Porsche has more 911 Carrera variants than one could shake a stick at, and their latest, the 911 Carrera GTS, intends to cap the range as the sportiest model yet. Without going into the Turbo series or the outrageous GT3 factory race car lineup, the 911 GTS is as athletic as the 911 Carrera gets.
An all-around looker
With white paint, black wheels, red brakes and that trademark Porsche 911 bubble-butt body, this 911 GTS is terribly sexy and hardcore. Same deal inside. Drivers get plenty of gauges, a big centre mounted tachometer and a simple, concise and focused control layout.
Suede-trimmed racing-style seats leave backsides just inches from the road, the tester got race-inspired red seatbelts, and there was even a 'Sport Chrono' lap timer for those visits to the track. More importantly, there's a button that opens some mechanical flaps in the exhaust system to make it louder.
Everyday track beast
But this is a race-bred car that's sensible enough for everyday use. It's easy to board and exit, easy to park, offers good outward visibility and even has back seats. The latter aren't ideal for any type of human being, though they add to available storage and may beat walking home in the rain for some third and fourth occupants.
The 911 GTS isn't even terrible on fuel, with a recorded average of 11.2 L/100km. In fact, as 400-plus-horsepower sports cars go, it's pretty damn thrifty during highway cruising. Hell, you can even get an automatically shifting dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive. This is as everyday friendly as a street-legal track weapon's probably ever been.
Big screaming six
Power comes from a 408-horsepower version of Porsche's 3.8-litre flat-six powerplant bolted behind the rear axle. The naturally-aspirated, high-strung screamer of a big six generates some huge performance numbers, even if it sounds like a dirty old VW Bug with an exhaust leak when first fired up. That just foreshadows the sound effects waiting on the other end of the tachometer.
Get the hand-built engine spinning to its 7,300-rpm redline, and the loud, exotic wail from the tailpipes serenades everyone within a half mile. It's one of those exhaust notes that will play in driver's heads while they're trying to sleep.
Rip though the gears like Christmas morning wrapping paper, and head-pinning acceleration and a one-of-a-kind soundtrack are your rewards. The explosively peaky high-rpm power surge adds to the experience.
The shifter exhibits a ropeyness typical of its cable-actuated mechanism, but it offers short throws and feels damn-near perfect - even when drivers rush it. The clutch is positive, heavy and engaging, too. These two components feel naturally well-matched to one another and work with ideal pedal placement for easy heel-and-toe work, as required.
With the engine in back, the 911 GTS boasts an extremely sticky and planted backside and a lightweight front end that eagerly darts into bends with minimal effort. Nearing its cornering limits, the rear squirms gently to tell drivers they're pushing their luck - but this is ultimately a performance car with heaps of talent put right at your disposal from the get go.
Pushed, the 911 GTS is always dancing, darting, wriggling and up to something. It's active, lively and talkative. Thing is, the 911 GTS pulls all of this off without completely ruining the around-town ride. In fact, a button electronically stiffens and softens the shocks at the driver's discretion.
The heavy shift action and steering mean drivers use some effort to drive the GTS hard, but they'll be wearing a massive smile on their face the entire time. It all sucks you right into the experience.
Sure. There are faster, grippier and more powerful cars available for the money. A Shelby GT500 Mustang would probably dust the 911 GTS in a drag race and leave enough cash in its owner's pocket to buy another one for the wife. A Nissan GT-R probably boasts better track times and will leave enough cash behind for a hefty supply of brake pads and tires. A BMW 1M is about 90 percent as much fun to drive for less than half the money.
Thing is, it's no single aspect of the 911 GTS that makes it appealing. Instead, it's the way the acceleration, sound, shifting, handling and braking all come together at your fingertips. It just feels right: naturally athletic, effortlessly quick, and absolutely track-ready. Porsche doesn't hop up models from a mainstream product lineup. They only build performance cars, and it sort of shows here.
Taller drivers will wish for more headroom, the white-painted centre console looks cheap, and shoppers might be shocked at having to dish out thousands extra for optional equipment like heated seats, a nice stereo and a navigation system. This is nickel and diming to the max. But if you want to play, you've got to pay - and the as-tested price of about $129 grand backs this up.
If you've got the funds for a 911 GTS, please email me. I'd love to apply for a job where you work. I'm good at typing, I get along well with most types of people, I'm often on time, and I'm an all-around pretty sweet dude.
Please hire me.
Otherwise, I'm going to have to give this car back. And I hope the guys at Porsche have a pry-bar handy if I do. They'll need it to get me out.