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Optimum Porsche: Check Driving the Carrera 911 T

Optimum Porsche: Check Driving the Carrera 911 T

If you’re looking for the sweet spot among the bewildering variety of Carrera sports cars, you might well find it near the bottom of the range. We’re talking about the perfectly balanced Porsche Carrera 911 T.

If you’re looking for the perfect Porsche, the 911 T could well be it

Can you believe it’s now 60 years since the Porsche 911 made its debut? That’s not much less than a human lifetime, yet still the company’s halo car remains as desired and revered as it ever was. No, make that even more so.

Of course, the latest generation, though somewhat resembling the original in both layout and styling, is a substantially different beast from its forebear, vastly more sophisticated, hugely more powerful, longer and a good deal heavier. Back in 1963, when Porsche pulled the covers off its first six-cylinder car (though full production didn’t begin till the following year), the neunelfer’s rear-mounted, naturally aspirated air-cooled 2-litre engine produced just 130bhp, which is slightly south of the output of a current hybrid Corolla. Today’s 911 Carrera, often referred to by its factory designation 992, has a turbocharged water-cooled motor whose displacement, depending on the model, ranges between 3 and 4 litres and which in its maximum state of tune can thump out a massive 650 horses.

It’s what they call progress, but Porsche has never pursued horsepower as an end in itself and, keenly aware of its own heritage, the company also keeps an eye on the past – indeed, the staggering number of iterations of the 911 that have rolled out of the factory since the early ’60s means there’s an awful lot of heritage to mine. Thus the latest Carrera to land on these shoes, dubbed the 911T, traces its lineage to the stripped-down and de-tuned Touring model of the late ’60s, which for five years served as the entry point to the line-up.

Nothing mars the purity of the 911 T’s classic lines

True to the formula of that early T, Porsche has endowed this latest incarnation with the least powerful engine in the line-up – a 380bhp twin-turbocharged 3-litre flat-six – while also shedding weight by ripping out the rear seats (no big deal anyway, as they’re strictly “occasional”, though if you’re desperate you can have them re-installed for free) and specifying lightweight glass and a more compact battery. On the plus side, and to emphasise the 911T’s purist orientation, it gets Porsche’s sport suspension package that lops a minuscule 10mm off the ride height, a mechanical rear differential (because this is two-wheel-drive only), a more tuneful exhaust system, four-way electric sports seats and – joy of joys! – a seven-speed manual gearbox as standard equipment, with the more usual eight-speed dual-clutch automatic box as a no-cost option. Also thrown in are beefy, titanium-grey 10-spoke alloys, 20-inch and the front and 21 at the back, and if you’re after greater agility from a car whose kerb weight creeps close to 1.5 tonnes in spite of the climbing regime it’s undergone, you can also shell out for rear-axle steering.

So how does this back-to-basics Carrera look? Pretty good actually, because in addition to coming up with some cool new body colours, Porsche has conveyed the necessary brawn with sprinklings of black and grey for door decals, mirrors and the rear underside, without compromising the essential purity of the 911’s lines, which are by now so familiar and long-established we can rightly call them classic.

911 T’s driver-focussed cockpit
Superb sports seats on the Porsche 911 T

In a world where the electric SUVs driven by mums on the school run could embarrass even Lamborghinis at the traffic lights, the 911T’s 380bhp and 449Nm of torque might seem almost puny in comparison, though from a standstill it will still sprint to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds; specify the self-shifting PDK transmission and it will cut that time by almost a second, which is rapid by any reasonable standards, and especially so on public roads. Just as impressive – if highly illegal almost everywhere on the planet expect Porsche’s home territory – is a top whack in excess of 290. But such absolutes somewhat miss the point, because this Carrera feels so focused it’s a delight to drive at almost any speed.

For a start – and thanks partly to reduced insulation – the sounds from motor, tyres and body, the feedback from the wheel and the gorgeous action of the stubby manual shifter all combine with a glorious immediacy. The characterful rasp of the six-cylinder boxer has always been addictive and it’s no less so here (even with the addition of whistling turbos, because otherwise it’s easy to imagine this is an unblown Porsche of yore), yet at cruising speeds it’s neither intrusive nor tiresome. Its broad band of torque means it’s wonderfully flexible, too, content to dawdle through town but with an evident appetite for revs whenever the opportunity arises to flatten the throttle pedal – though once up to speed on any kind of road except freeways I find myself only using third and fourth. In fact during my time with the car I never feel the need once to shift the lever to its seventh-gear dogleg, which seems like a ratio too far anyway. Rotating the steering-wheel knob to Sport mode even replicates double-declutch blips on downshifts, recalling Porsche’s historic wins in the Monte without the need for fancy rally-ace footwork.

Sprinklings of black and grey convey the 911 T’s necessary brawn

The chassis and steering are equally obliging and, unlike early 911’s, which could turn around and bite when even mildly provoked, this latest car will forgive all but the most ham-fisted novices. Although assisted, the wheel delivers plenty of information and carves up bends with scalpel-like precision, while the suspension, though lowered, provides a perfectly cushioned ride – unless, of course, you’ve dialled in the most aggressive setting. Let loose on a twisting stretch of blacktop, it flows through curves yet can change direction like a cheetah at full tilt maintaining the kind of momentum that convinces you even a few extra horsepower would be more encumbrance than boon. Really, those 380 ponies are all you’ll ever need – and, while you’re at it, you can forget the rear-wheel steering too.

As for quotidian liveability, the 911’s cabin has long served as an object lesson for how such things should be done. Granted the all-black interior isn’t anyone’s idea of Hollywood glamour, but the materials, fit and finishing are excellent, the ergonomics as good as ever and the whole ensemble – from infotainment screen to buttons, gearshift and wheel – works together perfectly in unison. Driver-focused is one way of putting it, though if you’re determined to push the boat out you can personalise it pretty much any way you choose. It’s also comfortable: the seats are superbly supportive, while the absence of the pair of toddlers’ perches in the rear makes for plenty of extra storage space. Thinking of taking a long road trip, two-up? I can’t think of many better cars in which to undertake such a journey than this.

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Rear light bar

Judging from this Porsche, it seems as if entry level really is the way to go, as it ticks almost every box when it comes to drivability, comfort, day-to-day practicality and, most important of all, sheer satisfaction. It’s everything that’s marvellous about the 911 distilled to its absolute essence – and not only can I think of few current cars I’d rather own, but if I were only permitted one in my driveway, this might very well be it.

Fast but not too fast, hard but not hardcore and flash but with just a hint of humility, the 911 T Carrera hits the spot just right.

Technical Details of Porsche Carrera 911 T

ENGINE Twin-turbocharger 3-litre flat six
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed manual
MAX POWER 380 bhp
MAX TORQUE 449Nm @ 1,900-5,000rpm
MAX SPEED 291km/h
ACCELERATION 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds
UNLADEN WEIGHT 1.47 tonnes
PRICE From HK$2.485 million

Source: Prestige Online

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