First-drive review of the 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T: Sometimes value is seductive

2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T

HOLLYWOOD — The 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T is, in essence, a 911 powered by the regular Carrera engine with a few carefully selected mechanical enhancements that are either standard or available on the more potent and pricey Carrera S. Those additions aren’t standard on the standard vehicle. Thinner glass, less sound deadening, a smaller and more compact battery, and the standard removal of the back seat all contribute to the Carrera T’s reduced weight in comparison to the base 911 and Carrera S. (you can still add it back in).

That’s fantastic, but why do you want it? If you can afford the Carrera T for $118,050 (including destination), you probably won’t bat an eye when presented with the option to upgrade to the Carrera S, which features essentially identical mechanical upgrades for around $32,000. Plus, it has even more muscle than the Carrera T, with 443 hp instead of the latter’s 379. Having a faster 0-60 speed by 0.3 seconds is that really a deal breaker? You don’t need more respect just because you have more money. The more, the merrier.

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To be fair, this is a legitimate criticism of the Carrera T, and it’s true that not every 911 buyer will agree. The 911 pie, however, is cut painfully thin, as we have shown before. The delicious 911 Dakar is the latest example of how these already slim parts may be whittled down even further. There is some truth to the claim that the Carrera S has more power than the Carrera T. However, the GTS actually has even more muscle. The Turbo even exceeds that in features. Not to mention Porsche’s Turbo S, GT3, and future models. You could hypothetically spend the rest of your life playing this game and always be asking yourself, “Oh what the heck, what’s another $14,000?”

2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T
2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T

This article, and the Carrera T, are here to tell you that you can safely ignore that advice. In a nutshell, the 3.0-litre turbocharged boxer-six found in the base 911 Carrera is a magnificent, totally decadent performance engine that makes it seem absurd that Porsche needs to manufacture models with even more zest. At one point during our press drive up the Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles, my co-pilot turned and questioned, “Have you been driving in third this whole time?” Before answering, I paused to take a look at the tach and the T’s standard seven-speed manual transmission. “I actually didn’t require anything else.”

The 390 lb-ft of torque from the 3.0-litre engine is so strong (it kicks in between 1,950 and 5,000 rpm), that downshifting is only necessary on the tightest curves. Meanwhile, the engine can reach 7,500 rpm, and if you maximise its 379 hp at 6,500 rpm, you’ll be moving at a brisk clip. Quick even by the standards of the Angeles Crest Highway, which is a genuine racetrack. It’s impossible to imagine pushing this car to its limits without doing anything illegal or surpassing the tolerance of the local police force. Given the T’s reduced weight and improved performance, using a track is a reasonable option.

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So, which features were previously available only as add-ons for the Carrera S but are now standard on the Carrera T? Adaptive dampers, three different ride height adjustments, and a ten-millimetre lower starting point are all part of the PASM Sport Suspension. The Porsche Track Precision app for monitoring your performance on the track, a tyre temperature display, the rotary drive mode selector on the steering wheel, and active driveline mounts are all part of the optional Sport Chrono package, which comes standard alongside rear-wheel steering and a sport exhaust. Both the Porsche Torque Vectoring mechanical limited-slip differential and the 20-inch front/21-inch rear wheels (in Titanium Grey) are carried over to the T from the Carrera S.

Honestly, it’s hard to say with certainty how much of an edge you’ll enjoy without having a base Carrera or Carrera S on hand to drive back-to-back with the Carrera T on a route like Angeles Crest. Because it’s a 911, though, it thrives on the lengthy sweepers, quick turns, elevation gains, and general vehicular fun. The rear-wheel steering primarily does its thing in the background, without making the car feel like a theme park ride, and the grip is seemingly endless, making the steering a tactical thrill. The Carrera T allows you to move with the flow of traffic, giving you confidence while also making you feel like you’re a part of the journey.

Additionally, the Carrera T’s remarkable level of comfort comes even after all the weight loss and performance enhancements. Our trip along the motorways typical of Southern California and through downtown Los Angeles was relaxing. Even though we were on different roads, it was noticeably quieter than the Porsche 911 Turbo we tested with the Weissach option, which also included the removal of the rear seat and soundproofing. This is a major consideration because the T is tolerably quiet and comfy, making the extra cost of the Carrera S less justified.

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However, the Carrera T loses 100 pounds compared to the normal Carrera, with the bulk of that weight loss attributable to the elimination of the back seats and the standard manual transmission. If you go for PDK and the back seat, you’ll save nothing, while the savings from the smaller battery and less thick glass will be negligible. However, if you select for the optional carbon fibre, fixed-recline Full Bucket seats, you can reduce the T’s weight without sacrificing comfort. It’s a smart move if you plan on hitting the track, but if you don’t, you’re better off with the standard four-way power Sport Seats Plus or the 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats Plus that came with our test vehicle. The Full Buckets are surprisingly cosy, although they wear thin after a while on lengthy trips when all you want to do is lay back and make like a Fat Joe.

The Agate Grey mirror covers, engine grille slats, and model name set this 911 apart from others, in addition to the black and yellow Carrera T graphic on the doors. High-gloss black pipes adorn the Sport Exhaust, while matte and glossy black accents decorate the cabin. Our Guards Red test vehicle did not have the Carrera T’s distinctive Lizard Green stitching and seat belt option (shown at right), but it was the actual highlight of the cabin. And I think that’s for the best.

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This cosmetic distinction is particularly crucial because the Carrera T is more exclusive despite the Carrera S having more power and costing more money. Because of its unique qualities, onlookers will likely attribute a higher price tag to your purchase. Sure enough, you improved upon the standard Carrera model. Don’t tell them that it’s less expensive than anything else. However, you can confidently state that the Carrera T is the 911 of choice for purists due to its connoisseur-level range of performance improvements. Value might be attractive at times.

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