What’s hot: The best 911 ever (until the next one), more power, and an even more outrageously lovely noise
What’s not: The price - $268,700 in Australia, blipping downchanges on manual (which seems a little impure for a purist car)
X-FACTOR: Having a 911 is pretty cool, but having “the best one” adds some extra glister to the gold.
Vehicle style: Super-sports coupe, or cabriolet.
Price: $268,700 for the Carrera 2 manual basic one, or a lot more if you want a PDK gearbox, a Cabriolet or the Carrera 4 version, or all three in one for $312,690.
Engine/trans: Flat-six 3.8-litre naturally aspirated engine; 316kW/440Nm; 7spd manual or double-clutch automatic PDK transmission.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone else could get away with the Porsche business model, particularly as it is applied to the revered, legendary, 911.
The last all-new one, designated 991, was launched in 2011.
In just three years, Porsche has now unveiled what will be the 19th variant of that car: the GTS - those three letters signifying the best of all road-going, non-turbo, traditional Porsches.
Imagine Apple launching 19 iPhone variants in three years, and what that would do to its brand perception. (That might not be the best analogy… some idiots would actually buy 19 different iPhones.)
Essentially, though, if you buy a new 911 as soon as it comes out, you know the company is going to scoop you in pretty damn quick-time.
Clever buyers, of course, would have seen how good the last GTS was; a startling car - the best of the 997 range - the last 911 ever to be fitted with proper, hydraulic steering, and waited for this one to come along before shelling out the bucks.
Porsche’s engineers save all their best tricks for the GTS.
This one comes with a completely redesigned intake manifold that unlocks more torque down lower and even more peaky power up near redline, as well as boosting the kilowatts up to 316, a rise of 22kW over the now slightly-outdated Carrera S.
GTS versions also cop the wider body from the Carrera 4, with its sexier flared guards, and this allows them to widen the rear track enough to provide even more staggering levels of lateral grip.
This feels like a better handling, better planted car than any of the many 991s we’ve seen over the past few years.
And just to top it off, they also rework the exhaust to provide a unique “GTS sound”, which just happens to be, you guessed it, the best ever as well.
This, then, is the 911 enthusiasts have been waiting for, the version that somehow manages to improve, in a number of small but significant ways that all add up to a greater whole, what is really a brilliant sports car.
It might not be quite as sexy as sister company Audi’s efforts in here - although you can bet the next 911 will have a digital floating cockpit of some kind, just to catch up - but it’s still pretty damn classy.
The Alcantara wheel is fabulous; a racy touch that makes the whole steering experience feel better, and more track focused.
The carbon-fibre bits of trim are not slathered on too thick, they’re just right, adding a touch of class without being overly showy, as they can be in some high-end sports cars (and some cheaper ones, like the Alfa 4C).
Aside from a few other little tweaks, it’s pretty much the usual story in here - perfect seats providing the perfect position for the driver; pedals that are set-up just right for heel and toeing, and a feeling of classic style and ergonomic effortlessness.
Everything in its right place, basically.
ON THE ROAD
- 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat-six
- Seven-speed manual or PDK double-clutch automatic
- 0 - 100km/h: 4.0 seconds
Yes, “five stars”, because after a day of thrashing it up and down a spectacular mountain pass just outside Los Angeles and also pasting it around an unfeasibly quick and challenging race track, the 911 GTS never missed a beat, but our hearts most certainly did.
Yes, it could be faster - and you can buy a more track-focused GT2 or a mildly insane, and super-car priced, 911 Turbo S if that’s your desire - but never at any stage did we wish it was.
This thing has 316kW, which is more than ample and almost as many as the previous generation GT2 (320kW) could boast.
It is quick, almost alarmingly so, and stretching it through the gears is enough of a wild ride to make any enthusiast gasp.
On a public road, like the beautiful and challenging Angeles Crest Highway, it is more than fast enough to make your licence evaporate, yet it makes going fast feel so easy, and safe.
The ride and suspension are so good that not even a huge mid-corner bump under your inside wheel can upset proceedings.
And yes, it does feel better than the Carrera S version it slots in above; just that little bit more planted, more capable, more cutting edge.
Incredibly, even the steering feels better, and no stage did we pine for the hydraulic system of yore, because this power-assisted one just feels so good, so telepathic, almost.
Porsche has fettled the seven-speed manual gearbox to make it even slicker, lighter and swifter to change, and this is the version any true enthusiast should buy, because it is pretty clearly the best car on Earth still fitted with an actual clutch pedal (GT2 and Turbo are PDK only).
It may also be the last GTS ever to feature such an option, with manual 911 sales falling to between 10 and 15 percent worldwide.
On the track at Willow Springs Raceway, surely one of the fastest and most fearsome circuits on earth, with long, balls-out corners and no run off except fields of rocks, you’ll be wanting the PDK, of course.
Changing gears is not something you have time for when your body is rigid with fear.
The level of grip that the wider, lower (by 10mm) GTS displayed in these bends was simply superlative and, after a few goes, you could almost even enjoy the experience.
It’s a car capable of applying such G-forces your shoulders feel like they’re going to pop, but it never misbehaves, unless you actively want it to wag its tail.
Its acceleration, in any and every gear, is just fabulous.
And that noise, the sound of tin cans with fireworks going off inside them on the overrun, the various forms of snarl on the way up the range, peaking in the mid revs where it takes on a real sonorous soul.
If James Brown was a car, this would be it.
As a driver’s car, the 911 GTS is simply flawless.
HOW IT COMPARES | Rivals To Consider
It’s interesting to compare the GTS range, which creeps over $300,000 pretty quickly if you choose Carrera 4 or Cabriolet versions, with a supposed supercar like BMW’s $299,000 i8, because the Porsche is not only faster, it’s far superior to drive.
Sadly it merely looks like a nice Porsche, however, rather than an eyeball-grabbing vision of the future.
The more realistic BMW competitor is the M4, which could just about keep up with the GTS along a twisty bit of road, although its driver arguably wouldn’t be having quite as much fun.
The 911 GTS is so good, in fact, that you’d have to put it up against something like the V8 version of Audi’s awesome R8 to find a realistic competitor, but even here the Porsche would probably win out for sheer driver involvement.
The competitor that’s new in the arena is the one with the best chance of matching the Porsche, and that’s the clearly 911-shaped Mercedes-AMG GT.
Designed from day one as Benz’s Porsche beater, this stunning-looking new car will blast the GTS off the line, at least, hitting 100km/h in 3.8 seconds.
Whether it can beat it around a set of corners is yet to be seen, but we can’t wait to find out.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’ve got the money to own a Porsche 911 you really should buy one because the joy of driving one is not like any other car experience.
Porsche makes the best sports cars because it over-engineers every single part by 300 percent, and because it understands the importance of beautifully talkative steering in making the driving experience come alive.
In every range of 911s, however, there is one car that shines out above the rest, and that is the GTS.
The perfectionist, slightly nerdy types who work in the 911 department in Stuttgart, which is very much seen as the career goal for anyone in the company, are allowed to have their heads when it comes to this car, and they set out to make it simply the ultimate version of their ultimate car.
Yes, you can go quicker in a Turbo, or harder and faster in a hard-edged, track-focused GT racing model, but the GTS is a car for the road - and one that you can take on a circuit and love too, should you so desire - and a perfectly balanced, over-adequately powered and sonically perfected one.
In Australia, as always, the only black mark against it is price, and the Luxury Car Tax is only partly to blame for that. Porsche charges a lot of money here - from $268,700 for the base model - because it knows customers will line up to pay it.
Moneyed customers will throw down big cash for the flashier Carrera 4 Cabriolet models, but the good news is that anyone who wants this car purely for driving rather than posing should go for the base model, with its excellent manual gearbox.
It could well be the last, and the best, of its kind.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
911 Carrera GTS
- Coupe manual - $268,700
- Coupe PDK - $276,090
- Cabriolet manual - $289,700
- Cabriolet PDK - $297,090
911 Carrera 4 GTS
- Coupe manual - $284,100
- Coupe PDK - $291,490
- Cabriolet manual - $305,300
- Cabriolet PDK - $312,690
Note: Prices shown are for manual model. PDK adds $7390.