First Drive: 2018 Porsche 911 T

First Drive: 2018 Porsche 911 T
 

At the risk of repeating myself — Porsche engineers get it. I know, I have said this before, but if someone gets it, they don’t not get it five minutes later. Actually that is not true, as anyone who follows motorsport teams will know. You can be champion one year and nowhere the next, even with the same level of expertise.

But Porsche has never dropped behind one year, or any year for that matter. Not with the 911 anyway. We drove the GTS a little while back and it was faultless, responding to your every request. The 911 R we drove last year was even better and recently we got to drive the 911 GT3 and GT2 RS. They all exceeded expectations.

Then there is the 911 Carrera T. Porsche gets it. I want to just leave it at that and those who have driven a 911 will understand exactly why, but a couple of paragraphs, a few pics and lots of blank space won’t cut it, so here’s what it’s about for everyone else.

The T stands for Touring, a name that first appeared in 1968 when the rally crew of Vic Elford and David Stone took victory on the famous Monte Carlo Rally in the first 911 T. The victory was even more impressive given that the 911 T was a reduced-power entry-level model compared to its siblings.

Fast forward 50 years and it is not power that has been reduced but weight, to create the new Carrera T. Priced at R1 536 000 it attempts to be a modern day purists car. It loses 20kg over the Carrera S courtesy of things like lightweight glass for the rear and rear side windows. The door levers are cloth straps and you can have it without the rear seats.

You can drop the air- conditioning and infotainment system to reduce it “to the very essence of a sports car”, says Porsche SA PR chap Christo Kruger. You can also have the carbon fibre seats from the GT3.

He describes it as “back to its roots driving”, something that is helped further by its rear wheel drive nature and mechanical limited slip differential.

The six-cylinder Boxer engine pushes out 272kW and 450Nm to give it a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds and 0-200km/h in 14.5 seconds. Opt for the seven-speed manual and those times are 4.5 seconds and 15.1 seconds respectively.

Wait, did we say seven-speed manual? Yes we did, because the 911 T is available not just with a manual gearbox, but one with seven speeds and a shortened shift distance. It’s about that purity and tradition of driving.

There is some clever trickery available though, such as rev matching, blipping and even some gear change assistance to ensure you do not put it into the wrong gear. The latter system is a bit annoying, as my co-driver found out. It can be switched off, but be aware that the gears are extremely close together.

Essentially the seventh gear is akin to overdrive, a gear to reduce the consumption and emissions for the authorities in Europe and the US. But it cruises in seventh well and the torque spread even allows you to pull away from sedate speeds in seventh heaven.

The interesting thing is that Porsche chose the seven-speed manual to keep the costs down. The box is basically the manual version of the PDK transmission, whereas the six-speed box is a proper and more expensive motorsport gearbox.

The manual box does take some getting used to, mainly to avoid slotting it into the wrong gear, but through Western Cape mountain passes, it was the lower gears that were needed and there was little danger of finding yourself in the wrong gear. Instead, it was all about the grin factor, the 911 hunkering down on the road and delivering up as much torque as you want exactly when you want it.

The driving position is excellent, again something Porsche engineers and designers get. The amount of turn on the steering wheel is spot on and the package delivers, corner after corner, with plenty of grip, controllable power and the ability to inspire you to push harder without fearing for your life.

Sadly only 50 units of the 911 T have been allocated to SA, but the owners will get it too. – Mark Smyth