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HomeFEATUREDPORSCHE 911 CARRERA T: First Drive Impressions

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T: First Drive Impressions

If it is the unadulterated soul of a 911 that you’re after, at entry level prices, Porsche has just obliged with a Carrera T. EGMONT SIPPEL tackled the local launch drive on a stormy Western Cape day.

In the pre-amble to A Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the greatest novels yet, Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez provides a pedigree chart of his main protagonists, the Buendía family.

It’s a vast list of names, all linked by the same surname.

The list, in fact, rivals the family tree of Porsche’s most iconic car, the 911, which is an indication of how prolific the Buendías were.

For just when you were starting to think: “This is it”, another one would pop up; another Buendía, another 911 – with the Carrera T being the latest.

OF BLUEPRINTS AND ROOTS

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T

The moniker is derived from the original 911 T, famous for winning the gruelling Monte Carlo Rally in 1968.
The formula for success was simple: reduce mass by stripping out a 911, add a mechanical rear differential lock for better traction and shorten the gear ratios for improved acceleration.

So, how to create a modern 911 Carrera T?

Well, follow the blueprint and voila: a spartanly equipped sports coupé at the entry level end of the 911 spectrum.

Which doesn’t make it cheap, notwithstanding Porsche’s marketing blurb at the local launch, in which the sticker price of R1.536 million was – in Roy Lichtenstein or even Pep Store fashion – rather cheekily splashed across a comic book image of an exploding blop, or a yellow star, all slapped across a red background.

Tongue in cheek it was, this graphic. But it made a point. As it stands, the Carrera T is the second most affordable 911, after bidding opens at R1.41 million for the Carrera Coupé.

Not that the T is any more powerful than the base neun-elfer. Both are motivated by exactly the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six kicking out 272 kW/450 Nm.

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T

But with 20 kg less to carry around (even before the optional deletion of an infotainment system and rear seats) the T delivers a better power-to-weight ratio and therefore enhanced dynamics. Factor in a lower centre of gravity as well, courtesy of a dropped suspension (by 20 mm), and the T is an altogether new animal with skimpier sound deadening materials, thinner side and rear windows and fabric loops instead of conventional door handles – plus a sports exhaust and a mechanical limited slip differential at the rear.

As the second lightest 911 model after the track-focused GT3, the T is thus a less filtered and more raucous version of the donor-911 Carrera Coupé, as witnessed during the local launch drive on thoroughly wet roads en route from Cape Town to the Overberg, via the Franschhoek Pass, when the clattering of water kicked up by wide 20” Carrera S-rollers onto the T’s wheel arch trimmings were quite noticeable.

TO A T: A PURIST’S CAR

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T

Yet, that’s the whole idea: automotive purity.

And what can possibly speak to the aficionado’s heart more authentically than a manual gearbox, especially the polished new version of Zuffenhausen’s seven-speed with a shorter throw, cleaner gate and slicker shift action all contributing to deliver a box as quick, sharp and precise as the car itself?

Not that you can’t opt for a PDK. You can. And let me tell you that the double clutch box is worth every development penny ever spent by Porsche, if and when you encounter conditions like those experienced during the launch drive.

In heavy rain you would, firstly, like to keep your hands on the steering wheel more or less permanently, whilst, secondly, you’d like to shorten shift times – i.e. the interruption of drive – to a minimum, whilst not missing a slot. Ever.

For any or all of this, the 7-speed PDK is a fail-safe device.

But you can’t ride or slip or jump the clutch, which limits rear end fun. And you can’t cajole an electronically controlled unit like PDK into accepting a lower gear at sky-high revs when banging down the box on corner entry, looking for engine braking.

And whilst the Carrera T’s PDK box is identical to the Carrera Coupé’s, the manual’s final-drive ratio has been shortened from 3.44:1 on the base car to 3.59:1 on the T, resulting in noticeable extra urge.

The manual-T is just a harder charger, lobbing a tenth off the standard Carrera manual’s 4,6-second sprint to 100 km/h – although the PDK equipped T cuts the run down even further, to 4,2 seconds!

The manual’s shorter ratio also drops V-max from 293 to 291 km/h, whilst consumption jumps by about a litre to almost 10-litre/100 km.

LAST WORD

Worth it?

Well, if you want the racier feel, yes. For Zuffenhausen didn’t stop at reduced weight, shorter manual gearing, a mechanical diff lock, a sports exhaust, a chassis equipped with PASM, a weight-optimised Sports Chrono Package and a leather-covered GT sports steering wheel with a driving mode switch.

Nope. They’ve also added rear-axle steering and full bucket seats as options.

Add it all together, and the final product fulfils the brief to capture the spirit of 1968’s race-winning rally car to a T. You pay more, because you get more; more sport, more sound, more attitude, more agility, more handling, more dynamics, more fun.

The latest 911 derivative has a purer, louder, raunchier edge than the donor car.

Not that we’ve ever had a problem with any entry in the 911’s exalted family tree diagram, but amongst narrow-bodied Carreras, the T is best suited to stave off a hundred years of solitude.

With this car, you’ll never walk alone. It’s just so user-friendly, and just so plugged in.
And ain’t that what a 911 should all be about?

Report by EGMONT SIPPEL | Images © PORSCHE SOUTH AFRICA

 

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