The newest flavor is of course the 911T, announced Sunday night amid a fair bit of historically-tinged hype. Having taken the lesson of the 911R's triumphant popular reception to heart, the theme is "driver engagement": start with the standard base-model 911, add PASM and drop the suspension 20mm; gearing is shorter and there's a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential; the sport exhaust system is standard; the rear glass and soundproofing are lighter, and the Sport Chrono system is available (it's not on the standard Carrera) in "weight-optimized" form. Interior trim is revised; the pretentious but cute fabric door-release pulls are back. The rear seat has been left out, as has the PCM infotainment system; they can both be replaced at no cost.
All this nets a weight loss of a whole whopping 20 kilograms - 44 pounds - over a comparably equipped standard base 911 Carrera and a MSRP of $102,100 plus delivery, a full $11,000 up from that base Carrera and closing in quickly on the Carrera S.
And this is where I start to get a little confused about what Porsche is trying to say here. The intention to sell this as a stripped-down, more elemental car isn't exactly matched by what has been presented.
As always with 911s, we have history upon which to reflect (with Porsche's active encouragement, in this case). The first 911T - Porsche says that T is for Touring, more about enjoyable driving than racing - was introduced in 1968 as the revised and somewhat decontented Euro-market base model. They came over here in that same market position in 1969, and they were universally loved for their good manners and all-around drivability, especially compared to the more temperamental MFI-fueled 911E and 911S.
And yes, you could tune them a bit if you wanted. Still can.
So step forward almost sixty years and consider what Porsche has wrought with this iteration of the name.
But leave that aside, string it all together without the marketing spin, and it starts to make some sense: this is supposed to be the all-chassis version of the 911, more a backroad runner or trackday special capable enough to render the S's 50 additional horses superfluous.
Interesting, but that's not less - and it doesn't make it a T. If anything, it sounds a lot like a base-powerplant version of the Korb-of-goodies approach that is the GTS.
Really, the base 911 Carrera could be called the T going forward and it would make perfect sense, fitting the letter back into its traditional position at the base of the line with the sense of conceptual continuity - a wonderfully enjoyable all-around touring car without too many Le Mans pretensions - fully intact. Maybe it would even grant that model a bit more dignity and identity than it currently possesses as the mere entry-level 911 Carrera (which is not a bad thing, of course, but still).
So granted the presented version of the 911T isn't really a 911T. What is it?
Dispense with the "less is more" sales line. Yes, weight is down (marginally) and the reduced-content interior has a certain vibe, but this is not another 356 Speedster. And then there's the inclusion of all the suspension goodies and the airport gearing and the sport exhaust. No extra power, but plenty of implied handling and responsiveness.
By my understanding Porsche picked the wrong historical reference. This isn't a 911T; it's a 911 Club Sport.
And that's what we have here: the standard car optimized for canyon blasts and track days for those who don't want to go full GT3. In that it completely makes sense, and it should have been presented as such.
I'm not even sure how much a truly much-less-is-supposedly-more hyperminimalist 911 would work anyway. Porsche is not Lotus. Porsche has always been at their best when their cars hit a distinct blend of well-managed raciness and everyday usability and high design, like an Eames Aluminum Group executive chair with a tendency towards oversteer. And in an era with heavy regulations and even heavier consumer demands, the idea of recreating something as elemental as a 1973 Carrera RS resolves to daydreaming. I suppose a properly motivated someone could buy a new 911 and strip it out and tune it to the edge of street-registration permissiveness, but that's more art project than manufactured product, and the GT3 covers that territory anyway.
So what is in a name, anyway? And does it mean something when such an identity-sensitive company starts to blur an identity? Taken on its own terms, the 911T looks to be a welcome (if smallish) shift away from a pure-numbers game and back towards sharper street drivability. But summoning history as a tool means accepting everything that goes with references and associations, and the car deserves to be called what it is. Odds on that in this market the Club Sport name would have worked much better this time, too.