► Nissan tuner turns expertise to turbo 991 Carrera
► Expect extra power and response
► £10,400 upgrade package
The idea there’s untapped potential in the 911 seems laughable, given Porsche has over half a century’s experience milking this particular cash cow. Yet that’s exactly what Litchfield– famed for its mega-horsepower Nissan GT-R conversions – reckons there is in any 991 Carrera powered by the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six. An aftermarket tuner who reckons it can make a better job of the benchmark 911 than Porsche itself? That’s fighting talk.
Who are they trying to kid?
This story starts with the Carrera T, the supposedly stripped-back and driver-focused 911 offered as a tacit sop to those denied the privilege of buying a 911 R or GT3 Touring. People like Iain Litchfield in fact who, for all his associations with fast Nissans, fancied moving up in the world and rewarding himself with a GT3-shaped 40th birthday present. As did plenty of other people with a cosier relationship with the local dealership. Suffice to say, he didn’t get on the list. Rather than sulk and go back to tinkering with GT-Rs he instead ordered a manual Carrera T in a tasty spec, the ‘owning a 911’ life goal ticked in appropriately purist style.
And he was very happy with it. But natural curiosity forged over two decades of making fast cars go faster and an eye to expanding into a new market he soon had it up on the ramps to see if there was any room for improvement. Guess what, turns out Porsche’s carefully managed product portfolio and need to protect the egos of those buying GT3s and Turbos means the Carrera T isn’t anything like as potent as it actually could be.
So Porsche has deliberately clipped the Carrera’s wings?
This should come as no surprise to anyone. The 365bhp 3.0 Carrera is a lovely car. But Porsche’s business model depends on teasing that the 395bhp Carrera S is even lovelier. And if you’re going to take that step you may as well tick a few more boxes and fork out for a 444bhp GTS with all the trimmings. Next thing you know the £78K base manual Carrera 2 you thought you wanted has morphed into a £120K PDK four-wheel drive GTS, by which point you may as well have bought a Turbo and … you get the picture.
The 911 model range explained: read CAR’s guide here
But what if you really, really wanted a manual, purist-spec rear-wheel drive Carrera with some token weight savings and retro trimmings? One, unlike an R or GT3 Touring, you could actually buy. And then drive without worrying every mile you added was eating into your investment. Whether you’re an existing 991 owner or in the market for a new one Litchfield could have the answer.
I’m sold – let’s talk numbers
Liberated from the need to consider boring, bigger picture stuff like range hierarchy or official tests for noise and emissions tuners like Litchfield can simply consider what they have in front of them and find ways to make it better. And it turns out electronically and mechanically the turbocharged 3.0 has a lot more to give. With an ECU remap Litchfield can gift any Carrera, T, S or GTS an extra 90bhp or so. A free-breathing exhaust alone can release an extra 25bhp. In short there’s anything up to a 500bhp engine lurking in the back of every turbocharged Carrera – Litchfield has the key to unlock it.
Those who live their life on the rolling road can geek out over the dyno graphs as much as they like. But Litchfield is about more than that and wanted to improve driveability too, replacing the restrictive stock manifolds with custom-fabricated tubular ones. The improvement in throttle response came as a shock, even to them. As a retrofittable package for any turbocharged 991 Carrera this all comes to £10,400 with VAT and fitting. Or £7,400 with the cheaper Remus exhaust option – just a few hundred quid more than the officially sanctioned 444bhp Powerkit underpinning the GTS and optional on the Carrera S. But with much bigger gains.
Enough stats – what does it go like?
Like any Carrera, just way, way better. The stock motor is hardly lacking, throttle response exemplary for a turbo engine, mid-range way more exploitable than the naturally-aspirated sixes it replaced (sorry purists) and the appetite for revs similarly intoxicating. In the Litchfield car there’s just more of it, all of the time. Most noticeable is the speed with which the turbos spool thanks to the new manifolds – Iain reckons they kick in 500rpm sooner than before and they were hardly laggy before.
This means instantaneous throttle response not far off that of the 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated zinger in the GT3 and R, matched with the scenery blurring rush you get from a turbo and a fat wedge of exploitable, mid-range torque whichever gear you’re in. Win, win and, indeed, win, whether you want to haul from big gears or rev it out to the redline, turbos hissing.
Sounds like the best of both worlds!
It sure is, the fact such relatively minor modifications unleash so much more performance and character in the engine nothing less than a revelation. And there’s more. Ever the perfectionist Iain reckoned some detail tweaks to the chassis could also help so he fitted custom springs to stiffen the front end and lower it by 20mm, while the rear is dropped by 10mm. 7mm spacers push the wheels out slightly and adjustable uniball items replace the front suspension bushings for a little bit of castor adjustment.
All of this introduces a racy-looking rake but, more importantly, sharpens up the already brilliant steering by another notch. Without overwhelming the all-round usability or subverting its all-rounder appeal. Matched with the stock dampers, mechanical limited-slip differential and T’s reduced final drive you have, perhaps, the recipe for the best ‘fast road’ 911 this side of the GT3 Touring and significantly reduced FOMO if you didn’t make that exalted list.
Litchfield Carrera T: Verdict
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it’s that the difference between a great 911 and a truly inspirational one can come down to the tiniest of details. There is very little wrong with the standard Carrera, whichever of the myriad options you choose. Indeed, Litchfield himself will readily tell you his T was one of the best cars he’s ever driven, straight out of the box. But these detail tweaks make a huge, huge difference.
If there’s one conclusion to be had from this it’s don’t get mad with Porsche for not selling you a GT3 – get even. And with a little help from Litchfield you can do just that.