Just What Is The Porsche 911T All About?
We lift the lid on one of the most confusing entries into the Neunelfer range
The Porsche 911 is well regarded as one of the finest sports cars of all time. But which one, I hear you ask? Well at present you have a choice! The current generation comes in 8 flavours; the base Carrera, the 4 wheel drive Carrera 4, the rear wheel drive but slightly spicier Carrera S, the even spicier 4WD Carrera 4S, the Targa/Targa 4S, and the Turbo/Turbo S. We also have cabriolet versions of all of those, equalling a total of 19 cars including those from the 2019 and 2020 model years. That's only for the 992 generation..
The 991 generation ended in 2019 with the 911 Speedster. Before that, there were 21 variants of the 911. When the 991.2 version landed in 2016, another 17 variants were produced, totalling 38 different flavours of car. That's not even factoring in manual vs PDK variants - so naturally the line up is uh.. rather busy. So where does the 911T factor in to all this?
The 911T (touring) badge has a fair bit of history behind it; it first appeared in 1967 on the back of the replacement for the 912, and formed the base level of 911 for years to come. It was the base level of the 911 range, doing its bit to provide the financial buoyancy for classics such as the Carrera RS series. While it in of itself was not the fastest or the most dynamic car in Porsche's line up (particularly the original 110hp version), it nevertheless constituted the entry point into the rear-engined sports car's domain.
Today, the 911T is no base level car; it features the 991.2 3 litre, twin turbo's flat 6 engine, teamed with a mechanical differential lock, PASM Sport suspension, Sport Chrono package and the naughty sports exhaust as standard. It has also been blessed with a reduction of sound deadening, lightweight windows, Sport-Tex seats and a shortened gear lever. The rear seats have been binned along with the infotainment system, although if you asked very nicely Porsche would refit them as a no cost option. Other notable options include rear wheel steering, bucket seats and a PDK transmission.
When it was initially announced, the automotive world anticipated it as a sort of baby GT3; minus the extra cost and flamboyant aerodynamics. It was expected to be a honed, trimmed down version of the standard Carrera which was made for the driving enthusiast. It was imagined to be the 911 that is the best of both worlds; usable enough for the commute to work, but sharp enough to be a capable weekend warrior. So is that the case?
I will preface this with a caveat; I have never been in a 911 before, save the occasional exploratory sit in a demonstrator in the local dealership. I have enjoyed the way Porsches seem to shrink around you; almost as if you become a part of the car rather than merely sitting in it. Luckily however I was given the chance to experience one - a friend of mine was returning a 911T to the main dealership in Reading. From my house, this equated to a journey of around an hour and a half - so why not?
The first thing that is immediately apparent is in this case, the colour. On this disgustingly miserable Wednesday it stood out like a Simpson in a Charlie Chaplin movie - a refreshing splash of colour to the usual dreary colours so frequently optioned by 911 customers. The second thing that is apparent is how... normal everything is. Apart from the unnecessarily tacky door pulls in place of actual handles, everything felt upmarket but conventional. The 911 is a very nice place to spend time, the Sport-Tex covered seats doing a wonderful job of cushioning us from the road. One thing did baffle me however; the seats are electrically operated in all ways but one - backwards and forwards, which is controlled by a lever as you'd get in your regular hatchback. Surely if this is meant to be a lightened, more focused car, they'd save the weight and hassle of an additional mechanism and just incorporate a motor to slide the seat back and forth?
Setting off for Reading, the PASM suspension immediately comes into it's own - the PASM suspension doing a fantastic job of absorbing bumps and marks in the road. It somehow manages to be compliant and taut at the same time, soaking up the bumps but not flopping around in the corners. Naturally the sports exhaust is flicked into.. well, sport mode, meaning the twin-exits are more vocal than usual. In the age of turbocharging it's not a bad noise; certainly sounds very spicy on start up. Yet when pressing on it lacks a bit of substance, almost as if the sound is being played through cheap earphones - mind you this is a price we must pay to allow these sorts of things to remain on our roads.
Stopping off for a brief fuel stop, it allowed me to have a decent look around the cabin. On this particular model the rear seats had been removed and the infotainment left in, fortunately - the dashboard looks rather ridiculous without, almost as if someone's broken in and nicked it. Setting off once again, the heavens opened; which allowed a bit of experience with the traction control (putting it very mildly). On this model it seemed to be a bit hyperactive, cutting in somewhat prematurely and upsetting the balance of the car mid-corner. Which, as those who have experienced lift-off oversteer, can be a bit unsettling if the car decides to alter it's own grip levels in a turn.
Pulling onto a sodden M25, we settled in to the journey. Here, the 7-speed manual came into it's own; the 3 litres of engine sipping fuel at a rather respectable 35mpg or so. At motorway speeds the reduced sound deadening is apparent, but not intrusive. Conversations were had at normal volume with no need to shout or repeat outselves at all. The Pirelli P-Zeros did a fantastic job too, particularly when the heavens well and truly opened...
As you can see, or rather not see, it was absolutely belting it down. The Porsche didn't put a single foot wrong though; it was no harder to navigate the deluge than a Golf. Fortunately Porsche hasn't forgotten it's core market: those who want to use this sort of car every day. Which you very well could do; it's comfortable, well equipped, the sound system is very powerful indeed and it has impeccable road manners. Pulling into Porsche Reading at the end of our cruise, surrounded by the latest and greatest Stuttgart has to offer, I emerged from the experience still somewhat confused...
While driving around in a 911 is jolly exciting, I can't help but think - what is the point of this car in the range? After all, when new it costed around £85,000, as opposed to the base Carrera which costed around £77,000. So why would you go for this, when for another 2 grand or so you could've gone for a Carrera 2 S with more goodies and more power? Not to mention when the Carrera T was announced, it was anticipated to be a somewhat stripped out, pared down driver's car. On the surface then, true to most things Porsche, you're paying more and getting less.
That's not to say that this is in any way a bad car; the ride is sublime, the cabin is a wonderful place to spend time and the engine provides a mixture of urgency when you need it and a torquey helping hand when you don't. The main issue is it feels like a bit underwhelming - it could be a baby GT3 or 911R, with weight reduction where you need it, an overall sharpening up and most of all, value for money.. But you can't help but notice it for what it is; a missed opportunity.
All photos by the author - follow me on Instagram @wingsandwheels_uk for more!
What do you think? Reckon the 911T is yet another entry to the already busy line up, or a misunderstood baby GT3? Comment below!