BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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£85,576 when new
What’s this, another 911 variant to learn? Afraid so, but pay attention, because you’ll be interested in this one. The ‘T’ references the Monte-Carlo Rally-winning 911 T from 1968, and stands for Touring… although that’s probably a bit misleading. Porsche is actually pitching this one as a lightweight special – a more driver focused, stripped back version of the bog-standard Carrera. It’s the latest in a string of more analogue Porsches (Cayman GT4, 911R, GT3 with a manual gearbox and GT3 Touring Pack, in that order) designed to recognise that pleasure isn’t necessarily linked to downforce and lap times, it’s the way you interact and connect with a car that counts. So what’s new? Not the engine, that’s the same 365bhp 3.0-litre turbo flat six as the Carrera, driving the rear wheels through either a seven-speed PDK or a seven-speed manual. You should go for the latter for three reasons: you get a mechanical limited slip diff (you don’t with the PDK), it has a shorter final drive ratio from the Carrera S and a stubbier gear lever, and a manual just suits what this car’s trying to be so much better. A sports exhaust is standard, along with PASM sport suspension lowered by 20mm and thinner glass from the GT2 RS for the rear windows and rear screen. Sound deadening has been “largely reduced” and there are no rear seats and no radio and sat-nav (although you can add those things back in at no extra cost). You also get a Sport Chrono pack and fabric door pulls instead of metal handles. How much lighter are we talking? Porsche claims 20kg has been taken out, but dig into it a bit and this is massaging the truth. You see, deleting the rear seats and sat-nav, the thinner glass, reducing sound insulation, those fabric door loops and adding SportDesign exterior mirrors does indeed reduce the weight by 20kg. But adding in the sports exhaust, sports suspension, 20-inch Carerra S wheels, Sports seats Plus and the diff, pile 15kg back in. That leaves us with a 5kg saving – or the equivalent of a large Christmas lunch. Sneaky. What about speed? Yes, it has some. The 0-62mph time drops by a tenth to 4.5 secs (4.2 secs with the PDK), and top speed is 180mph. This, you quickly realise, is plenty, especially when you’re driving on some of the finest tight and twisty mountain roads the South of France has to offer. We drove the GT3 Touring pack on the same day, and quite honestly the ‘T’ felt just as fast most of the time thanks to its more flexible turbocharged engine that doesn’t need quite so many revs to deliver its full force. Do not think the basic 911 is somehow a compromise car for those that can’t afford the Carrera S, it’s actually a perfect amount of power if you tend to spend your time on public roads, not race tracks. What about interaction and connection? It’s there in spades. Sports exhaust burping and cracking away behind you, Sport mode engaged, suspension in its softer setting, paddling the manual gearbox around while letting it blip for you on the downshifts is a joyous experience. I still feel seven speeds is one too many for the manual, but hey, we can live with it. Next to the GT3 Touring it feels noticeably narrower, lighter and more dainty… you’re not going as quickly, but the steering is crystal clear, the brakes nicely progressive and you feel just as involved in the process. However, if I was to claim I could feel any weight saving from the normal Carrera, or hear any difference in the sound insulation, or notice that shorter final drive ratio… I’d be lying. The sentiment behind the T is to be applauded, but really it’s a clever piece of spec manipulation, another masterful deployment of the Porsche parts bin with a nicely-judged nod to the past. So it’s a marketing department special? To call it that feels harsh. Let’s just say the reason this car is brilliant is because the Carrera it’s based on it so brilliant already, not because of any innovative piece of engineering we haven’t seen before. There’s a growing fashion for these slightly retro-flavoured sports car – mostly perpetuated by Porsche itself, and I don’t see anything wrong with giving the customers what they want, especially when the result is as compelling as this. It’s easy to be cynical, but if presenting the Carrera in a slightly different light helps them sell more of this astonishingly talented car, then fair play. What about the price? A mere £85,576, around £8,000 more than the standard Carrera, or around £30,000 less than the 492bhp GT3 Touring. That’s a big leap, a whole hot-hatch worth of change, so before you put your name down for the GT3, give one of these a go – it’s not a better 911, but it may be all the 911 you need.