2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive Review: Everything You Need

First Drive / 2 Comments

The Carrera T is what you need without the fluff.

Porsche's ability to cut up an already small segment into even tinier pieces and make it a success is unparalleled in the automotive industry. Just look at the 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera as a perfect example. Without even counting specialty models like the GT3 and lifted Dakar off-roader, the Carrera is available in 17 different configurations, including coupes, cabriolets, Targas, and various rear- and all-wheel-drive variants. CarBuzz recently drove the latest entrant to the crowded 911 lineup, the Carrera T.

The Carrera T splits the difference between the base Carrera and the more powerful Carrera S, adding performance items from the latter while stripping out weight for a purer driving experience. For buyers who don't require the outright track performance of a GT3 but still desire a pure driving experience, the Carrera T might be the perfect 911 variant. As we found out on the Angeles Crest Highway outside of Los Angeles, it's all the 911 anyone really needs.

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2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Forward Vision
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Rearward Vision
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Sideward Vision
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Aft View

Design: What Is A Carrera T?

Let's start with a complicated but necessary question: what is a 911 Carrera T? The "T" stands for Touring, meaning this is a street-focused package. It takes the base engine from the Carrera, deletes weight, and adds items that were formerly only available on the Carrera S. These include a manual transmission, Porsche Active Suspension Management, a mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), the Sport Chrono Package, and available rear-axle steering.

Porsche lets buyers customize their cars almost any way they'd like, but the Carrera T has a few model-specific design cues. It gets Titanium Grey Carrera S wheels, Agate Grey exterior accents, and a sport exhaust system with black tips. As a further differentiator, buyers can also get a retro-style "911 Carrera T" decal on the doors.

In addition to the four standard and five specialty colors, customers can opt for Porsche's Paint To Sample program, which unlocks another 110 hues. At no cost, we loved our Guards Red test vehicle but could also be swayed by Racing Yellow.

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2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Front View
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Rear View
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Front Wheel
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Insignia

Performance: Base, But Better

The Carrera T uses the same engine as the base Carrera, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six churning out 379 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Unlike the Carrera, which is only available with an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, Porsche sells the Carrera T with a no-cost seven-speed manual transmission. The PDK is quicker with 0-60 mph taking just 3.8 seconds, while the manual is no slouch at 4.3 seconds. Either transmission will help the car reach a 181 mph top speed.

Moving beyond straight-line speed, the T improves upon the standard Carrera with a 100-pound weight reduction (compared to the PDK-only model). Most of that weight saving comes from the rear seat delete, which can be added back at no cost. Overall, the T is for buyers who don't need the fastest 911 model but want something a little more special than the base car.

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2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Logo
2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Underhood Area

Driving Impressions: Who Needs More?

As a car enthusiast, it's easy to believe that more power is always better, but that's not necessarily true. Sports cars like the 911 T prove that the base car can sometimes be the best. During our quick blast up Angeles Crest, we never yearned for more power. This car proved that even the base 911 still has too much power for an average American twisty road.

The T can carry massive speed through the corners with so much grip it almost feels all-wheel-driven. Pinpoint steering provides telepathic handling characteristics, and the optional rear steering helps the car dive into tight corners with ease. Thanks to the lack of sound deadening, the driver feels more connected to the experience with a sweet howl from the flat-six and minimal wind/road noise.

Power is available throughout the rev range, so much so that we didn't fall in love with the seven-speed manual transmission. There's so much low-end torque, meaning downshifts are seldom required. Conversely, the gearing is tall, so we rarely felt the need to shift past third gear. You can hit triple-digit speeds in third gear, so you only get two gear changes before risking prison time. With that in mind, we acknowledge that the PDK is easier to live with and does't sacrifice much on fun.

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Interior: Premium Focused

The 992 generation 911 has the most tech-focused cabin in the nameplate's history, but the T attempts to bring the car back to its simple roots. As standard, it gets simple four-way adjustable Sport Seats Plus with breathable cloth (Porsche calls it Sport-Tex) centers. Customers can upgrade to 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats Plus, which we sampled on our test car, or go even more basic with carbon-backed bucket seats from the GT3. On a street car such as this, we'd stay away from the buckets. An all-black interior is standard, but accents and seatbelts in Slate Grey or Lizard Green are available to add some contrast.

There is no rear seat in the 911 T, meaning there's plenty of space behind the seats for small backpacks. Of course, if you want to bring the kids along for the ride, the rear seat can be added back at no cost. Buyers can also add niceties like a sunroof, Burmester audio, and safety tech, but doing so defeats the purpose of the thinner glass, which is to keep weight low. The T weighs as little as 3,254 pounds, but it's possible to erase most of Porsche's weight savings with too many options.

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2020-2023 Porsche 911 Carrera Seating Trim

Pricing: A 911 Bargain?

The 2023 911 Carrera T starts at $116,600 (excluding $1,450 for delivery, processing, and handling). For reference, the base Carrera costs $106,100, while the Carrera S starts at $123,000. Even with minimal options, our Guards Red tester rang in at $137,480, quickly overlapping the S. The T appeals to a small market that wants a pure driving experience without overwhelming power. We could live without a few options on our test car, such as the $6,930 Carrera T Interior Package, $2,090 Rear Axle Steering, and $4,150 LED Matrix-Design Headlights.

If we were in the market for this particular 911, we'd keep it simple with the options and skip all but the bare essentials. Otherwise, it's probably worth stepping up to the more powerful Carrera S. The price also overlaps heavily with the 718 Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4, two mid-engine cars with naturally aspirated flat-sixes and similar bare-bones performance. The 911's turbocharged torque means it is quicker, but the smaller 718 models are arguably even more enjoyable to drive, depending on your taste.

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Verdict: An Exercise In Restraint

It may not have the flash of a GT3 or the speed of a Turbo, but the Carrera T is the purest variant in the 911 lineup. This isn't a car that makes up for your lack of driving skill with world-ending power, it bonds with you to deliver a connected driving experience that's more about the journey than how quickly you reach the destination. We've driven more potent 911 variants like the Carrera GTS and Turbo S, and we can't possibly imagine spending nearly double when the Carrera T is so enjoyable. If you can toss away your ego and admit you aren't an F1 driver, the T delivers more performance than any law enforcement officer will allow you to use on a public street. Once again, Porsche proves it can find a new niche and deliver a near-flawless product.

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