Despite what some deep thinkers may say, less isn’t always more. But in the case of the Porsche 911, less can be more than enough. You can spend a quarter-million dollars on a 911 with more than 600 horsepower and more wings and spoilers than a squadron of F-16 fighter jets, – say hello to the 911 GT3 RS – but a base, no-suffix 911 Carrera with 379 horsepower is more than enough for me.
No all-wheel drive, no wide-hipped body, no weight-adding folding roofs and certainly no preposterous ornaments like dashboard air vents painted to match the exterior colour.
Also, no PDK dual-clutch automated transmission. Yes, the do-it-for-you shifter does lay down faster times at the track, but a Carrera with manual transmission is a 911 at its purest.
Unfortunately, that exact 911 no longer exists. Most 911s these days come only with the PDK, and that includes the Carrera. What we have here, however, is the next best thing.
The 911 Carrera T shares the base-level Carrera’s three-litre turbocharged boxer-six engine, sending 379 horsepower to the rear wheels, but the seven-speed manual transmission is standard on the Carrera T. (Although, for those who want automatic, the PDK is a no-cost option – three words that sound like an oxymoron in Porsche’s case.) The T also weighs less than the base-level Carrera, partly because the rear seat is deleted, though if you wish, Porsche will generously allow you to restore it at no extra charge.
The build sheet for our 2023 test Carrera T listed its base price as $132,000, though that jumps to $141,500 for 2024. Either way, it’s still a modest premium over the base-level Carrera’s $130,700. Our test sample included about $13,500 worth of options, which is pretty skimpy by Porsche standards, and most of them were functional (for example, front-axle lift system for $3,150; larger gas tank for $260; rear-axle steering for $2,390) rather than frivolous (yellow tachometer face for $480; yellow seat belts for $620).
Porsche lists the standard sport seats as four-way, which gets a mention only because one reason to love the 911 is the perfect driving position; however, the test T had optional 18-way adaptive sport seats ($3,220), so I can’t be sure the standard seats would be equally posture-perfect.
No such doubts cloud the second reason to love the 911. Sight lines are superb in every direction. Also, its 4.5-metre overall length lets you stash it in the same “Small Cars Only” spots where commoners park their compact hatchbacks.
On day two of our week with the T, we hit Costco. Of course, we weren’t buying a wide-screen TV, but our usual cartful of groceries was easily accommodated between the 132-litre front trunk and the 264-litres on the folded rear seats.
Yes, our test T still had its rear seats. You could stash modest-sized adults back there at a pinch, small kids no problem. Think: Mom and dad up front, paperweight hockey player in one back seat, other back seat folded to accommodate kid-sized hockey bag. Been there, done that.
Speaking of kids, I wish the T had been around when junior was learning to drive stick-shift. Setting aside a possible violation of the Vehicle Loan Agreement, the T would have done nicely. The clutch is that gentle. And while seven forward gears might be redundant, the lever moves lightly and smoothly between them.
Another day with the T involved a 150-kilometre out-of-town trip, a mix of suburban, highway and rural two-lane driving that averaged 8.6 litres of gas per 100 kilometres.
So far, the 911 reads like a great daily-driver grocery-getter – a $140,000 Toyota Yaris, albeit one without a place to stash your phone. So, let’s talk performance. Top speed is 291 kilometres an hour. Porsche claims a dash to 100 kilometres an hour in 4.3 seconds for the manual, 3.8 for the PDK. That’s a meaningful edge, but lots of other cars are faster, not least other 911s (Turbo S: 2.7 seconds).
Nothing, however, generates engine music like Porsche’s distinct boxer-six synthesizer.
In terms of what you feel – or more precisely, the vibrations you don’t feel – I’ve driven ultra-luxury sedans that weren’t this silky. What you hear, on the other hand, is the Hallelujah Chorus of mechanical engineering. The blend of meshing metalware with howling intake and exhaust gets louder and more exultant the harder you drive it, but always with a rich, smooth overlay, no matter the position of your right foot or the tachometer needle.
Power builds evenly from low engine speeds with no obvious turbo-lag kick, though there is a glorious surge at around 5,000 rpm.
Like the engine, the T’s cornering power exceeds what any responsible adult can reasonably use on public roads. The ride is stiff and the tires vocally report back every crack in the pavement, but the reward is a car that’s vibrant with feel. Some other cars have power steering that feels natural, but in terms of accuracy and responsiveness, the 911 Carrera T delivers the real-feel deal.
In this era of digitally connected cars, the 911 T is a hard-wired, physical connection of driver to car to road. This is the 911 distilled to its purest essence.
2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T
- Base price/as tested (2023 model): $132,000/$145,400 (excluding freight, fees and taxes)
- Engine: Twin-turbo, three-litre boxer six-cylinder
- Transmission/drive: Seven-speed manual/rear-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 13.1 city/9.8 highway (automatic)
- Alternatives: Aston Martin Vantage, Audi R8, BMW 8 Series, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, Lamborghini Huracan, Maserati MC20, Mercedes-AMG GT