The Porsche 911 T PDK delivers raw thrills on the open road
The Porsche 911 T PDK offers more of what you want, and less of what you don't, as well as great value for money, reckons Thomas Falkiner
Now here's a surprise - Falkiner piloting yet another Porsche! Which one this time?
Don't be a hater. Anyway, what you're looking at here is the new 911 T: a special-edition that, similar in concept to the Cayman R from back in 2011, tries to sharpen the overall driving experience by stripping away weight and adding focus.
Burning fat was at the top of the priority list and as such Porsche omitted the rear seats, tore out a considerable amount of sound-deadening material and substituted interior door handles for nylon loops like it does in the 911 GT3.
The latter car's DNA can also be found in the special lightweight rear and side window glass. All in all this lard-shedding helps the 911 T drop 20kg over the equivalent 911 Carrera model. It's not a massive amount, granted, but every gram makes a difference (especially during bouts of barroom banter).
To make it a better dance partner across looping tracts of blacktop, Porsche has thrown in (as standard) a proper mechanical limited-slip differential plus its sports chassis that rides 20mm lower. Rear-axle steering is now also available as an option though I think it is overkill.
What about the engine - I bet it stables a few more ponies, right?
Uh, no, actually it doesn't. Lurking just behind those giant rear wheels is the same 272kW twin-turbocharged boxer motor already doing duty in the entry-level 911 Carrera.
Don't feel disappointed though, as it's an absolute peach of a powerplant that provides an excellent blend of low-end urge and, unusually for a turbocharged engine, high-end pull. It really does love to rev and feels very much like a naturally aspirated motor in the way it gets the job done.
If only it sounded a bit better: even with the sports button depressed I couldn't help but wish Porsche had engineered more growl into the mix. Maybe it sounds better on the outside, but inside I just want more sonic anger.
I'm interested in getting one but which gearbox should I go with?
On the transmission side of things you can pick either a seven-speed manual or PDK. I drove both and I've got to say that if it were my car I'd go with the latter.
I found the manual strangely cumbersome with a heavily sprung centre gate that often saw me selecting the wrong gear through more challenging sections of my test route. A manual gearbox works in a classic sportster but in a modern machine this rapid it only makes sense to go with an auto as you can concentrate on placing, stopping and steering the car with minimal distraction.
Also, PDK is probably the best transmission on the market right now so it's a no-brainer.
Let's talk drive experience - what was it like driving around Cape roads?
Interesting to say the least. Porsche has a fixed test route and on the last two occasions I have driven it from behind the wheel of hardcore, track-focused 911 variants (the GT3 and GT2 RS). And what struck me about the less extreme 911 T is just how usable it is.
By this I mean you can exploit most of its available power more of the time - something that makes you feel like you're doing the car at least some justice unlike in the aforementioned GT cars that require a racetrack to unleash their full potential.
FAST FACTS: Porsche 911T PDK
• ENGINE: 2981cc twin-turbo flat-six
• POWER: 272kW at 6,500rpm
• TORQUE: 450Nm from 1,750 to 5,000rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed PDK
• 0-100km/h: 4.0 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 291km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 8.5l/100km (claimed combined)
• CO₂: 193g/km (claimed)
• PRICE: from R1,536,000
As I mentioned before, Porsche ripped a good deal of sound-deadening material from the 911 T and this has the effect of letting more outside stimuli into the cabin. There's more noise and, dare I say it, possibly a little more road feel thanks to there being less insulation between your fingertips and the asphalt.
Maybe it's psychological, a strange placebo effect, but I think the 911 T is somewhat more involving than its plushier 911 Carrera sibling.
Though it might serve its thrills raw as opposed to well done, the 911 T still copes well with bumps and dips and other assorted tarmac deformations. The strip of road linking Caledon to Stanford is particularly rough and the way this Porsche smoothed them out - even at speed and under hard braking - seriously raised my eyebrows some. Gosh it's good.
Very few sports cars out there can lay claim to such an enviable balance between ride and handling. And handle does it ever. Franschhoek Pass is perhaps the ultimate litmus test of a car's dynamic abilities and the 911 T absolutely aced it in every way. From grip and feedback to the way it corners flatter than the page you're currently looking at, Porsche has crafted yet another gem. One that could embarrass sports cars twice the price.
So is it really worth buying over the regular 911 Carrera?
From a pure value for money point of view, it definitely is. The R126,000 price premium may sound like a lot of additional dough to squeeze out but once you factor in all the extra kit you're getting, the 911 T is actually something of a steal.
Especially once you've spent some time playing with the Porsche online car configurator and seen how much only a few of these options add on to the price tag of regular 911 Carrera (I got up to R1,596,690 before losing interest).
Add in that slightly less diluted driving experience and the 911 T should be the logical choice if you're considering parking a new 911 inside the garage. Just be quick, though - only a very limited number have been allocated to SA.