What’s the best 911? Porsche-philes have grappled with and argued about this question for years. To my mind, it’s not possible to answer properly. Not unless we lay down some ground rules.
First, let’s specify that we’re talking about the best 911 from the 991.2 range. The 992 isn’t quite here yet, and from launch, it’ll consist only of the Carrera S and 4S - it’ll take a little while for the range to fill out.
Next up, I’m going to rule out the GT models. Yes, they are wondrous things, but the GT3 and its chums are not exactly easy to get hold of and have such focus, they lose the versatility factor that makes 911s so brilliant.
I set these very parameters when pondering the best 911 about a year ago, and came to the conclusion that a rear-wheel drive GTS coupe with a manual box was as close as you could get.
But I always found myself wondering if it needed the extra power, the wider body and the fatter tyres. Perhaps instead, the best 911 is the simplest Carrera you can spec. And while I was pondering this, Porsche launched the 911 Carrera T. Could this be the one?
Revving it beyond 3000rpm for the first time, it certainly put a big tick in the ‘noise’ box. For the T, Porsche hacked out a load of sound deadening, and it’s something you notice as soon as you start driving. And when that 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six is suitably warmed up, it’s something you really appreciate.
Now, you can enjoy the punchy mid-range of this downsized turbo unit without missing the shouty N/A flat-six Porsche retired a couple of years ago. It howls just like it should (peak power is at 6500rpm but you can spin it up to 7500rpm if you wish), and although this car has the base Carrera engine, I rarely thought that the 365bhp and 332lb ft of torque it offers up wasn’t enough.
And how about this for a bonus: the lower boost pressures for those two turbos make it more responsive than the pokier S engine, and also one that you still need to rev reasonably hard to get the most out of it. Good.
The reduction in sound-deadening is only part of the story. We also have standard-fit Porsche Active Suspension Management - something you can’t normally have on a non-S Carrera - which gives you adaptive dampers and a 20mm lower chassis. The rear and side glass is thinner to save weight, and unless you option them back (which is free, thankfully), you don’t have a rear seat bench or an infotainment system. The icing on the lightened cake is a pair of fabric door pulls. Neat.
The sum total of this diet is a loss of… 20kg. In other words, something you’ll never really notice, and if it was me, I’d probably want to put that rear seat unit back for the family-friendly factor, putting a big dent in the savings.
It’s partly because of this that during my first few days with the T, we just didn’t click. It felt like a missed opportunity. Surely Porsche could have gone berserk with the weight saving? Just look at how McLaren shed 100kg from the 570S - not exactly a fatty to begin with - to make the 600LT. Granted, some of that is down to the use of fancy materials, but a little while ago Porsche managed to trim a similar figure from the 968 to make the Clubsport, simply through ditching luxuries.
Drone from the engine at motorway speeds is well within tolerable limits, so why not take even more sound-proofing out? And for a car that’s all about pure driving thrills, what’s the deal with having complicated adaptive dampers plus bigger wheels and tyres? And optional rear-wheel steering, another thing you can’t normally have away from Carrera S land, which is present on this particular T?
Then again, perhaps I’m expecting too much. The Carrera T was never going to be more than a few tweaks. As revealed by chief engineer August Achleitner at the reveal of the 992 a few weeks ago, it was a run-out special to help the 991.2 Carrera maintain momentum ahead of the new car’s arrival, and in the end, the run-out special wasn’t actually needed.
In any case, a day before it was due to head back, the T and I finally started getting along. I went to a little stretch of road I take every car I’m struggling to ‘get’, most recently the BMW M3 CS. It was here I discovered the Carrera T to be much greater than the sum of its parts.
It helps that the standard Carrera is a damn good starting point, since there’s so much to like. There’s the beautifully weighted and natural-feeling steering which remains the best EPAS setup out there. The versatile and charismatic engine, and the traction afforded by Porsche’s stubborn decision to leave it sitting above the rear axle. The way all the pedals are all positioned properly and weighted just right. Well, apart from the brake pedal feeling a tiny bit over-servoed, but we’ll let that slide.
Once you take a car like that and factor in the noisier cabin, the shorter gear ratios which really make the best of this ‘lesser’ Carrera engine and the special little touches like those fabric door pulls (sorry, I like them) and the unique seats, the T shapes up to be a compelling proposition. And although I moaned about the option of complex rear-steering earlier, there’s no doubt that it makes this already extremely accomplished road car even more agile.
It’s that tried-and-tested recipe behind your favourite meal, but with a new herb or spice chucked in that elevates it beyond its already lofty place in your estimations. A nagging feeling that Porsche could have done more here remains, but I’m calling it: the T is the 991 for me.