2023 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive: A Tribute To Base Brilliance

From the base Carrera coupe to the holy-crap-that's-quick Turbo S, there's nary a dud in the Porsche 911 range. But some 911s tickle the ol' fancy more than others, and the one that earns my maximum number of heart-eyes emojis is the new Carrera T.

What I like best about the Carrera T is that it doesn't require big changes in order to be special. Don't get me wrong, I love how cars like the 911 GT3 RS or the new 911 Dakar show just how batshit crazy Porsche's engineers can be. But the T is all about highlighting the inherent excellence that underpins every 911 -– a way for the base Carrera to really strut its stuff.

That's why the Carrera T doesn't pile on the power or alter the 911's core chassis. Instead, the T combines the 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-6 from the entry-level Carrera with performance add-ons usually reserved for more expensive models, and the result is a 911 that punches well above its weight. Porsche previously offered this same sort of treatment on the 991-generation Carrera, and you can currently buy T variants of the 718 Boxster convertible, 718 Cayman coupe and even the Macan SUV.

Spec'd to a T

The 911 T comes standard with Porsche's adaptive sport suspension and torque-vectoring rear axle, neither of which are available on the normal Carrera and cost extra on the Carrera S. A sport exhaust system is also standard, as are staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch wheels. Rear-axle steering is available, which is nice if you want a little more agility, but the Gulf Blue car I drove wasn't fitted with this option, and I never felt like I was missing out on a crucial bit of performance enhancement.

Some T-rific (sorry) design flourishes include gray wheels and mirror caps, as well as the model script on the door sills, which I can see being hot with some body colors but is thankfully something you can ditch. Inside, the biggest change is the deletion of the 911's typically useless rear seats, opening up big wells perfect for groceries and cargo. The T also comes with a GT Sport steering wheel and RaceTex cloth inserts, but you can option fixed carbon-fiber buckets if you're feeling particularly hardcore. Thinner glass and reduced sound deadening are also parts of the T updo, both of which help save weight.

All told, the Carrera T is 100 pounds lighter than a base 911, but the aforementioned seat delete and lightweight interior materials don't tell the whole story. The 911 T also comes with a lighter bit of hardware that you can't get on the standard Carrera: a seven-speed manual transmission.

Row, row, row your own

Frankly, I can't imagine buying a 911 Carrera T without a stick, and not because I'm one of those crotchety purist "save the manuals!" dudes. This car's entire ethos is about enjoying driving without needing to chase mega power figures or fast lap times, and the seven-speed manual really heightens the involvement factor. The T's shifter offers shorter throws than the 7MT you can get in the Carrera S and GTS models, making it much more satisfying to use. Combined with a heavy clutch that has a clear take-up point, shifting your own gears in the 911 T is a breeze. 

The manual transmission comes with Porsche's auto-blip rev-matching feature, which seems to be a point of contention among enthusiasts. Many argue that it's dumb, and that 'real' drivers prefer to do their own heel-and-toe shifting. But for me, I like that the auto-rev function smooths out downshifts when I'm commuting in traffic, making a manual transmission less of a chore to use day to day. It also helps newbie stick-shifters execute smooth gear-changes, making manual driving more accessible to a larger swath of people. Don't like it? The Carrera T lets you turn this tech off and, unlike previous iterations, doesn't require you to disable traction control in the process, either.

You can buy a Carrera T with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, but I really don't see the advantage. Yes, a PDK-equipped Carrera T will sprint to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, compared to 4.3 with the manual, but when is that ever going to matter outside of Cars & Coffee bragging circles? Just imagine letting the 3.0-liter flat-6 rev to its 7,500-rpm redline before you snick-snick the shifter from second to third. What you lose in outright acceleration you gain in visceral enjoyment.

A driver's delight

Regardless of transmission choice, the Carrera T's twin-turbo engine produces 379 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty. Drop a gear and nail the throttle and you can hear the turbos spooling up behind you before the flat-6 sings its song. All the power on tap is usable, so you never feel like you need to hold back or like the car needs to constantly be reined in. The T's steering and chassis balance are unsurprisingly fantastic in the level of communication they provide to the driver, and you genuinely get the sense that you could beat the hell out of this car all day long and it would love every moment.

That's what makes the Carrera T so special. Drive the Carrera T for a day and you remember that there's beauty in simplicity; you don't need insane power output or big aero kits in order to have a good time. The 911 Carrera T is a hoot and a half without unnecessary overkill. It's all the 911 you'd ever need.

If there's a single nit to pick here, it's that you can't spec the 911 Carrera T with Porsche's optional carbon-ceramic brakes. Whether or not that's a problem all depends on how hard you plan to drive this car, and how often, but after a half-day of running up and down my favorite Southern California canyon road, the T's standard steel brakes showed no signs of fade. They're just a little loud.

Still a daily driver

Speaking of loud, you'll notice the reduced sound deadening and lightweight glass when you drive the Carrera T around town, but it's not off-putting – and nothing the $5,650 Burmester audio upgrade can't cancel out. Generally speaking, all 911s are incredibly amicable to errand-running and just going out to grab a coffee, and the Carrera T is no different.

The Carrera T doesn't skip on modern infotainment or driver-assistance tech, either. Sure, conveniences like a surround-view camera, remote parking assist, lane-change assist and adaptive cruise control are only available as a-la-carte extras, but it also means you aren't buying a 911 with features you won't use. On the other hand, the revised Porsche Communication Management 6.0 multimedia software is standard equipment across the board, with new menu icons and quicker response times. Plus, it finally comes with Android Auto support.

Ace of base

At $118,050 including $1,450 for destination, the Carrera T is positioned between the base Carrera and Carrera S, making it the second-cheapest car in the 911 range. Like all Porsches, a billion different add-ons are available, and the Carrera T is now eligible for the company's Paint to Sample personalization program, so yeah, go wild.

There are a couple of alternatives you could consider, cars like the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette or fully loaded versions of the BMW M4 or Jaguar F-Type. But none of those quite have the same appeal as a 911. Excellent as the new 'Vette is, there's a big socioeconomic disparity between "I drive a Chevy" and "I drive a Porsche." Plus, the 911 is outright prettier than all of these competitors, and honestly easier to live with on a daily basis, too.

There are of course arguments to be made for buying more powerful (and more expensive) 911 variants, and again, not a single one will disappoint. But every 911 is only as good as its inherent foundation, and the Carrera T is a celebration of that solid sports car core.