porsche took another step forward in its quest to catch baskin-robbins by offering more flavors of its 911 sports car. the latest addition is the 2018 911 carrera t, which comes with weight savings and a familiar powertrain.
i headed to napa valley in northern california to see if the carrera t has anything unique to offer to the crowded 911 lineup. per company policy, pays for its own lodging and transportation to such automaker events.
what makes the 911 a t?
the carrera t is based closely on the 911 carrera coupe, but can be distinguished by a few visual touches including the "911 carrera t" decal painted on the doors. the decal is in agate gray, which matches the side mirrors, rear logos and rear used engine grille slats. the 20-inch wheels might look like agate gray but don't be fooled! that's titanium gray. big difference.
besides the visual connection, they share many mechanical similarities. the 911 carrera t has the same used engine and transmission options, but is only offered in rear-wheel drive. powering the t is is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six-cylinder used engine that makes 370 horsepower and 331 pounds-feet of torque. it's available with a standard seven-speed manual with some interesting changes for the 911 carrera t, and porsche's seven-speed pdk dual-clutch automatic transmission that's optional for an extra $3,730.
there are standard suspension upgrades on the 911 carrera t you don't get on the 911 carrera, including the porsche active suspension management sport suspension that lowers the car by 0.39 inch, the lightweight sport chrono package and porsche torque vectoring with a mechanical locking rear differential on manual transmission models. rear axle steering is optional and not available on the 911 carrera.
the carrera t wears an interesting title: it is the lightest 911 you can buy, weighing in at 3,142 pounds with the seven-speed manual, thanks to slew of weight-saving changes. those include reduced sound-deadening material, lighter door panels with fabric pulls instead of handles and lightweight glass in the rear and rear side windows.
a quick note on that lightweight glass: it doesn't have a rear defroster, but if that's something you want/need, you can opt for regular glass, though it adds back almost 8 pounds.
add it all up and you save ... 11 pounds versus a 911 carrera. however, porsche says that if you added the mechanical features on the carrera t (such as the ptv system with differential and the larger wheels) to the 911 carrera, the weight difference would be about 45 pounds.
there's also one last option for those wanting maximum weight savings: lightweight bucket seats made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. this option also deletes the rear seats. this saves an additional 45 pounds for $5,200.
but does it make a difference?
the "t" in the car's name stands for "touring" and that matches how i've come to feel about the 911 carrera. it's an athletic car to be sure, but it's most at home being driven on meandering country lanes rather than being pushed hard. this rings true for versions of the carrera t that come with the pdk gearbox.
an automatic 911 t was the first version i tested and it also had rear-wheel steering. in this setup, you don't catch the weight savings or benefits from the lowered suspension. dynamically, it feels close to the 911 carrera. the sport suspension adds a small bit of crispness, but the car still felt most comfortable on the portions of our drive that softly wound up the coast, rather than the parts with quicker corners and harder elevation changes.
the t's cabin is noticeably louder — thinner glass and less sound-deadening material will do that. with the sport exhaust triggered it's hard to have conversations in the cabin; however, the used engine note is rather appealing, so just drive with someone who you don't need to talk much.
in all, i didn't get the appeal of the carrera t at first. but then i drove the manual and flipped that notion on its head.
in the manual transmission 911 carrera t, porsche shortened the shifter's throws and modified the constant transaxle ratio for improved acceleration. it also comes with ptv and that mechanically locking rear differential, two features missing on the automatic that may have helped put power down. my manual test car also came with the optional bucket seats, so it maxed out the lightness potential of the 911 carrera t. this was as lean and mean as you can get the t to be — and it didn't disappoint.
the car comes alive with the manual. the used engine jumps up into the power quicker, and though the pdk is a better gearbox than i will ever be (machine is greater than man is this regard), the feeling of direct control over the gearing offers a greater sensation to the driver. gear changes are fast and come with a satisfying (albeit inaudible) mechanical click when you pop the car into gear. it doesn't get old.
with the used engine freed thanks to the revised transaxle ratio, it also transforms the handling. crank the sport chrono dial into sport plus to maximize the suspension firmness, dial up the sport mode on traction control and the 911 carrera t with the manual corners with controlled precision. it allows for just a touch of wheel slip — a quick blip of the throttle rebalances the car, then launches it out of turns to hunt for the next one. after driving the manual, my confusion turned into something resembling joy.
get the manual transmission
the difference in the car's nature from automatic to manual was enough to completely reverse my position on the 911 carrera t. it went from a more expensive version of the 911 carrera that didn't offer enough uniqueness to a rather different machine. the 911 carrera t carries an $11,000 price premium over the 911 carrera, starting at $103,150 (including destination charges). this starting price fits it in between the 911 carrera and the 911 carrera s, which is $3,000 more ($106,150).
the manual version of the carrera t i tested came exactly how i would option it: rear-axle steering ($2,090), gt sport steering wheel and shift knob in alcantara ($910), and the full bucket seats to save maximum weight ($5,200). that pushed the total price of the car to $111,350 (including destination charges).
so, if you're looking for a lighter, more aggressive alternative to the 911, then the 911 carrera t with that charged-up manual transmission fits the bill. but if the automatic is your cup of tea, stick with the 911 carrera and save some money (along with your eardrums) .
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