► New 991.2 GTS ups power to 444bhp
► Pick 2wd or awd, wide body standard
► 7spd manual cab tested costs £103,158
Giving the driver of a car with near-supercar levels of performance and grip a selection of choked-up roads in a holiday resort at the height of the summer season seems like cruel torture to us. But Porsche was clearly thinking about its core buyers when it chose a particular location in South Africa to drive the latest variation of its sprawling 911 range. So, seeing how good the new 911 GTS is in standing traffic and 30-degree heat is clearly a very astute move.
We’re not joking. But crawling through Cape Town to the Killarney race track to put Porsche’s mid-range 911 GTS through its paces is a good way of getting to know this new beast. On paper, it looks like the one that commuters who like playing on track of a weekend have been waiting for, as it packs additional punch and has been firmed up a little, but not to GT3 extremes.
The GTS is available in all three 911 bodystyles: Coupe, Targa and Cabriolet. We're testing the latter here.
What makes a Carrera GTS better than an S?
On paper, there’s quite a case to be made for the Carrera GTS. It’s the latest turbocharged 991.2, and thanks to an additional 30bhp it now produces 444bhp, and is capable of getting close to 200mph. Thirty years ago, these figures were good enough for the 959; 15 years ago, that was 911 Turbo territory; and today, it’s the one to buy if you’re after a usable 911 that turns up the wick on track. How times change.
Fans of the Porsche 911 will love this one. It has more power and it goes a little faster, but there are lots of particularly desirable details and specification tweaks – the joy of the Carrera GTS lies in the specs. Aficionados will spot the smoked rear lenses, black tailpipes and 20in alloys, but the Turbo-style wide body is an obvious change over vanilla 911s. In short, it’s Carrera S-plus 10%.
Click here for CAR's review of the Porsche 991.2 Carrera S
How does it cope with the daily grind?
Despite its inevitable growth compared with older 911s, it’s not an intimidating car in traffic, and that remains key to any 911’s appeal. The controls are logically laid out and the interior quality really is a wonder to behold. Every stitch in the leather is millimetrically perfect, every touch point engineered to within an inch of its life.
Fire it up and get underway, and the good vibes continue – the steering is weighty, and precise, and the stiffened but well-damped ride that comes part and parcel with the Carrera GTS package doesn’t jar too much on city watch.
We’re testing the two-wheel-drive GTS in manual form, which is good and bad. It’s a shame that Porsche reckons just 10% of buyers will buy it thus equipped, because the remaining 90% who choose the easy-to-use PDK system are missing out. For purity of response, the manual is as tactile as a 991.2 gets these days. The seven-speeder shifts cleanly and with precision, and serves to divert some attention away from the less-than-communicative (compared with older 911s) steering.
And out of the city?
The Carrera GTS starts to wake up as the speeds increase. You can just leave it as is, and enjoy the ride, but playing with the driving modes via a dial on the steering wheel will allow the more sensitive driver to tune in fully.
It’s here you can tweak the power steering and active damping to suit personal preference. The centre of the dial unlocks a nattily named ‘Sport Response mode’, too, allowing a potential overboost shot of power for around 20 seconds. Push-to-pass is nothing but a gimmick on the road, but fun nevertheless.
But such frivolities shouldn’t take anything away from the Carrera GTS’s overall competence. There’s more acceleration from lower in the rev range than the S, which marries beautifully with the sensitive and progressive throttle. The flat-six pulls hard from as little as 1500rpm, and joy of joys, there’s little indication that it’s turbocharged.
Boost is great, but traditionally the muffling effect of a turbocharger can sanitise the soundtrack, and dull the throttle. Not here. The hard-edged soundtrack that marks it out as a ‘proper’ 911 is undistilled. But just to be sure, Porsche has added a completely unnecessary ‘loudness’ switch for its active exhaust.
How about at the track?
It’s predictably good, although the B-road strop to get there was more fun. On badly surfaced South African roads – that are still better than most British ones – the 911 can be stirred into life. When the road gets truly challenging, you’ll love its positive turn-in, and the way you can feed in great lumps of power before the apex without it getting close to misbehaving.
Does it feel like a rear-engined car anymore? Not so much, but on the road, that’s no bad thing – the rear end is faithful in the dry, and it won’t bite you, even if you’re aggressive with the steering and throttle. It also feels deliciously light and alert at the front, and the way said front end bobs up and down on undulations is a 911 trait that’s still there, and just as endearing as ever.
At the track, you’ll get closer to exploring the Carrera GTS’s limits. But even then, you’d need to have the talent of Walter Röhrl to truly exploit them. What we could ascertain from our brief drive on circuit is that Porsche has honed the Carrera GTS’s damping and braking to make it sharper, but not to the point where it’s too challenging to drive fast. Porsche’s electronic Dynamic Chassis Control system manages damping and traction beautifully, but not at the expense of feedback. The brakes are equally at home on track, seemingly working better the later and harder you use them. The transition from deceleration to turn-in is instant and rewarding, and helps inspire confidence.
Where the Carrera GTS’s abilities really shine through are at the exit of corners. It just grips and goes appreciably harder than the standard Carrera S. Serious trackday players will get a kick out of Porsche’s new Track Precision App, which allows you to data-log your best efforts, and analyse your performance. You can even replay your fast laps on your smartphone, Gran Turismo-style, then share your videos, if you’re brave enough to allow people to analyse/make fun of your driving.
Porsche really has hit its brief with the turbocharged Carrera GTS. It is hugely capable on the road, easy to live with if you have to get embroiled on the M25 on a daily basis, and come the weekend, it’s massively fast on track. For the money, and for drivers who really want just a little more 911, but without the mind-bending speed of a Turbo or uncompromising nature of the upcoming facelifted GT3, then this is the car for you.
Click here to read CAR's review of the old, naturally aspirated 991 GTS