2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive Review: Sometimes value is sexy


LOS ANGELES — The 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T is effectively a 911 with the base Carrera engine but with a few choice mechanical upgrades that are either standard or optional on the more powerful and expensive Carrera S. Those upgrades would otherwise not be available on the base car. The Carrera T also goes on a bit of diet compared to both the base 911 and Carrera S thanks to thinner glass, less sound deadening, a smaller and more compact battery, and the standard deletion of the back seat (you can still add it back in).

Great, but why would you want that? If you can afford the Carrera T’s base price of $118,050, including destination, chances are you won’t blink about getting a Carrera S with roughly the same mechanical upgrades for about $132,000. Oh, and more power: 443 horsepower versus the 379 hp you get with the Carrera T. Does it matter that that advantage only works out to a 0.3-second quicker 0-60 time? Nah, you’ve got the money, why get less power? More is better.

This is a valid argument against the Carrera T, and as such, it certainly isn’t for every 911 buyer. Except as we’ve previously documented, the 911 pie is sliced awfully thin. And those pieces just got even thinner thanks to the delectable 911 Dakar. While it’s true that the Carrera S has more power than the Carrera T, the GTS has more power than the Carrera S. And the Turbo has more than that. And then there’s the GT3 and the Turbo S and whatever else Porsche comes out with. Basically, you could play this game forever and continuously ask yourself “Oh what the hell, what’s another $14,000?”

The Carrera T, and this author for that matter, is here to tell you that you do not need to do that. To put it simply, the base 911 Carrera 3.0-liter turbocharged boxer-six is a brilliant, thoroughly decadent performance engine that makes it seem silly that Porsche needs to sell versions with even more gusto. While driving on the famous Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles, my driving partner for the press drive turned at one point and asked: “Have you been driving in third this whole time?” I paused, looked at the tach and then down at the T’s standard seven-speed manual, and replied, “Yep, guess so. Didn’t really need anything else.”

You see, the 3.0-liter’s 390 pound-feet of torque is so robust, coming on between 1,950 and 5,000, that downshifting is really only necessary on the tightest of turns. Meanwhile, the engine revs out to 7,500 rpm with those 379 horses peaking at 6,500 rpm, and if you do that, you’re going fast. Fast even for a veritable race track like Angeles Crest Highway. It’s hard to think of where you could really stretch this car’s legs without exceeding your own limits or the local constabulary’s threshold for throwing you in the clink. You’d need a track, which given the T’s lightweighting and various performance upgrades, would actually be a pretty good idea.

So, what exactly are those upgrades from the Carrera S options list that were made standard on the Carrera T? The PASM Sport Suspension brings with it adaptive dampers, three settings and a 10-millimeter lower ride height. Rear-wheel steering and the sport exhaust are standard along with the Sport Chrono package that includes a sport stability control setting, launch control, active driveline mounts, the rotary drive mode selector on the steering wheel, a tire temperature display, the Porsche Track Precision app for seeing how swell you’re doing on the track, and a nice little clock on the dash. The T also gets the 20-inch-front/21-inch-rear wheels (in Titanium Grey) and Porsche Torque Vectoring mechanical limited-slip differential that are standard on the Carrera S.

To be perfectly honest, without a base Carrera or Carrera S on hand to drive back-to-back with the Carrera T, it’s really hard to tell definitively how much of an advantage you’ll enjoy on a road like Angeles Crest. It’s a 911, though, and that means it’s joyously at home on those long sweepers, rapid transitions, elevation increases and just general automotive merriment. Grip is seemingly never-ending, and the steering is a tactical delight, with the rear-wheel steering mostly doing its thing in the background without making the car feel like a theme park ride. The Carrera T lets you flow effortlessly with the road, striking just the right sort of balance between making you feel like a part of the experience and providing the reassurance that it has the capability to back you up (slash, it won’t bite you).

And despite the lightweighting and performance upgrades, the Carrera T is still surprisingly comfortable. Our drive through downtown Los Angeles and up the Californians-esque selection of freeways was nothing but comfy. It also seemed less noisy than the 911 Turbo we drove with its Weissach package that similarly removed the back seat and sound deadening, though those were different roads. This would be a key point: The T is tolerably comfortable and quiet, meaning that paying all that much more for the Carrera S is even less necessary.

That said, the Carrera T shaves 100 pounds off the waistline of the base Carrera, but(!) most of that comes by way of the standard manual transmission and rear seat delete. Going with the no-cost options of PDK and the back seat means you’re only getting the far less-substantial savings of the thinner glass, smaller battery and reduced sound deadening. On the other hand, you could make the T lighter by going with the optional carbon fiber, fixed-recline Full Bucket seat option. That would be a good idea if you do have track aspirations, but if you don’t, sticking with the standard four-way power Sport Seats Plus or the optional 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats Plus fitted to our test car would be better. The Full Buckets are surprisingly comfortable, but they do get old during longer drives when you just want to Fat Joe it a bit and lean back.

Besides the Carrera T graphic on the doors, you can tell it apart from other 911s with its multitude of trim pieces in Agate Grey: mirror covers, engine grille slats and model designation. The Sport Exhaust is finished with high-glass black pipes, while the interior sees matte and high-gloss black trim pieces. The real special interior element is the Lizard Green stitching and seat belt option exclusive to the Carrera T (pictured above right), although our Guards Red test car was not so equipped. That’s probably for the best.

This visual differentiation is also key, because even if that Carrera S has more power and costs more money, the Carrera T brings with it greater exclusivity. It’s special, and people will assume it’s special and will therefore assume you paid more money for it. And you did … just more than the base Carrera. There’s no reason to let them know it’s cheaper than everything else. You can, however, happily opine that Carrera T is considered the purists’ 911 with its connoisseurs’ selection of performance upgrades. Sometimes value is sexy.

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