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2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

I will admit to, at times, being overly snobbish about other people's cars. When seeing someone driving a base Porsche 911 Carrera on the road, for instance, I might mutter, "Peh, dude, you only got the base 911? So lame." Never mind that I'm probably driving a Honda CR-V at the time and that I do not have the wherewithal to afford much more than the 911's tires.

I should be a better person. But this is the age of blaming others, so I point to Porsche and its arms race of ever-more-potent 911s as the cause of my failing. What hope can a base 911 have when you've got monsters like the 911 R and GT2 RS slaying the Nürburgring and gracing Forza 7 video game covers?

Well, if that base 911 is a 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T, it might just be A New Hope.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

T. Not a Turbo, Not a Targa
The T stands for Touring, which Porsche says was inspired by the 1968 911T. That's all well and good, but this debut adds yet another variant to the 911 family tree, which has two dozen members currently. T, Turbo, S, GTS, GT3 RS, 4, Cabriolet, GT4 Exclusive Turbo R with Mega Power Pack — keeping up with the Kardashians is easier. The upside, though, is that the Carrera T brings some coolness to owning a 911 at (nearly) the bottom of the totem pole. This is supposed to be the 911 "for drivers, not collectors," Porsche says.

With a base MSRP of $103,150 (including destination), the T starts as a base Carrera coupe (no convertible, all-wheel drive or Targa variants at this point) and its 370-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine. From there, Porsche adds a few select 911 options as standard equipment that mildly enhances the car's performance and handling.

Engine output is unchanged, but you do get a standard torque-vectoring rear differential (provides increased traction and steering turn-in; it's otherwise not available on a base Carrera) and a shorter-geared final transaxle ratio from the Carrera S (slightly improves acceleration). Also on the docket are a sport exhaust system (with black exhaust tips) and a shorter-throw gear-shift lever for the manual transmission.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

For handling, Porsche adds dark-painted 20-inch Carrera S wheels (a base Carrera has 19s) and the 911's sport-tuned suspension option (the PASM adaptive sport suspension, which has a 0.8-inch-lower ride height and stiffer springs, damper tuning and stabilizer bars). You also get most of the features from the 911's optional Sport Chrono package (adjustable drive modes, launch control for the automatic transmission or rev-matching for the manual, and active engine mounts, but without the dash-mounted clock) and the option of ordering rear-wheel steering on a Carrera T. The latter improves straight-line stability and turning agility.

Finishing touches include lightweight rear and rear-side windows (from the 911 GTS), less sound-deadening material at the rear of the cabin, fabric strap door openers, dark-painted mirror caps, a dark-painted engine grille cover and Carrera T side graphics. Then, the pièce de résistance: Porsche will let you order the lightweight fixed-back, carbon-fiber seats that are otherwise only an option on the race-oriented GT3 (or standard on the GT3 RS). Getting them also deletes the rear seats, which in total reduces curb weight by about 44 pounds. Stock, a T with the manual transmission weighs an already feathery 3,142 pounds.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

Take a Seat, Friend
Now, you might be thinking: "This is all great, but how does the 911 T drive?" Conveniently, I got to find out at a recent Porsche event near Napa, California. The offered sample was painted in Racing Yellow (the same one in this article's photos). I think the T looks great. Typically, I'm not a fan of black-painted wheels, but found these appealing in that subtle retro way when paired with the lowered suspension and Carrera T side graphics. This simpler approach is a refreshing change-up compared to the rest of the 911 range, which has increasing magnitudes of air intakes, fender bulges and rear wing sizes.

My yellow 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T also had the cool bits that, as a car enthusiast, I'd hope for, including the rear-steering option and manual transmission. It also had the fixed-back bucket seats, which cost $5,200. In the abstract, these seats are cool. They are lower to the floor than the T's standard sport seats and seemingly have enough lateral bolstering to keep a vat of nitroglycerin secure. But getting into the car is equivalent to dumping a Home Depot bag of river rocks into the seat — you bump and tumble your way past the doorsill and the seat bolsters with "oofs" and "oys" as gravity pulls you down. Getting out is an equally awkward endeavor. I cannot recommend getting them for, well, any reason on a Carrera T. But hey, you can get them, and I must, in the end, salute.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

Grip It and Rip It
Porsche's suggested drive route took me along the roads that head west out of Napa Valley, including Highway 128. This winding, twisting road is lined with sky-piercing redwoods, and eventually terminates near Albion, California, to the view of Northern California's typically scenic and rocky coastline.

Through tight turns or long sweepers, the 911 T is planted and eagerly changes direction. While the steering doesn't have the detailed analog connection to the road of older 911s, it still gives you the confidence to whip around turns. The T's sport suspension, torque-vectoring rear differential and optional rear-wheel steering are no doubt benefits here, too, helping to hone the car's nimbleness further.

You think, and it moves. The T should stand for Telekinesis.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive

All the while, the flat-six is belting out its distinctive, gruff soundtrack, one that's accompanied by occasional crackles and pops from the sport exhaust when you quickly get off the gas. It's certainly powerful, but is it enough? Or, as someone commented on Edmunds' Instagram post of this car: "How's the power, though? Are you wanting more, or does it feel like the purist's sports car it's marketed as? Curious how it stacks up from this perspective against the higher-trim 718."

That's the $102,000 question, isn't it?

A More Elegant 911 for a More Civilized Age
Objectively speaking, 370 hp seems a little low considering you can get 469 hp from a similarly priced Mercedes-AMG GT, or 460 hp from a lowly Mustang GT. If you want maximum velocity, or just maximum presence at the next Porsche Club of America event, something like a 911 GTS or Turbo is what you want.

I'd argue, though, that the 911 T's turbocharged powerplant is still an instrument worth playing. You can wind it out to redline if you want to, savoring the flat-six's raspy honk and Porsche's typically tallish gearing, or you can work the middle of the powerband, where there are all sorts of tractable power. For daily driving or ripping along a road like Highway 128, grinning like a fool the whole time, the T's 370 hp is entirely suitable.

This is a "less is more" kind of 911, one that either has or offers a just-right mix of features. The 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T is a 911 I can picture myself — one day, perhaps, hopefully — owning. Then I can leave it to some other overly judgmental car person to question my nearly base Porsche 911 Carrera purchase.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T First Drive