Porsche 911 GTS driven

£76,758 Driven January 2011
Rated 14 out of 20
Porsche 911 GTS

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The last time I looked, there were 153 options you can choose from on your new 911 Carrera. You can't specify them all individually, as choosing some means you can't have others - unless you want several sets of wheels or a wood and carbon-fibre hybrid interior with yellow seatbelts on one side and red on the other. But if you could, the possible permutations of 911 would add up to a mind-melting 9.6 trillion subtly different models. That's nearly 1,610 distinct 911s for every man, woman and child on Earth.
But, as ridiculous as that sounds, that figure apparently still isn't enough for Porsche. Which is why it's just launched the 911 GTS. Slotting, according to the Zuffenhausen massive, into the 20-model 911 hierarchy (21 if you include the sold-out Sport Classic) above the Carrera 4S and beneath the Targa 4, the GTS Coupe and Cabriolet are forgivable additions to the dizzying line-up as they are, quite possibly, the best-value 911s you can buy.
Rumoured to be the last of the current 997 model before the switch over to the new (and naturally nearly identical) 998 later this year - but there's sure to be a few more specials in the works - the GTS offers perhaps the best performance-to-price ratioof any 911 on sale today. It's still no budget-priced bargain, but when you drill down into the GTS's standard specification and see what it would cost to spec a standard Carrera Sup to the same level, you start to see the point.
Let's start with the engine. The standard £74k Carrera S gets 385bhp and 310lb ft to play with. The only Porsche-approved way of getting that number to match the GTS's 408bhp, is to specify the £8k+ Powerkit option. So the price of your S would climb to £82k.
Now the wheels. The S comes from the factory with a set of 19in Carrera S II rims. To get the centre-locking RS Spyder wheels as worn by the GTS would set you back a further £2,300 and a grovel to your salesman as they aren't strictly available from the standard spec list. If you wanted them in black, that would be another grand. The subtotal for your GTS-chasing S now rises to £85.5k.
And we're not finished yet. The GTS's Sport Design front end will cost you another couple of grand. To get the wider Carrera 4 rear end the GTS wears as standard will, for the sake of argument, sting you for another couple on top of that. Let's say four and a half grand in total for bodywork. Which brings the running total to a round £90k.
To complete your mock GTS, you will have to spec the Alcantara interior and Sport Design steering wheel from the not-at-all-cheap Porsche equipment catalogue. That's another three grand of your hard-earned if it's a penny. So the final price after that nit-picking marathon, brings your once humble Carrera S to a grand and change short of £95k. That's £8,000 more than a 911 GT3.
Want to know the GTS price now? It's £76,758.
I know it's still a long way from a cheap price, but in the digital halls of the Porsche online configurator, that's a positive steal. You can almost hear the sound of Porsche calfskin leather Sport Classic II wallets (£80) being flung open and black Amex cards being slapped down as we speak.
Particularly as there are still a number of details which it doesn't matter how long you spend trying to make your S into a GTS, are unique to this car. Cosmetically, the black-painted front spoiler and sideskirts help the GTS look lighter visually. Likewise the black-painted area between the rear tailpipes and on the pipes themselves highlight the extra 44mm rear width of the Carrera 4-derived rear end. All of which add up to make the GTS look just that little bit lower, meaner, faster.
Which it is. Apart from having the 23 bonus bhp Powerkit option, which includes a freer-flowing sports exhaust system installed as standard, engines in the GTS also have a new variable intake setup. This substantially boosts mid-range torque, making driving at normal road speeds even more effortless than usual, which is useful. However, it also completely opens the engine's throat above 6,000rpm, unleashing a whole new banshee character to proceedings. So just when you think it's all over bar the shouting, the shouting starts, and you realise the GTS has only just begun.
Top speed is 190mph with 0-62mph taking 4.6 seconds in the manual car, 4.4 seconds in the PDK semi-automatic and 4.2 seconds on the PDK car fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package in Sport Plus mode. Yes, even on a car as drenched in special kit as the GTS, there is still a boatload of spec choices to be made.
Apart from the gearbox options, prospective owners also have to decide to keep the rear seats deleted (standard) or have them fitted at no cost. And whether or not to have the larger 19.8-gallon fuel tank - more than five gallons bigger - installed, also free. Surely it's worth having both if they are on offer, unless you insist that you really can tell the difference in handling deleting them makes. In which case, you're probably the sort of person who has no friends, so the seats however small would be of no use anyway.
If you are a real hero, you'll probably also want to spec the ceramic brake discs and the sports suspension kit, complete with limited-slip differential, which lowers the Grand Touring Sport 911 by a further 20mm, makes it that much quicker to stop and gives it the ultimate level of traction.
Once you've agonised over all that, it's hard to imagine you could be anything other than ecstatic with the result. As the GTS is probablythe best all-round balance of price, performance and comfort in the whole of the 911 Carrera range. It's not as showy and raw as the GT3, or as humdrum as the regular 911s. It's a near-perfect blend of show and go.
Being two-wheel drive only it has the extraordinary steering feel, bite and precision you can only get when the front wheels are not responsible for anything other than changing direction. It also has the kind of traction and drive that is the reserve of a rear-engined car fitted with 11-inch-wide tyres. Front and rear track have been widened slightly to raise the limits of possibility, but the sensations aren't hugely different to any other Carrera.
Until you look down and see what speed you're doing. Then you realise just how sorted the GTS is. Attacking bends we know, the GTS was between 10 and 15 per cent faster than a standard Carrera while retaining its solid, relaxed composure. It still squats like a toad when accelerating hard and needs a firm hand on the wheel and a light foot on the throttle to keep it moving in the right direction, but it all feels much better dialled in, smoother, more polished than ever before.
Particularly through the new Alcantara-clad three-spoke Sport Design steering wheel. In what looks like the death knell to the steering-wheel-mounted PDK shift buttons on lesser 911s - and Cayman and Boxster - models, the GTS's wheel features a set of shift paddles instead. And there's no two ways about it, they are better in every way. The buttons were a nice try and handy if you drive one-handed, as you can change up and down with the same hand. But in a 190mph sports car, the paddles rule.
Switching gears into the Cabriolet, there are only two tests that need to be done to see if it's the worthy open-topped sibling to the Coupe: does it flex noticeably on bumpy roads; and can you drive it with the roof down above 50mph without feeling like you're sitting in a hurricane? The answer to the first one is no. It's 60kg heavier, but you'd hardly know it. But it's a yes to the second question. You may need to turn the stereo up a couple of notches, but conversation is possible at the legal limit.
What that conversation might be about, though, is anyone's guess. But I know what I was thinking while driving the GTS: as it's so close to a Sport Classic 911, how much would it take to convert it into one? You'd need to swap the wheels out for the Fuchs-alike Sport Classic numbers - a mere £5k or so to you, sir - find a duck-tail engine cover and some black headlight trim, and you'd be almost there for well under £60k less than the SC's asking price.
What stopped that line of thought was that, ultimately, it would be a rip-off and a poor one at that. Much better to just sign up for a pure GTS experience and enjoy one of the finest 911s you can buy. It might not have the rarity value of the Seventies throwback, but it offers every bit as much driving pleasure. Maybe even more. Instead of hiding it under a dust sheet and waiting for the market to recover, you can thrash the GTS hard every day and enjoy its many polished and honed talents right now.
It's still not perfect as a car, and it never will be. But as a 911, there are few, if any, 997s that are better-balanced, and many which are worse for more money. Or at least this was the case the last time I looked.

We like: Best value 911 you can buy today
We don't like: Probably won't be by tomorrow
TopGear verdict: A bona fide bargain. Sport Classic performance for two grand more than a Carrera S
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.4 secs, max speed 189mph, 27.7mpg
Tech: 3800cc, 6cyl, RWD, 408bhp, 420Nm, 1,860kg, 240g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Long-range fuel tank (£0)
And avoid this: TV tuner (£1,022)

Porsche 911 Cabriolet
Porsche 911 Cabriolet
Porsche 911 Cabriolet
Porsche 911 Cabriolet
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS

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