2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T Review: The Endangered Sports Car Worth Saving
The Porsche 911 Carrera T is like a regular 911, only reconfigured from the wheels up to deliver as much driving feedback as possible.
The Porsche 911 is the European sports car, and the Carrera T is a more hardcore version for those who don't quite have enough coin, clout, or a good enough chiropractor to deal with the brand's hardest-of-core GT models. Lightweight glass, less sound deadening, no rear seats, and a short shifter for the seven-speed manual are the highlights on paper. It's all about connection with the road. The real spirit of this car doesn't come from its individual components, though. It comes from all of the disparate parts and how they feel and work together. The 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T chases perfection not just in the shifter, engine, or steering, it tries to amalgamate them all into a single ergonomic vision. It largely succeeds.
The Carrera T isn't a car for everyone. It isn't even a 911 for everyone. But the niche it carves out makes me wish other automakers made decisions to make more machines like this. Everything I touched felt like the same individual had something to do with it. Really, though, the fact was that the 911 is so iconic that it has a spirit of its own. The inputs and feedback are naturally the work of engineers, but I sense they aren't really calling the shots. The 911 itself defines the vision.
|2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T Specs|
|Base Price (as tested)||$118,050 ($136,280)|
|Powertrain||3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six | 7-speed manual | rear-wheel drive|
|Horsepower||379 @ 6,500 rpm|
|Torque||331 lb-ft @ 1900-5,000 rpm|
|Curb Weight||3,254 pounds|
|Cargo Volume||9.32 cubic feet behind front seats | 4.66 cubic feet in frunk|
|EPA Fuel Economy||17 mpg city | 25 highway | 20 combined|
|Quick take||Stiff, purposeful, and extremely well-rounded.|
The 911 Carrera T is in many ways the first step up the hardcore 911 ladder. Above it are far more expensive machines like the GTS and GT3, all focused on more rough-and-tumble performance and handling. The Carrera T is only about $10,000 more than a regular 911, and for that, you get both less and more. The most obvious change is the lack of rear seats, but less noticeable changes like thinner glass and less sound deadening have also been made in the name of reduced mass.
The add-ons are enough to both make a difference and justify the increased price. Sport seats are standard, and the suspension has been totally reworked short of swapping the control arms. Wheels from the Carrera S are also thrown in, along with a sports exhaust system and an upgraded steering wheel. It's all being done in the name of improving how things feel, as opposed to how they necessarily perform. On paper, the Carrera T makes the same power and torque as a regular 911, but that's not the point. It's about changing the car's attitude into something sharper and more connected.
Naturally, a seven-speed dogleg manual is the best transmission for the job, but an eight-speed PDK automatic is also available if you really must insist. The car tested here is, of course, the stick.
Behind the wheel, it's all Good. That becomes clear even before you twist the faux key on the left side (i.e. the Le Mans-start side) of the steering wheel. That G-word is horribly abused when it comes to cars, though. Let me clarify.
Whether said controls operate the transmission or the HVAC, everything feels like at least one person was tasked with making each button, knob, stalk, and lever pleasant to operate. Whether it's a press to the next song or a slam into fourth, feedback is provided like a microphone next to an amplifier. There's never any doubt that you've completed even the simplest of tasks.
Driving the Porsche 911 Carrera T
Going down the road is the exact same pleasant story. The steering is tight and the car's light nose can be felt through nearly any maneuver. A sustained sweep left or right reveals a soft and springy feedback through the wheel that somebody in Stuttgart—at least one person—obsessed over. The shifter is the same way. Although the physical gates are a little close together for my liking, there was never any doubt that I was going into a gear, even if it was third instead of fifth. The lightning-quick automatic rev-matching made that mistake smooth in any case.
The ride was stiff. A very clicky tactile toggle on the dash made it even stiffer at my command—the adjustable sport suspension at work. Since this is the T model, that's appropriate. That being said, there are few roads in New England that agreed with the Carrera T's ride. This put it outside the realm of daily drivability for me. Driving a harshly-sprung car makes you anticipate sharp impacts, even if they don't actually happen. Likewise, an unseen imperfection on a highway is all the more unsettling. I think if you're older and wiser, you should go for a regular Carrera which will be more comfortable.
That legendary flat-six at the back was one of the things I was really looking forward to, but it wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped. It's strong, linear, predictable, and doesn't sound amiss, but I think the turbochargers which now come with all 3.0-liter Carreras take a bit of the roar out of its rev. Naturally aspirated, I'm sure it would've been pleasantly rawer. The louder sport setting on the exhaust, also located on a convenient clicky toggle, tries to account for this, but it really just makes the occasional pop or bang more noticeable. A straight-six from BMW, be it a B58 from an M340i, or an S58 from an M2, feels and sounds better to my ear, even if some of the noise is piped in through speakers. This isn't so much a demerit as much as it was a product of me personally expecting more. In the grand scheme of things, this engine is a cut above anything you're going to find in most six-cylinder pedestrian commuters.
The Highs and Lows
There is, in short, nothing bad about the Carrera T. To show how hard you have to look to find a flaw with this thing, I think the single worst aspect about the car is part of the steering wheel. There's a button to change to the next song, but none to go back. Other small complaints are things like the rear glass. With no back seats, there's more cargo space than you think. Without a hatchback opening, though, it can't really be used to its full potential. It's another one of those small things that put this car into weekend driver territory, but that's really what it's for.
The highs are almost imperceptibly, naturally high. More winning a game of chess or hitting a home run than any "over 21" purchase will provide. The engine, transmission, driving position, and more all come together in a way that I haven't experienced before. I thought to myself, "If I was going to build a car, I would want it to feel almost exactly like this." In terms of what you interact with and how you interact with it, there is not a better car I can think of. Things like the brakes are just so perfect and I'm not even necessarily talking about the actual stopping performance. It's things like how the pedal feels to press and where it begins to sense you're applying pressure. It is the best brake pedal I've ever perceived, and almost everything else about the Carrera T is like that.
Porsche 911 Carrera T Features, Options, and Competition
In contrast to the very in-your-face definition of luxury found in, say, modern Mercedes, the Porsche 911 is a very ... organic-feeling car free of gimmicks. Features, lights, sights, and sounds didn't come at me like a tidal wave. It's more subtle than that. Probably the most luxurious things on paper in this car were the heated steering wheel and seats, which simply worked very well, especially in combination with the cloth seating surfaces. The nice seats and the heated wheel cost around $3,000. Likewise, the Carrera T I borrowed was optioned with a truly massive 23.7-gallon extended-range fuel tank that costs an additional $230. That meant I could drive for longer distances without having to fill up. Simple pleasures.
I would personally skip the $3,270 coat of Ruby Star Neo (that's German for pink, apparently), front axle lift system ($2,770), and LED Matrix headlights ($3,270), but besides that, everything else seemed worth keeping, and mostly worth the money. Lane change assist for $1,060 was a low-interference blind spot monitor that worked very well, and the $4,530 leather interior, well, that was just nice. As tested, the invoice came out to $136,280.
The Carrera T's competition will mostly consist of other Porsches these days, but cars like the C8 Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, and perhaps even the new Lotus Emira could be seen as close-to direct competitors. None of those cars are really like this, though. That doesn't mean I don't like them or wouldn't buy them, but the entire Porsche brand is built around the 911, which it's been making non-stop since 1963. The Corvette has been around just as long, but Chevy just makes too many disparate cars for it to really define the brand. A Silverado is never going to be like a Corvette to drive, but even a Macan can take cues from Porsche's flagship sports car.
I would personally cross-shop this and a C8 and probably end up getting the latter just because for this money, I could get a well-optioned Z06 assuming anyone could sell me one at MSRP. Simply because I'm a fan of eight cylinders. The lack of a manual in the Chevy makes me seriously think twice, though.
Fuel economy is not very relevant for a weekend warrior like this, but it's worth touching on just because the highway EPA rating is so far off the mark, as is the case with at least one other triple-overdrive 7-speed manual sports car I'm familiar with. I easily observed 31-34 mpg in seventh at around 70 mph, no sweat. The figure around town is about right, but it's going to depend on how you drive more than anything.
Value and Verdict
Is the 2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T worth the money? Well, I'm too poor to make that call personally. Anyone shopping for a weekend car with $150,000 to spend will be hard-pressed to find better options, though, especially if you insist that it have a manual as I would—in which case, the 911 really is the only option.
The relatively high price accounts for the fact that the manual 911 has never gone away, and likely never will. At this point, you're basically paying for the survival of a species that really should've gone extinct already. Even if you believe the driving experience itself is only worth $80,000, or $90,000, it can easily be argued that the extra price tacked pays for peace of mind—Porsche won't stop building the 911—and, of course, ergonomic perfection. As a package, the 911 is hard to beat, and as a joyrider, the Carrera T is the one to go for.
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