet, but in many ways closest to the 911 T’s spirit, is the McLaren 570S ($188,600), which actually is one of my most favorite cars. It is a high-tech masterpiece-level driving experience and literally nothing more. (Though, add a few options and you could buy two 911 Ts for the same money.)

What Others Are Saying:

• “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.” — Steven Ewing, CNET Roadshow

• “The T represents baby steps towards reviving some of the rawness that always made older Carreras so appealing without treading on the feet of the hardcore heroes at the pinnacle of the range.” — Dan Trent, Car Buzz

Key Specs: 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six
Transmission: seven-speed manual; double-cluth autopmatice (PDK)
SPEC2: 370 horsepower
SPEC3: 331 lb-ft
0-60: 4.3 seconds (manual); 4.0 seconds (PDK)
Top Speed: 182 mph (manual); 180 mph (PDK)
Base MSRP: $102,100

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