Aging is said to trigger sentimentality, so the case could be made that in the hallowed executive suites of Porsche in Stuttgart there’s a little misty-eyed reflection taking place. The company turns 75 next year, and its iconic 911 sports car hits the big six-oh a year later.
So perhaps it isn’t too big of a surprise that Porsche has just revealed two 911 models that tap into its rich history, each with significant motorsport history on their resumes. At the recent LA Auto Show the company revealed the 2023 911 Dakara 21st century homage to the Paris-to-Dakar winning 1984 911 Carrera 953, a four-wheel drive off-roader that was the precursor to all-wheel-drive 911s. A couple of days before that global reveal, I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2023 Carrera 911T, a model designation that first debuted in 1968 and would win the 37Th Monte Carlo Rally that same year. That first iteration of the ‘T’ designation, which stands for Touring and is designed with a more straightforward driving experience in mind, would run until 1973, then reappear for a year in 2017, and then migrate over to the Boxster, Cayman, and Macan models.
Happily, the T is back in the 911 family fold, and after a fantastic morning driving this exciting new model from downtown Los Angeles through Burbank and Glendale and then up and into the San Gabriel Mountains along the Angeles Crest Highway, I can report that it more than lives up to its intent, promise, and heritage.
Slotting between the base Carrera and the Carrera S, the T is 35 kilograms lighter than the PDK-equipped base model — making it the lightest Carrera model at just 1470 kg — and borrows the S’s twin-turbo powerplant and manual gearbox. That weight reduction comes thanks to no rear seats, reduced insulation, lightweight glass and a lightweight battery. The T also gets Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a mechanical rear differential lock, the Sport Chrono package, and the PASM sports suspension that features 10mm lowering. There’s also optional rear-axle steering, which is normally reserved for models from the Carrera S and up. T-specific equipment includes 20- and 21-inch Titanium Gray Carrera S wheels in front and back, respectively, the GT sports steering wheel, sports exhaust system, and Sports Seats Plus.
So, less weight than the base Carrera but with all the performance of the S, in addition to a seven-speed manual. That certainly fits the T formula — a purist driving experience with sports equipment — to, well, a T.
The exterior also gets some T-defining tweaks over its Carrera stablemates. Although somewhat minor, the dark gray accentuating details do set this model apart, as does the contrasting trim on the top and bottom of the mirrors. The windscreen gets a gray top tint, the trim strips on the rear lid grille feature agate grey, the tailpipes of the sports exhaust system are in high-gloss black, and there is T-specific badging on the doors, the door sills, and the rear.
911s are almost as renowned for their vibrant and diverse colors as their performance attributes, and the palette for the new T lives up to that expectation. There are four solid colors (Black, White, Guards Red, Racing Yellow), four metallic finishes (Deep Black, Gentian Blue, Ice Grey, GT Silver), and a selection of special colors (Chalk, Ruby Star Neo, Carmine Red, Shark Blue, Python Green). For something truly bespoke, the T offers Porsche’s Paint to Sample program, which includes an array of paintwork in over 110 available color tones. It just so happened that my test vehicle had one of those special paint jobs, and that Gulf Blue seemed the ideal color under a spectacular So-Cal sun. It doesn’t come cheap though, with a price tag of $13,000 for that particular paint job.
Those 35 kilos of weight-saving might seem like a lot, but a feeling of lightness is one of the first impressions you get when you slip the clutch pedal and engage a gear. Next is the lovely sound from that six-cylinder boxer engine as it revs up as you go up through the gears. Nimble handling is an understatement, as I discovered in early morning LA freeway traffic. Just as one centimeter of lower stance doesn’t seem like much, that decreased ride height translates to a confidence-inspiring balance and drivability that conveys that so sought after ‘go-kart’ feel of this two-seater.
Once out of urban congestion and into the first few corners of the Angeles Crest Highway — made famous in a couple of classic Love Bug films and in the opening scene of 2001’s cult-classic Donnie Darko — the quality of the steering makes the next impression. Heavy but not to the point of having to wrestle with the sport steering wheel, it responds to the slightest of inputs in a sure and precise manner. The old ‘point it there and it will go there.’ It is here again where the perfect balance of the car comes to the fore, with no hint of understeer and only the faintest sense of oversteer when you get on the power — a max of 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, incidentally — a little too early coming out of a corner.
As much as a case can be made for manumatic transmissions like Porsche’s PDK — faster shifts, more efficient, less work in bumper-to-bumper traffic — it just seems only right to row your own gears when sitting in a 911’s driver’s seat. That’s especially true on a road like this two-lane mountain highway. Third gear was the sweet spot for much of the road, although on the occasional straight bit a quick shift up to fourth provided a seamless, sure-footed boost in power. Into the tighter turns and corners, a downshift into second — accompanied by subsequent rev-matching blip — limited the need to apply much brake pressure.
The descent down the mountain was just as magical and as effortless, a challenging road brought to bear by this remarkable sports car. I hope sentimentality continues to serve as a guide to Porsche product planners for years to come. In a society and culture where more is equated to better, the new Carrera 911T defies that premise with a resounding statement that when it comes to a purist driving experience, less is best.
The 2023 Carrera 911T is expected to arrive in Canadian showrooms in the spring with a base price of $132,000.