When it comes to sheer variety, the Porsche 911 range is unrivalled. Would you like one with supercar levels of power? Sure - you can have the Turbo S. A track day layer? That’s what the GT3 RS is for. Or perhaps you like alfresco motoring, in which case you have nine different options encompassing several power outputs and even two different roof mechanisms.
Because I’m boring, I went on the configurator and counted, discovering that there are 26 different 911s to choose from. But because I’m also fussy, I’ve been adamant up until recently that the ideal 911 - at least for me - is a configuration you can’t have.
Yes, the Turbo is great, but it’s a bit of a sledgehammer as far as 911s go, and possibly a bit too powerful to properly enjoy on the road. The GT stuff is incredible, but getting hold of any of them is easier said than done. And so, I find myself coming back to the base 911 Carrera, because, in its simplicity, it comes close to 911 perfection.
I say close, because you can only have it with the eight-speed ‘PDK’ automatic gearbox. And as fabulous as the 'doppelkupplungsgetriebe' might be, you can’t be a manual. But all’s not lost, as there’s yet another variant of the 911 now on the menu, the Carrera T, and it hooks up that base Carrera engine with Porsche’s seven-speed manual.
It gets better. Like the last 911 Carrera T, the new one features reduced soundproofing and thinner rear and side glass ( all the better to hear that flat-six with, my dear). Meanwhile, it gets Porsche Active Suspension Management on a 10mm lower chassis as standard, which also isn’t available on a boggo Carrera.
It’s not a limited-run, super-special GT thing, so availability won’t be a problem, and it’s not even that expensive. OK, so £105,700 isn’t exactly chump change, but considering the last 911 I drove was the twice-as-much Sport Classic, that doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. And no, I don’t mind the stickers slapped on the sides of the car, but if you find them objectionable, there’s an option to delete them.
I won’t beat about the bush: one single go I had in the Carrera T was the best drive I’ve had probably in years. Everything comes together to provide a joyous experience for those who truly love driving. The communicative steering - an electric power-assisted setup which still no one else has bettered - gives all the information you need from the front end, while that atypical engine location provides bags of traction. Combine the two, and you have the confidence to nail it out of a corner in a way you’d be reticent to replicate in many other rear-drive cars.
With lower boost pressure than the Carrera S engine, this lower-powered flat-six is more responsive, but still plenty gutsy. It has bags of character, harking back to 911s of old with that distinctive low-end clatter, the mid-range bark and the high-RPM howl. All of these sounds are much more present in the cabin with that reduced soundproofing.
Unlike so many other modern turbocharged engines, it’s actually worth revving this one out. And, of course, once you are skirting around the fuel cutoff, you can change gears yourself. Granted, there are sweeter shifts than Porsche’s seven-speed manual, and the gears are hilariously long, but it’s a manual nonetheless. A rare treat in today’s performance car world.
There’s that typical 911 understeer that’ll crop up in certain corners (only the GT3 and GT3 RS with their double-wishbone front ends have this dialled out), but driving around that is all part of driving one of these things.
Bad stuff? Well, the removal of sound deadening does mean the standard audio system struggles to compete with road and engine noise at a cruise - you might want to spec either the £1,152 Bose setup or the fancier £3,746 Burmester hi-fi.
The other thing concerns how this one was specced in the configurator, too. There are no rear seats, as the rear bench has been ditched in a move to save weight. It contributes heavily towards the 35kg saving, but that’s hardly the sort of loss you’d notice in a car that still weighs around 1,500kg anyway.
You can and absolutely should option them back in, which can be done at no extra cost. If you’ve already bought a car with the engine in a weird place, you might as well reap the packaging benefits and end up with a more versatile car.
So yes, it seems the Carrera T really is the ideal 911. The driving experience offered here is simply wonderful, and in 911 land only really matched by the the fancy, naturally aspirated GT stuff. Just be sure you spec it right.