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Video | 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T: First Drive Review

There are those who say the Porsche 911 has become too big, too heavy and too fancy. Comfort and luxury have taken precedence over the pure, back-to-basics joy that for decades was the hallmark of this iconic sports car.

Well, the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T should be the car such Porschephile purists have been clamoring for. While it doesn’t do anything for the "big" complaint, the Carrera T is indeed lighter and can be stripped of quite a few niceties, including the back seat. It’s a louder, more visceral and involving sports car as a result, yet it pleasantly doesn’t strip the 911 of the go-anywhere-anytime nature that has made it a sports car you could legitimately drive every day — or at least take on a lengthy road trip.

Shopping in the 911 Catalog

If you’re at all familiar with the 911 family, you’ll know there’s a dizzying multitude of models available with a dizzying multitude of options. The possibilities are almost endless. To create the Carrera T, then, Porsche effectively flipped through the catalog of those possibilities, made a few choice selections, and then applied them to the basic 911 Carrera. Some you’d be able to add onto any custom Carrera order, but others are exclusive to the T.

It all starts with the base Carrera engine, a twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six engine that produces the same 370 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. Its supporting cast has been altered, however. The standard 7-speed manual transmission features a shortened gear lever (with a unique red-embossed shift pattern) and is paired with a shorter constant transaxle ratio and a mechanical rear differential lock. It remains a more involving way to drive the 911, and a considerable portion of buyers still go for it (speaking of purists), but those desiring quicker and easier shifting can still opt for the PDK automated manual transmission.

According to Porsche, the Carrera T with the manual will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the base Carrera. With PDK and launch control (the two go together in the T without the need to order the Sport Chrono pack), that 0-to-60 time drops to 4.0 seconds, or 0.2 seconds quicker than the base.

Aside from the altered transaxle, these gains can be attributed to an improved power-to-weight ratio. And since power didn’t change, Porsche flipped to the 911 GT3 and GT2 RS pages in the catalog to reduce weight. The door handles are replaced by straps. Leather is replaced by lighter Alcantara or Sport-Tex cloth on the seats and doesn’t cover the dashboard. The backlight and rear quarter window are lighter-weight plastic — it looks like glass and even feels like it when tapped on, but the lack of rear defroster lines gives it away. Porsche also stripped out sound deadening, most notably between the passenger and engine compartments.

Hitting the scales at 3,142 pounds, the T is the lightest 911 Carrera. Of course, that’s only 11 pounds lighter than a base car, which probably explains the negligible 0-to-60 improvement.

Adding Lightness

Ah, but things can actually get lighter when you start sampling from the Carrera T’s own options list. Carbon ceramic brakes will set you back $8,520, but will reduce both unsprung mass and brake fade. The feature more likely to draw attention, however, is the $5,200 Full Bucket Seats option. Constructed of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, these lightweight and ultra-deep seats live up to their bucket title, making for less-than-graceful entries and exits, but resolutely keeping you in place.

They adjust electrically to give shorter drivers a bit of a boost, but fore-aft adjustment is manually operated, and reclining is not possible. The unchangeable pitch is actually quite comfortable, though, and achieves what is pretty much the ideal driving position. We also found these seats to be surprisingly comfortable during a 3-hour test drive, despite limited padding. Nevertheless, if you prefer to lounge a bit on the open road, this is probably an option box best left unchecked.

The same could be said if you value the 911’s mostly vestigial yet occasionally useful back seats, which are removed with the Full Bucket option. Doing so certainly strips weight, but it’s also done because the fixed-back buckets make it impossible to reach them. The gap between front seat and door is so slim that even a tiny duffle bag had to be maneuvered between the two front seats. That makes the theoretically increased cargo space in the back a bit of a moot point.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Porsche will still let you specify the comfier Adaptive Sport Seats that not only recline, but will adjust electrically in 16 other ways as well. You can also add weighty items like a glass or steel sunroof, adaptive cruise control, extended leather trim, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, a 12-speaker Burmester stereo and a front axle lift system for clearing low curbs. And that’s just a random selection. We’re not sure any of that is really in keeping with the Carrera T mantra, but true to Porsche form, customization is still of paramount importance.

It’s Definitely Louder

Yet so too is the driving experience. The most immediately noticed difference is the reduced sound deadening, as more of the twin-turbo flat-six’s concert ends up in the cabin unfiltered. That probably would’ve been something a few years ago with the old naturally aspirated engines, but today it mostly means an increase in whooshing and whirring from the turbocharger. Is it better or worse than a regular Carrera? We’re not sure, but at least there’s less to get in the way of hearing the standard Sport Exhaust, which when left in its louder mode snarls aggressively while accelerating and crackles when slowing down. Happily, the latter isn’t borderline contrived, as in a Jaguar F-TYPE or Mercedes-AMG GT.

Standard on the Carrera T is the otherwise optional PASM Sport Suspension, which adds adaptive variable dampers with multiple settings and a 0.39-inch lower ride height. Optional is rear-axle steering, which is unavailable on the base Carrera, and which moves the back wheels in concert with the fronts at higher speeds to increase stability, and counter to them at lower speeds to reduce the turning circle and improve agility. It’s particularly noticeable in hairpin turns, and certainly gives the T something the equally powered base 911 cannot have.

However, we can’t say the Carrera T’s handling is profoundly different — especially in comparison to the similarly priced but more powerful Carrera S, which can be equipped with the above-mentioned suspension and steering features. The T is still an exceptional car to drive, one of the best in the world, with staggering grip and a front end that eagerly dips into corners unencumbered by the weight of an engine. The steering, regardless of whether it does anything to the rear wheels, is worthy of applause. Perhaps direct back-to-back drives would showcase the reduced weight, but even then, we’re guessing a track would be the ideal venue for it.

And really, if you have any inkling of occasionally taking your 911 to a track, the T would be the Carrera to get. It strips away things you won’t need there and adds things that would come in handy. Plus, its base price of $103,150 grossly undercuts the 911’s other track-intended specials, the GT3 and GT2.

Surprisingly Livable, Pleasingly Special

Yet the T also isn’t some hardcore machine that’ll beat you up away from the track or cause your wife to boycott weekend drives. Yes, it’s louder; no, the seats don’t move much, and the cabin isn’t exactly luxurious; but its ride is still shockingly comfortable, visibility is superb, and the front trunk can hold a sizable suitcase. Heck, it can even get 25 miles per gallon in combined driving.

There’s also something to be said for its exclusivity. Beyond its unique feature collection, the T is visually differentiated by an aerodynamically optimized front lip spoiler, a side stripe with Carrera T script, 20-in Carrera S wheels in Titanium Grey, and a variety of other body pieces trimmed in Agate Grey. These elements really pop when the T is painted in one of its brighter available shades, such as Racing Yellow, Guards Red or Miami Blue. The optional Carrera T Interior package can bring those colors into the otherwise somber black interior and further increase this 911’s special nature.

And, indeed, the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T really is special. For those with a purist mindset, it should be the more experiential car they’re seeking, even if the dynamic improvements aren’t night-and-day. For them, a sports car, and a 911 in particular, is as much about look, sound and feel as it is about specs and speed.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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