2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T 991.2 vs. 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.6 997.1

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T 991.2 vs. 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.6 997.1

Ten years after the seventh-generation 911 landed, we revisit the end-of-line 991.2 Carrera T and introduce it to an early example of the 997.1 Carrera… Words Dan Furr. Photography Dan Sherwood.


10 YEARS OF 991 CELEBRATING THE MOST SUCCESSFUL 911 The 2018 991.2 Carrera T meets the 2005 997.1 Carrera.

BIGGER AND BOLDER, BUT IS IT BETTER THAN ITS PREDECESSOR?


Satisfying girth. Words more appropriate for a top-shelf magazine of a different nature, perhaps, but as I reacquaint myself with the 2018 Racing Yellow 991.2 Carrera T I was lucky enough to spend a week or so bombing around in when the car was new, I’m reminded how perfect the feel of its adjustable 360mm leather-trimmed GT sports steering wheel is. Steering wheel design seems to be something Porsche struggled with for many decades — I can’t be alone in thinking pretty much every one of the manufacturer’s production steering wheels have been a weak point of the host vehicle’s aesthetic from the mid-1970s all the way up to the arrival of the 991 exactly ten years ago, but here, in the sparse-for-modern- 911-standards cockpit of the Carrera T, there’s nothing to complain about. The design was further refined for the 992 (and is a must-have £194 option on the current 911’s accompanying Individual Equipment list), but in the Carrera T, free of in-car entertainment control switches and PDK flappy paddles — yes, this not-so-mellow yellow narrow-body is equipped with a seven-speed manual gearbox — it’s easy to win the age-old argument less is more.


The 2018 991.2 Carrera T meets the 2005 997.1 Carrera

This is the theme Porsche wanted to promote with the 991 Carrera T (the T standing for Touring). It’s essentially a Carrera, but with luxury equipment stripped out, promoting something of a GT vibe. There’s “minimal” sound deadening, thinner glass, GT3-style door pulls, manually adjustable fabric-trimmed front pews, no rear seats, no air-conditioning and no audio equipment, all in the interests of reducing weight, though primarily for the benefit of Porsche’s marketing materials, rather than the development of a tangibly quicker Carrera. When the Carrera T was introduced at the back end of 2017, buyers could have some of the ‘missing’ toys reinstated as a no-cost option (most customers thought a sat-nav and aircon might be useful), evidenced by the presence of Porsche Communication Management (PCM) and super-icy aircon in my test car, which also benefits from LED headlights in black (including the excellent Porsche Dynamic Light System), parking sensors, reversing camera, cruise control, speed limit dash display, automatically dimming mirrors and aluminium pedals. The biggest difference to standard Carrera T specification, however, is the addition of rear axle steering — there’s that GT vibe again — and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), which are so effective, you only need to look at them and you’re flung through the windscreen at full pelt. At this point, it’s easy to wonder why you’d buy a Carrera T commanding more money than a standard Carrera, especially if adding extras at significant cost — when new, the base price of a 991 Carrera T was £85,576, but my test car’s add-ons bumped that figure up to seventeen quid less than a hundred grand.

THE SENSATION IS GLORIOUS, AND IT TAKES NO TIME AT ALL TO HEAR THE THREE-LITRE SIX-BANGER ROARING FROM BEHIND

You do get Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with a 20mm drop in ride height, the sublime Sport Chrono package, S-spec final drive, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with mechanically locking rear differential, a brap-pop-bang sports exhaust with specially designed and centrally positioned tailpipes painted gloss black, twenty-inch Carrera S wheels painted Titanium grey, elastic bands for tyres and a short shifter (when opting for a manual transmission), though. The engine is the same twin-turbocharged three-litre unit found in the Carrera, chucking out 365bhp and 332lb-ft torque. With the rear axle steering doing its thing, however, the T feels far more responsive at speed, something I was pleased to rediscover when carving up the twisty, deserted backroads of the Norfolk countryside during my latest spell in charge of this custard-coloured coupe.

When firing up the Carrera T, I’m reminded of my first impression of the car beyond its stunning looks: the noise. Thin glass, the raspy exhaust, reduced sound insulation material and the lack of rear seats fills the cabin with much more engine din than the Carrera this 911 is based on. The sensation is glorious, and it takes no time at all to hear the three-litre six-banger roaring from behind, the pace instant, the revs rapid. There’s a claimed 182mph to play with, and the standard sprint to 62mph is managed in just 4.5 seconds (4.2 if you’re in a PDK car), though even with all the fancy bits removed, the Carrera T weighs only five kilos less than the standard Carrera. Any benefit on normal roads is almost certainly imagined. Moreover, it’s completely non-existent if you’re in a car with reinstated deletions — the sense of travelling in a quicker 911 is an illusion likely generated by the effect of all that GT-inspired trim.


FLIP OF THE COIN

I’ve spoken to many Porsche enthusiasts who, when comparing with a 991 Carrera, don’t get the Carrera T proposition. Playing devil’s advocate, I’d suggest looking at this interesting 991 from a different angle: compare the extra thirty grand (minimum) it would have cost to hop into a then new GT3 and, perhaps, the Carrera T makes more sense. Maybe. There is, however, another contributing factor to the confusion expressed by those who have yet to experience seat time in a Carrera T. To explain, I need to take you on a journey back in time to the early 1960s. Porsche was getting ready to discontinue the 356, leaving the significantly more expensive 911 as the manufacturer’s sole offering.

Concerned about narrowing the brand’s appeal, factory bosses decided to introduce a four-cylinder, luxury-free version of the 911 at a competitive price point. Thus, the 912 was conceived as Porsche’s entry-level offering. 911 styling, high quality construction and model-matching reliability ensured the six-cylinder Porsche’s little brother was a big hit, outselling the flagship model by significant margin during its first few years of production. With the layman seeing both 911 and 912 as essentially two flavours of the same model, though, it made sense for Porsche to introduce a hierarchy to the 911 range, a move which saw a variety of different letters attached to the end of those iconic three digits. It was also a decision which marked the beginning of the end for the 912’s time on assembly lines.


POWER STRUGGLE

Of the various 911s to be introduced towards the end of the decade, the 160bhp S is arguably the most famous, but at the bottom of the pecking order – below the L, the new name for the standard 911 – was the T. Those keen to rewrite history will happily describe the 911 T as stripped-back in the interests of delivering a more focused attack of the asphalt, but the truth of the matter is that in 1967, the 911 T was essentially a replacement for the outgoing 912, introduced before the conclusion of 914 development work in partnership with Volkswagen. The T was a model relieved of creature comforts and performance equipment, but far from Porsche wanting to deliver a rawer, more hardcore driving experience, the rationale for the T’s lack of desirable specification was simply to reduce manufacturing costs (and therefore enable 911 ownership at lower purchase price) on what remains the least powerful 911 ever produced.

The 911 T’s two-litre flat-six featured low-compression cast iron pistons in place of aluminium components. The unit’s crankshaft was redesigned, the camshafts were updated to produce less lift and the twin Weber carburettors were more restrictive than those bolted to 911s higher up the food chain. The car’s gearbox lost a ratio, making the T the first 911 to be equipped with a four-speed transmission. Anti-roll bars were ditched, brakes were downgraded, and cabin furniture was simplified. Granted, the 911 T featured a bigger engine than the 912, but with a power output of only 110bhp and compromised chassis dynamics, not only was the bottom-of-the-pile T the cheapest model in the 911 line-up, it was also the least desirable. The same can’t be said of the 991 Carrera T, as demonstrated by how well prices have held up on the used car market since production ended in 2019. Perhaps reintroduction of the ST nameplate would have made more sense?

Where the 991 Carrera T succeeds is exactly where most expect it to fail: buying a Carrera littered with GT influence suggests a 911 which struggles with an identity of its own. I’ll be the first to admit my instincts would be to invest in a GTS, but the T does possess a unique personality and can easily be used as an everyday 911 thanks largely to the retention of equipment I was surprised Porsche didn’t see fit to delete: electrically operated mirrors, windows and even heated seat functionality, to name but a few nice-to-haves. This car is civilised enough to be a comfortable commuter, but with enough bite to have you beaming on a B-road, though it isn’t a model providing the GT3 snap suggested by those fabric door pulls. Even so, the 991 Carrera T’s calling card is its simplicity.

You’d think specification and an interior inspired by the work of Porsche’s GT department would be little more than novelty and another example of the manufacturer’s too-eager marketing team running out yet another limited-run 911 in a bewildering sea of limited-run 911s, but the Carrera T genuinely feels focused. The stupendously good brakes (a £6,018 option new, but worth every penny on a car driven in anger) and the force-fed boxer’s immediate throttle response help, of course, but it’s the T’s distraction-free trim that really makes the difference. Less, it seems, really does mean more.

This neatly leads us to the 911 brought to our photo shoot by David Rowen, founder of 997 Carrera Owners Club UK. Like my 991 loan car (but unlike my personally owned 997 Carrera 4S, bought the day I stepped out of the Carrera T first time around), his 2005 997.1 Carrera is loaded with manual transmission. Powered by a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat-six and presently maintained by Nottingham-based marque indie, CavendishPorscha, the car has been given a minor makeover with gold wheels and matching side stripes which, when set against the pristine Basalt Black paintwork, create the opposite look of the yellow Carrera T and its black accents.

Sharing the opinion the 997’s stock steering wheel rim feels unsubstantial when compared to the much thicker, grippier GT item in the mustard machine, David confirms the part in his Porsche has been customised accordingly and features — somewhat appropriately — a yellow sight line on its now chunkier outer circle. As an aside, it’s worth noting Tiptronic S-equipped 997s feature gear shift control buttons on their steering wheel, as opposed to the paddles enjoyed by owners of PDK cars. I know through regrettable experience how these buttons can easily be mistaken for audio controls, resulting in a dropped cog when all you really meant to do was turn the radio up. Meh.


HISTORY TODAY

Driving a 997 immediately after a 991 is something of an eye-opener. I immediately realise how dated the earlier car’s interior is. This isn’t a criticism of the 997’s overall ergonomics — the cabin feels positively space-age compared to that of the 996-generation 911, and I’m a big fan of the 997’s simple dash design, but the buttons to alter suspension and driving modes appear to have been added as an afterthought, as though a factory designer realised they’d forgotten to include them on final drawings before production got underway. Seriously, why put these controls at the foot of the centre console, ahead of the gear stick?

I remember having the same opinion of satellite navigation installed in the same location when in-car systems on mass production vehicles were new — nobody wants to (or should) take their eye off the road and twist their neck to locate or view a user interface while on the move. As far as 911 switchgear is concerned, it’s not unusual for a driver to want to alter suspension or drive modes whilst travelling across changing surfaces or when encountering varying levels of traffic during longer journeys. Even when the 997 was launched way back in 2004, this shouldn’t have been an alien concept to Porsche.


SIZE MATTERS

In contrast to what I’ve described here, the 991’s perfectly sized, rim-mounted rotary dial makes simple, safe work of switching between the flavours on offer, without the need to fumble with fingers or look away from the road ahead. There’s little else to criticise about the 997 Carrera’s interior, though. The supportive leathers are beautifully fashioned, eliminating seat sliding around corners, while the pedals are perfectly spaced. The five-gauge dash is also excellently laid out, everything neatly visible from mission control.

At first glance, even in the Carrera T’s narrow body guise, the 991 appears to be much bigger than the 997 Carrera. It’s true to say the later 911 is longer by 70mm, but it’s the positioning of the rear wheels a full 100mm back that creates the impression of a far bulkier Porsche. This change was introduced following the development of a new transaxle assembly, allowing better weight distribution and, consequently, more poised handling, not that the rear-drive 997 Carrera feels sluggish around bends. And despite the regular-weight glass, standard levels of sound insulation and rear seats present in David’s base-specification coupe, the roar let out by its turbo-free powerplant when it hits the mid-range is utterly invigorating. Admittedly, the meaty, boomy bellow is enhanced by the presence of BMC air filters, a Top Gear switchable stainless exhaust and 200-cell sports catalytic converters, but even a stock 997 Carrera exhaust is enough to bring a smile to the face of anyone lucky enough to hear it pumping out the soundtrack of a flat-six at full chat.

997 Carrera power is down when stacked against the 991 Carrera T, though in real-world terms, not enough to cause you sleepless nights, and certainly not enough to encourage an overwhelming urge to shell out the expected seventy-five grand difference in price between the two cars pictured here. The increased output developed by the 3.8-litre 997 Carrera S closes the gap, making it a smarter buy than the lower displacement model, but there will be those who say the base rear-wheel drive, narrow-bodied, naturally aspirated 997 Carrera, complete with stick shift and no Sport Chrono, is far truer to the original 911 concept, thereby producing a more authentic 911 driving experience. Once again, it is argued, less equates to more.

And therein lies the rub. The 991 was developed on a fresh model platform, introducing a wealth of new driver aids and huge amount of clever technology (some of it, including electrically assisted power steering, is covered later in this issue of 911 & Porsche World), making the 911’s performance more accessible to the masses than ever before. No longer did you need prior seat time in a sports car to drive a 911 hard without fear of it biting back — make an error in a 991 and it’ll correct your mistake before you’ve even realised something could be amiss. Not so for drivers of a 997. Featuring just enough tech to feel adequately modern, but retaining enough ‘analogue’ classic Porschery to make the driver feel completely connected to the car, an error, though not as punishing as you might find in an air-cooled 911, could result in squeaky bum time. Put it this way, I feel like I’m driving my 997, whereas I sense I’m guiding the 991, which is doing the hard work for me, even at high speed and around challenging twisties. In contrast, the 997 will put up a fight if I mess up. Rightly so.

This, of course, is one of the newer 911’s major selling points and undoubtedly one of the reasons the 991 is the most popular generation of 911 to date — even a driver with limited experience can hop into a 991 and push it hard, certainly to the best of their abilities, without the car complaining, though I accept the seventh cog in my Carrera T loan car takes a bit of getting used to, especially when skipping gears on downshift. Nevertheless, everything else about this 911 is so intuitive, so perfectly presented, so phenomenally good. How can there be anything to criticise? Price tag aside, there really isn’t any cause for grievance.

That said, the 997 feels the more engaging 911. The tighter seats, the less generous cabin, the six-speed transmission and the throatier engine noise all contribute to the driver feeing a more integral part of the machine. The 991 is clearly a technically better car, the faster car, the quicker car, the better-balanced car, the more responsive car.

It’s certainly the 911 I’d prefer to live with as a daily, but the 997 is the rawer road rocket, presenting a more challenging drive and, by definition, a more rewarding drive to those who want to spend time testing their own skills, as well as those of their 911, to the limit. If only Porsche had perfected steering wheel design much sooner.

Above The 991 looks fantastic and is the perfect 911 to live with as a daily driver. Above 997 prices have shot up in recent months, making now a good time to seek out bargain buys Below Switchgear for changing the 997’s suspension settings is at the foot of the centre console, ahead of the gearstick. Above Top Gear exhaust and high-flow cats release trapped ponies and give off a boisterous bark Below Engine bay allows decent access to the 997’s air box and vital organs. Above 997 Carrera is powered by naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat-six powerplant Below Six-speed manual will be more familiar to most drivers than the Carrera T’s seven-speed shift pattern. Above PCCB features satellite dish sized brake discs and brings the Carrera T to an immediate halt. Below Seat centres a retrimmed in Carrera T-specific Sport- Tex fabric, though, confusingly, full leather remains on door cards and dash. Above Sports exhaust features black tailpipes and makes a satisfying growl under load. Below and top right GT-inspired cabin loses rear seats, door handles and toys, but oddly retains electric windows, mirrors and heated seat functionality. Above The 991 Carrera T was available in Black, White, Guards Red and Racing Yellow. Below Short-throw shifter features seven-speed gate pattern in red paint.

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL FOR A DRIVER TO ALTER SUSPENSION SETTINGS OR DRIVE MODES WHILST TRAVELLING ACROSS CHANGING SURFACES
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