Certain things just don’t mix well, but in blending discordant ingredients in the motoring world no one’s been doing it longer, or better, than Porsche with its 911 - a rear-engined legend that since 1963 has become synonymous with combining racetrack performance and everyday useability.
One of the 911 models that best represents this dual personality is the Carrera GTS, the latest version of which recently went on sale in South Africa in Coupe, Targa and Cabriolet guises, in two- and four-wheel drive. It’s the two-wheel drive Carrera GTS Coupe on test here, priced at R1 768 000.
In the baffling array of 911s to choose from, the GTS is a more athletic proposition than the 309kW Carrera S. It boasts an increased output of 331kW and is spiced up with some styling and chassis tweaks, but isn’t as overtly sporty as the more track-focussed, fire-breathing 368kW GT3.
Not that a Carrera S feels under-endowed, but the GTS treatment extracts a bit more pace and personality from the 911 package whilst retaining its commuting-friendliness. Apart from the power boost, active suspension management and 10mm lowered suspension also come standard in the GTS range, as does a sports exhaust.
All 911 Carrera GTS models, including rear-wheel drive ones, are based on the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 chassis with its widened hips and rear track. It gives the car a more purposeful look which is intensified by a distinctive body kit comprising a unique front apron with a low front splitter, an extended rear spoiler for reduced lift, sport design side mirrors, smoked tail-lights, and a blacked-out duo of central tailpipes.
Keeping up with GTS tradition, the wheels have centre locks instead of wheel nuts, and the 20” black rims wear asymmetrical rubber, with 245/35s Pirelli P Zeros up front and 305/30s at the rear.
The GTS package also gives you an interior swathed in Alcantara leather, sports seats that have GTS logos on the headrests and are partially electrically-adjustable, and an instrument cluster with black-anodised aluminium trim strips. The interior trimmings are Porsche-typically swanky and everything feels super solid except for the relatively flimsy-feeling driving mode selector switch on the steering wheel.
A Sport Chrono package is part of the deal, and the Porsche Track Precision app has been upgraded to coincide with the release of the GTS models. The app will automatically record all your laps on your smartphone, complete with driving telemetry.
The engine behind the rear seats is now a turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six instead of the normally-aspirated 3.8 in the previous-generation Carrera GTS, with outputs hiked by 15kW and a whopping 110Nm. The burly 550Nm of max torque is on call all the way between 2150 and 5000rpm, making for lusty surge across a wide power band.
The resultant performance improvements are significant, especially at high altitude. The old GTS was capable of a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile of 12.5 secs at sea level, and somewhat slower up in Gauteng’s thin air.
The new car claims a 100 sprint of 3.6 seconds and that’s exactly what it achieved - in Gauteng - when we connected our Vbox and took it to Gerotek for testing. The new GTS also achieved 11.7 seconds over the quarter-mile, joining an elite group of cars to crack the 12 second barrier. That’s plenty fast in anyone’s language, and the top speed’s also an autobahn-burning 312km/h. Watch it screech off the mark in the video below:
Thrusting the throttle releases an addictive surge of pace that pummels you into your suede sport seat, while the table-shaped torque curve keeps the car in a power band that pulls like a racehorse in any gear.
With its easy to use launch control system - just stick it in Sports mode, left foot brake, and away you go - you can bang out these supercar sprints all day. It’s fast but user friendly in the best Porsche tradition, and this also applies to the car’s everyday useability in real-world driving. It navigates the urban grind in a benign way, without always chomping at the bit for the open road. The ride is firm, but supple enough to handle suburbia’s bumps without turning into a spine-jarring nightmare.
There are gearshift paddles on the steering wheel but I barely used them because the seven-speed self-shifter is so ridiculously good. This PDK dual-clutch is one of the world’s best transmissions for its ability to snick through gears with clock-ticking smoothness, but at the same time laying on the racy charm with its throttle-blipping downshifts. A wonderful piece of engineering.
What turbochargers giveth in power they taketh away in roar, but this engine has pretty good vocal venom. With a redline at 7500rpm the flat-six is unusually high-revving for a turbo engine and makes a rorty sound, especially when you activate the button that opens the exhaust flaps. It doesn’t quite match the aural satisfaction of the previous normally-aspirated car, but I guess most people would swap delicious decibels for pokier power.
Letting it all hang out on the handling track, the GTS displayed a sure-footedness honed through five decades of perfecting the rear-engined 911 recipe. In tail-happy land, all engines would be located behind the rear axle a la the 911, but this car stays beautifully neutral and pinned to the road when driven on the ragged edge. It’s a precision instrument that can be thrust and parried through turns with the flamboyance of a musketeer’s sword.
Less impressive was the stop-start system which at times seemed over-eager to shut down the engine, even right after a hard-revving session of high-performance driving. Our test car also suffered a broken starter motor. Porsche didn’t have one in stock as this is apparently a very rare failure, and ordering one from Germany took a few days.
This car has all the right stuff. At a million buck saving over a 397kW 911 Turbo, the Carrera GTS represents exceptional value for money in the 911 range. Unless you’re chasing outright lap records it has more than enough power to satisfy the average mortal.
|Engine:||3-litre, six-cyl, turbopetrol|
|Gearbox:||7-speed automated dual clutch|
|Power:||331kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque:||550Nm @ 2150-5000rpm|
|0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng):||3.6 seconds|
|Quarter mile (tested, Gauteng):||11.7 seconds|
|Top speed (claimed):||312km/h|
|Price:||R1 768 000|
|Maintenance plan:||3-year/90 000km|