First Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

December 23, 2010
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Inattentive and on his cell phone, the cop couldn't be certain that I was breaking any laws. But then, a droptop Porsche on these roads is always just moments away from an ostentatious display of poise either in speed or in cornering grip. He knew well enough that if he wasn't going to pull me over, he must, at the very least, wag a finger. And so he did.
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Front Three Quarters
Such a limp-wristed reprimand, of course, has the opposite effect from what was intended. It's cause for laughter, not conscience or shame. Emboldened with a feeling of good fortune and a slight sense of invincibility, it is a license to attack the winding, glasslike tarmac of the desert valley with Porsche's latest iteration of the iconic, always-enchanting 911, the Carrera GTS.
Yes, another 911. As the 997-series nears the end of its life cycle, Porsche continues to cut the 911 pie into thinner and thinner slices. But no matter how many variants Porsche builds (there are now twenty distinct 911 models), the pecking order is always clearly defined, and this particular piece slots into the $25,200 gap between the Carrera S and the GT3.
Power output from the GTS also fits between those two models, with the normally aspirated, 3.8-liter flat-six making 408 hp, or 23 hp more than the Carrera S. The additional power, though, only arrives north of 6200 rpm, when six flaps in the GTS-specific variable intake manifolds open a second set of runners. You'll hear the resonant shift in volume that occurs at the transition more than you'll discern any difference in motivation between the S and the GTS. Equipped with the Sport Chrono Pluspackage and a dual-clutch automatic transmission, a GTS needs only 4.0 seconds to leap from a standstill to 60 mph, 0.1 second quicker than a similarly optioned S. Torque is unchanged at 310 lb-ft, but the shorter primary runners smooth the curve between 3000 and 4000 rpm, and the peak arrives 200 rpm earlier, at 4200 rpm.
The GTS's other distinguishing attribute is the wide-body rear, which typically has been reserved for all-wheel-drive 911s. Wider 305-millimeter tires tuck under a body that grows 1.0 inch, and the rear track stretches by 1.3 inches. There's also a new lower front fascia, side skirts borrowed from the GT2, and nineteen-inch center-lock wheels painted black. Porsche's sport exhaust and active suspension are standard equipment. Inside, Alcantara graces the shift knob, the handbrake, the seats, the headliner, and the steering wheel. In all, Porsche claims that the GTS hangs $15,495 worth of equipment on a Carrera S, but the actual sticker price of $104,050 comes in $12,600 higher than the S. The Sport Chrono Plus package, carbon-ceramic brakes, and rear seats in the coupe are optional.
The GTS comes as both a coupe and a cabriolet, but mechanically, the new 911 Speedster is a third variant. While it uses the same engine and wide body, it's distinguished by a chopped windshield, the signature bumpy rear deck lid, and even more standard equipment, along with a serious helping of leather inside. Oh, and a $204,000 price that reflects the limited production volume -- 356 cars globally -- of the Speedster.
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Front Three Quarters In Motion
Just as you'd expect, the GTS smudges the line between the street-going S and the racy GT3. With the sport exhaust activated, we're soon merrily drunk on the flat-six blat as we repeatedly chase after a sweet spot that has moved higher in the rev range. The three-spoke steering wheel is delightfully minimalistic, and the PDK dual-clutch automatic (at the absurd price of $4320) comes with genuine paddles, not fussy buttons, to summon gearchanges. And in typical 911 fashion, the steering and handling set the benchmark.
This isn't the 911 of yesteryear, though, which was capable of transforming into a coffin on wheels at the very sight of a 100-foot drop-off. The car is planted, stable, and predictable. Because of the broad rubber in back, the front end of the GTS is far more likely to wash out before the rear gives up grip. As we descend into Borrego Springs, the road becomes one constant turn, or at least a series of turns connected so closely that only small dabs of brake and throttle are needed between bends. We're smitten with the Carrera GTS, but we might be even more infatuated with these roads.
Our only grievance with the GTS is the obnoxious cacophony of road and engine noise that reverberates inside the coupe at highway speeds. That the GTS is so good isn't at all surprising. It is just one more opportunity to appreciate how well the 911 has aged. Save for the need to keep the showroom fresh, Porsche could continue selling these cars for a few more years without threat to its reputation
The Specs
ON SALE:
Now
PRICE: $104,050/$113,850 (coupe/convertible)
ENGINE: 3.8L flat-6, 408 hp, 310 lb-ft
DRIVE: Rear-wheel

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