Some minor legwork was required to deliver you the first UK drive of the new Carrera T
; about 750 miles of it in fact from Porsche's gallingly sunny launch base in Nice to the standard-issue drizzle of Calais. What did a day and a half of spearing impatiently north tell us? Well, aside from providing the umpteenth reminder that the term 'work' should be applied sparingly at PH, the autoroute suggested that not too much long-distance usability has been stripped from this the lightened 'Touring' variant of the entry-level Carrera. Sure, Porsche has zealously deleted the PCM system (it can be re-added at no-cost) which makes navigation and music-listening a DIY affair, but the shedding of some sound deadening has not made the 911 outrageously loud, just as the fitment of the lower PASM sports chassis has not made it unreasonably stiff. Broad strokes, the 991's gratifying knack for covering ground - a facet of its absurdly well-sorted control weights and very decent sports seats - is still appreciable in a car knowingly dropped onto titanium grey 20-inch alloy wheels.
What deficit there is in basic talent is not the fault of the T's specification. Being based on the Carrera means that it shares the lesser 370hp version of the 911's 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six - and while Porsche has tacitly acknowledged the pitfalls of its long gearing by including the final drive ratio from the punchier Carrera S
, the tweak does not prevent the T from feeling less than meteoric in its last three ratios. This is hardly enhanced by the familiar drawbacks of the seven-speed manual 'box (the PDK remains an option), which is still a faff to work smoothly out of its specially partitioned final cog. Nevertheless, even with a noticeable deficit in tractability compared to its stablemate, very few rivals stand up to multiple, unbroken hours of motorway scrutiny like the 911.
Despite atrocious weather on the coast, that overriding sentiment is transferred onto British soil mostly intact. The lorry-ploughed M20 is a vicious arena for a sports car even when it's not full of standing water, but on Pirelli Sottozeroes the T takes it all in its stride; with only the occasional unchecked bob of the head to show for the more determined suspension settings. True, when finally removed from three lanes of tarmac and assigned a stock Surrey high street the car does remind you that there's a price to be paid for being 10mm lower to the ground - although it's easy to forgive the odd jolt over street furniture when the T uses the subsequent B-roads to ratchet up the charm.
This isn't hard to come across, and it does rather click into place like falling dominoes. Predictably, the engine is rather more appealing in ratios two to four, and while it's easy to distain auto-blippers, the 991's powertrain does it better than most - frequently sending you into the drawn-out second cog just to enjoy the expressive clamour of expensive moving parts coming together. Of course, it's precisely because the T is less well endowed that you feel less guilty about the repercussions of being permanently camped at 6,500rpm - and it's that continuous endeavour which makes the T's single-minded attitude to damping (particularly in the Sport Chrono pack's most unflinching drive mode) seem like the perfect foil. Throw into that mix the noise of stones and water hitting the arches, and the come-hither effect of Porsche's mechanical rear limited-slip differential at the limit, and it's rather hard to stop phrases like 'pure-bred' and 'fun' cropping up in driver-seat contemplation of the Touring.
Naturally, this instinct must be batted away lest you fall headfirst into Porsche's carefully-laid marketing trap. There is still a Carrera alive and well under the new car; one plainly not made night-and-day different by an extremely modest 20kg reduction in kerb weight. Consequently, while it is livelier and leaner to drive than its sibling, its embellishments do not entirely absolve it from the base 911's shortcomings: anyone lucky enough to have experienced the fizzing finale of the last atmospheric flat-six 991 will have driven a more compelling Carrera than the Touring ultimately manages to be. And if that comparison now seems unfairly outdated, much the same could be said for the much quicker GTS, which earns every single penny of its £10K premium over its new stablemate.
Nevertheless, credit where it's due: much like the GTS, the T is a very fine car right out of the box - and that's simply not true of the standard Carreras, which always need some careful (and costly) work on Porsche's configurator to bring up to snuff. As advertised, the £85,576 asking price buys you a grittier, harder-driving breed of basic 911 - one not unduly robbed of its usability despite the removal of the rear seats, and in possession of enough desirable (and otherwise unavailable) kit to easily make it the superior choice over the £77,891 Carrera. It's a harder call over the more biddable S simply because that model makes a more obvious virtue of its turbocharged engine. But if you're buying a brand new 991 chiefly to enjoy between the hedgerows in the wee hours, then the Touring is unquestionably the cheapest, easiest way into a full-blooded one.
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SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T
Engine: 2,981cc, flat-six turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 370@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,700-5,000rpm
Top speed: 182mph
Weight: 1,500kg (EU)
MPG: 29.7 (NEDC combined)
Price: from £85,576