2017 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS First Drive: Falling for the middle child
– Cape Town, South Africa
Imagine putting the Porsche 911 lineup on a colour scale in shades from yellow to red. Well, the newest GTS model is orange, right at the mid-point in terms of price, power, and sportiness. As with all Porsche GTS cars, it’s a step up from the entry models without going as over-the-top as a Turbo or GT3. It’s time for the GTS to evolve, however, so like the Carrera and Carrera S, it ditches its naturally aspirated engine for a 3.0-litre biturbo flat-six. Does the 911 GTS still charm with turbochargers on board?
Introduced last month, the 911 GTS looks a little bit more aggressive than the Carrera S, without approaching the raciness of the Turbo or GT3. There’s a new aerodynamic package, darkened taillights, black centre-locking wheels, and wider bodywork for the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 and 4S models (more on that below), but overall it’s a subtle upgrade that’ll be most noticeable to serious enthusiasts. The middle-ground in 911 design, then.
The aforementioned 3.0-litre biturbo engine packs 450 horsepower, 30 more than the 911 Carrera S. To manage all that power, Porsche went to its traditional GTS playbook and fitted the wider rear bodywork (and thus wider track and wider tires) of the AWD models even on the rear-drive GTS.
Strapping on two turbochargers didn’t ruin the sound of the six-cylinder boxer engine; only the most persnickety drivers will find fault.
The GTS also packs lots of other performance parts as standard: standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which sits about 0.4 inch (10 millimetres) lower than an equivalent Carrera S. It’s not too stiff, nor does the lower ride height render the GTS useless over city speed bumps, as it’s a sports car designed to be used every day.
Strapping on two turbochargers didn’t ruin the sound of the six-cylinder boxer engine; only the most persnickety drivers will find fault. Okay, there is a slightly more filtered sound, especially between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, but trust me, the noise will still set your pulse racing. Keep an eye glued to the speedometer unless you want to lose your license. With 405 pound-feet of torque (37 lb-ft more than in a Carrera S) to accompany that 450 hp, the engine pulls briskly at even the gentlest application of throttle. The relatively small, light car is tremendously quick, with 60 miles per hour (96 kilometres per hour) arriving in as little as 3.4 seconds.
The available transmissions play a huge role in making the 911 GTS’s acceleration so dramatic. The optional seven-speed PDK dual-clutch seems to read your mind in automatic mode, and responds instantly to tugs off the paddle shifters. The seven-speed manual is equally impeccable, with short throws and gears that engage as perfectly as if they were the mechanism of a Swiss clock. This precise gearbox must, however, be manhandled at times. The rougher you are with your shifts, the better the response.
Today’s 911 GTS is smoother, less nervous, more stable when you lift in turns, and easier to manage all-around.
The real treat, of course, is finding some bends in the road, because for all its changes over the years, the 911 manages to be as satisfying as ever. Today’s 911 GTS is smoother, less nervous, more stable when you lift in turns, and easier to manage all-around, but the rear-mounted engine still makes it adorably easy to steer with the accelerator pedal. At the same time, the steering wheel tells you everything you want to know about the road and what’s happening under the front tires. And with the aforementioned widened rear end, optimum traction is impressive, that’s for sure.
All this performance will cost you plenty when the 911 GTS hits U.S. and Canadian showrooms in April. You’ll get plenty of choice in exactly how you’d like your GTS, with coupe and convertible models available with rear- or all-wheel drive, while the Targa comes only with four driven wheels. The GTS coupe starts at $136,000, with stickers rising all the way to $157,900 for the Targa 4 GTS. And those numbers are before you start adding on the option packs. The PDK transmission, for instance, sets you back $4,250, carbon-ceramic brakes are a hefty $9,730, and there are seemingly endless other choices for spending your hard-earned to customize your GTS.
No matter how you spec your GTS, though, it will for many drivers be the sweet spot of performance, design, and price that makes most sense in the ever-expanding 911 range.