On a weekday waking up to fulfil the duties of daily routine is an exhausting and yawn punctuated process. Roll out from bed, yawn, into the shower, yawn, dress, coffee and run to the station to catch the 0733 train to Waterloo – miss it and stand in the rain for another 9 minutes whilst yawning. Life.
I am writing these seemingly bizarre words 32,000 feet in the clouds after being awake for 17 hours. The pretty girl to my left struggles to sleep like a restless kitten and the youth to my right is choking me with body odours I assume are similar to those of a sumo wrestlers wedgie prone mawashi – I’m wide awake. Adrenaline has me on a high any classified drug prescribed by a doctor or street dealer could not match.
I woke up this morning, checked traffic reports and smiled. It was 4am – the roads were clear and Channel Tunnel trains to Calais were available in abundance. I tiptoed out of the house and immediately undid my ninja endorsed skills by starting the car – the Porsche Carrera T. The cold start sequence burst into life as the exhaust gurgled to clear its throat with a bass heavy mechanical drone. My stomach is empty, the fuel tank full. No time for a full English, there was fun to be had.
The T had been with me for a few days already and proved itself to be everything I had wanted a base Carrera with added magic to be. It continued to prove that despite downsizing, turbo charging, electric steering and other controversial penguin friendly innovations that the 911 can still be something remarkable that rightfully carries the baton that every other sport car manufacturer continues to chase.
I drove it in London traffic where there Guards Red paint grabbed attention with contrasting agate grey highlights and stickers boosted inquisitiveness. This ‘basic’ Carrera turbocharged 6-cylinder, 3-litre setup mated to a manual gearbox should be enough to have you salivating. Yes, the power and performance stats are modest in the batshit crazy world where hot hatches are senselessly bludgeoning one another to brandish the title of most powerful – mature, just like Nurburgring lap times.
At 365 brake horsepower an Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45 will have the T licked on power and 0-62 times. If you care about that, move your mouse to the top right corner of your screen and close this story now. This is not about power, stats or any figures for that matter. With the speed-freaks out of the picture we’re left with the so called ‘purist’. The people that care for how a car drives, not how it looks or how fast it is in a straight line.
Let’s talk about ‘purity’. Manual gearbox, thinner glass, no sound deadening, no back seats, no radio, no navigation, no USBs – hell, there are no door handles. Must be great for weight saving right? Erm, not really – limited slip diff, sports exhaust and Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) dampers all in and you save…5 kilograms. Better pack your lightweight nomex underpants and gorilla glass sunglasses.
It seems that the Carrera T is not very fast, powerful or light – parameters that are key to a driver’s car. That is still not the point. To help me understand and articulate why Porsche glued a letter we haven’t seen since the late 1960s on the back of this car I went for a Sunday drive. A long one. Having been frustrated in London traffic for three consecutive days, the darkness, silence and emptiness of the 5am country lanes began to bring the T into its element. The balance, poise and exposure to the external environment is palpable. Sport+ on the Sport Chrono selector makes the car fizz, the exhaust shout and the turbo blare at high pressure. The electrically power assisted steering is remarkably eager, there is even a smudge of feedback. The thin glass heightens the senses as the intoxicating noises from the brawny exhaust, magnificent engine and debris pinging inside the wheel wells smelt into a cacophony of ecstasy.
The last time I had felt this much of a visceral tie-in with a car was in a purple 991.1 GT3 RS doing outrageous speeds on the open straights of the Abu Dhabi desert. Halve the speeds of that experience, chuck in a glorious manual transmission and the tangible connection to the T’s 1,500 kilograms of metal proved stronger. This is by no means a car to be compared to a Porsche GT product, those are different cars for different circumstances. The T makes it apparent that you don’t have to break every speed limit or be on a track to interact with a chassis and spawn an umbilical cord with a car. Every element is well judged – raw but not an assault on the body.
Prior to turning the key, and waking up the entire street’s inhabitants, including dogs, I sat and deliberated my route. This is something nostalgic that reminded me of my mother and father running their fingers along roads in an A to Z map book attempting to understand which way was up before inevitably getting lost and having an argument more animated than a Looney Tunes sketch. Google Maps is more composed and allowed me to plan a route that suggested three options to my final destination – Stuttgart, where I would say a sad farewell to the car I was becoming increasingly infatuated with. Option one would take me through the heart of speed hating and toll heavy France, option two via congested Luxemburg and the third longer than both but staying in France for the shortest time before heading into Belgium and into the Mecca of speed – Germany. The decision was not a difficult one.
English Channel crossed, boring French AutoRoutes navigated, co-driver collected, it was into Belgium where the T began to show a less than attractive trait and one that was not best suited to what would become a 1,000 kilometre, 11 hour drive – highway cruising. With the exhaust valves shut at the touch of a button things are not too eventful in the cabin. That is until the road surfaces start to deteriorate in quality. The issue is twofold as the reduced sound deadening does little to shelter the cabin from tire noise. The lack of speakers meant there was nothing to drown out monotonous hums and buzzes.
After a single fuel stop, and far too many toilet stops, Germany and the A61 provided welcome relief with smooth quiet tarmac. The benefits were also twofold as the grey striped white circular signs meant speed limits had surrendered themselves to the brute force of the combustion engine and the bravery of the driver behind the wheel. The Google Maps ETA began to tumble as the speeds built. As much as I pine on about the T not being about power, the German Autobahns are the perfect place to exploit such a trait and the 911 did not fail to impress with its 332lb of torque making power delivery strong throughout the rev range with little feeling of lag up to the vmax of 292km/h. This was not the natural habitat of the car but one it did not stumble at…assuming the road surfaces were kind.
With a flight to catch and a passenger with a strict curfew to be home for, there was not time to explore the more interesting ribbons and knots of tarmac as I had done before sunrise. As hour 11 and the 1000th kilometre ticked on the trip computer we crawled onto PorschePlatz and rid the T of the banana skins and water bottles we had emptied enroute to the birthplace of the car. The mix of a mild headache and severe exhaustion did not stop the farewell to SGO4030 being an emotional one as I trembled with adrenaline and my muscles ached. Such a car and a journey in a single day is an experience that will not be forgotten.
That is the point – this is a machine that is based on one of the most well rounded sports car in history and is greater than the sum of its parts. The removal of creature comforts brings things to life, everything is heightened and is many times more accessible than other cars I have enjoyed to such an extent. The power is usable, you can reach the peripheries of the cars capabilities with ease and feeling in control. There are adrenaline rushes induced by the desire to drive hard and feel the rush of the car coming alive at speeds on the roads that even a Carrera GTS would take in its stride with minimal fuss and drama. The Carrera T is a drama queen that makes a scene at every given opportunity.
As the kitten to my left and the smelly teenager to my right wake for landing, I feel that the Carrera T is misunderstood. That may be down to the rather strange pricing strategy – when speaking to the owner of the yellow 911T from 1972 it became clear that the original T was designed to maximise sales of the 911 and allow it to be a more accessible way to own a 911. The modern T should be the same.
Instead of allowing the seats, navigation, infotainment and other creature comforts to be added back in for free and pricing the car above the Carrera, the T should come as an entry point. That being said, this is a special machine that will have adrenaline junkies and drama queens, like me, excited and wanting to drive until the road runs out. This is what cars are about, for me the T is a trailblazer, an example of what can be done when manufacturers want drivers to be focused on what matters. There is beauty in simplicity and the beauty of the bare boned, no options Carrera T is something I will yearn to feel again. Keep your power, keep your statistics. Let’s drive for fun, not to boast about numbers we will never make real.