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Somewhere out there, there is a team of people in Stuttgart that sit around a perfectly engineered table and work out who wants which version of the Porsche 911.
Is it a base model Carrera? Maybe an S? Rear-wheel drive? All-wheel drive? Manual or PDK? Targa, Cabriolet, GT3? Turbo? GT3 RS? Or hell, why not take out a life insurance policy and go all out on the upcoming GT2 RS? Oh and then there is the options list, which makes the national budget seem like a children’s book in comparison.
Thankfully, though, for those rather fortunate folks that are tasked with blessing the world with different variants of the 911, they have a history as rich to draw upon as the existence of the sports car itself.
With more than 30 different variants of the 911 on sale today, the addition of the recently launched Porsche 911 GTS may seem as a non-event, considering the amount of choice already available. But actually, the ($282,700-320,400) GTS lineup is perhaps the sweetest spot in the entire 911 range and the only model that properly blends the elements of the brand’s track-focused cars with daily usability.
From the outside, it’s somewhere between a Carrera S and a GT3, it has the wheels of the track weapon and the wider stance of the Carrera 4 across the range. It looks a bit more menacing with a 40mm lower ride height (30mm on Targa and Cabriolet) compared with the regular Carrera and all the blacked-out bits, not to mention the GTS badging suggest to anyone that knows their 911s, that this isn’t some run-of-the-mill variant.
On the inside, there really isn’t all that much to set this apart. You get the super tight and very supportive sports seats (if you’re an American migrant or a car journalist, the comfort seats are also a no-cost option) and there are the subtle changes here and there plus the GTS badging, but the 911 interior is almost uniform across the range in how it feels and how it looks - and that’s best described as Germanic bland.
Sure, everything feels very well put together and there is no part of the interior in particular that needs changing, but the 991 series two’s biggest update was a nicer screen (with Apple CarPlay) and in general, the package might be starting to show its age as a whole when compared to the ultramodern interiors offered by the likes of the new Audi R8. It does still have two somewhat-usable back seats, and that is a huge benefit for those that may occasionally need it.
Power it up, and the 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit barks to life. Yes, it’s the same engine as the Carrera and the Carrera S and yes, it’s no longer naturally aspirated like the 991.1 GTS we reviewed, but it’s not the same thing.
With 331kW of power and 550Nm of torque, the GTS has 22kW and 50Nm more grunt than the S, bringing that deficit to the 911 Turbo down to 66kW and 150Nm. This is achieved with new turbo units and injectors, so it’s not just a software tune.
Can you feel the difference to the Carrera S? It’s hard to say without driving them back to back, but it’s 0.2 of a second faster from 0-100km/h than the equivalent Carrera S model (3.6 seconds in all-wheel drive form, 3.7 for rear-wheel drive).
The weird thing about the 911 GTS is how it feels to drive at speed. Porsche generally under-promises and over-delivers on its power and acceleration figures, so when you read 3.6 seconds to a 100, it’s likely to be lower than that.
However, there is so little lag from the twin-turbo engine that, on the go at least, it doesn’t have that sensation of the turbo kicking in and pushing you back in to the seat. You only realise how fast you’re going by checking the speedo. The torque delivery is annoyingly linear and advocates Porsche’s approach to making this feel like a naturally-aspirated engine.
This is undoubtedly a better engine, not only in terms of its performance output (old one had 15kW less power and 110Nm less torque) but in how it delivers that to the road. But, does it provide the same level of emotional appeal as before? To be fair, that’s a really hard question to answer.
You can’t beat a 3.8-litre naturally aspirated engine for noise, and, if it was a choice of having less power and torque but more emotion, it wouldn’t be a choice at all. But Porsche needs to keep its GT3 and GT3 RS cars naturally-aspirated at their current level of performance whilst meeting stricter emission regulations. To do that, it needs to make its volume models more efficient and less polluting (to bring down the group emission average), hence the turbocharging for series two. Don’t blame Porsche, blame the penguins.
But whilst it’s no naturally-aspirated boxer, if you have a listen to the exhaust note of the new GTS on our facebook page, you can see it’s not exactly lethargic. Porsche includes both sport chrono and sports exhaust as standard fit to the GTS and the exhaust system itself has been modified from the Carrera S and it does have a slightly deeper and raspier note to it as a result.
Behind the wheel, the Porsche 911 GTS is that little bit sharper and that little bit more capable than the Carrera S and yet, somehow, still such an ideal daily. We drove the rear-wheel and all-wheel drive GTS coupe, as well as the Targa, from the Wolgan valley back to Sydney through a selection of twisty mountainous roads and stints on the highway.
Dynamically, the standard Carrera S is already so good that the GTS improvements are really felt closer to the limit than anywhere else. Our GTS Coupe provided what felt like endless levels of grip from one corner to the next as it gave exceptional levels of feedback both through the steering wheel and its general body behaviour.
There is very little body roll in the twisty stuff, but if you do come screaming into a corner, you can push the C4 GTS too hard and it will understeer - as will the rear-wheel drive at a certain point, but we felt the lighter variant (45kg) was the better of the two as it gave a certain level of rear slip in Sport+ that made driving it enthusiastically far more entertaining than its brother.
The power delivery via the seven-speed PDK is sensational and it always seems to know what gear to be in at any given time. It's not an understatement to say no one does dual-clutch transmissions like Porsche. Seriously, no one. You can go for a seven-speed manual also (same gear ratios as PDK) but we would argue the $7390 option is worth it.
We did a brief stint in the Targa as well and, considering how good the Coupe was, we would probably give the iconic model a miss. For, not only does it mute the exhaust far more than it should, the wind noise with the roof open was substantial - not to mention that it can’t operate its roof unless it has come to a complete stop (Cabriolet works on the move).
But all the models that we drove provided the type of ride comfort that would put some family sedans, even German ones, to shame. There is something strange about how Porsche does suspension... it’s like the best of both worlds for a super sporty car with its high levels of athleticism not compromising its usability as a daily.
As far as sports cars go, the 911 GTS is definitely a step up from the Carrera S and, unless you’re after a track-ready road car (GT3 or GT3 RS), or need to show off with a Turbo (well, you really need a Turbo S or Turbo S Exclusive to impress anyone these days), it sits in the ideal sweet spot in the range.
In fact, given the price difference between a Carrera S and GTS is about $30,000, the real question is, why would you buy the Carrera S? The GTS delivers the same levels of comfort as its lesser sibling but with power, dynamic and aesthetic improvements that if you were to option up on the S, would cost you noticeably more than the GTS as a pack.
The cynics might say that the GTS has become an option pack more than its own standard model and that may be somewhat true, but regardless of how you want to see it, it’s worth every cent over the Carrera S.