Nobody niches the niche better than Porsche. Once, its 911 sports cars was just a neat little coupe with a quirky air-cooled rear engine. Now it’s a complete sports car family, available in Coupe, Cabriolet, and Targa bodystyles with engines ranging from 370 hp to 580 hp, the choice of seven-speed stick shift or PDK transmissions, and two- or four-wheel drive. And right at the heart of that family, borrowing a little from them all, is the 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.
On paper, the GTS sits neatly between today’s 420 hp Carrera S and 2015’s 475 hp GT3. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six pumps out 450 hp, thanks to a pair of redesigned turbochargers that feature larger housings and turbines and deliver higher boost pressures. A base price of $120,050 for the Carrera GTS Coupe ups the ante about $15,000 compared with a Carrera S Coupe and undercuts the price charged in 2015 for the GT3 by about $12,000.
On the road, though, the GTS cleaves closer to its Carrera cousins than the race-face GT3. That’s because the GTS started as a Carrera marketing package, bringing together the most popular 911 options in a single car. It’s a value proposition that’s proven popular with Porsche customers of all kinds and has spawned GTS versions of other Porsches, from Macan to Panamera. In the case of the 911, the GTS is also available as a Cabriolet or a Targa model, and all variants offer the choice of two- or four-wheel drive, apart from the Targa, which is all-wheel drive only. Standard transmission is the seven-speed stick, with the seven-speed PDK available as an option.
So, what do you get for your money? All GTS models start with the wider Carrera 4 body, with the rear fenders pushed out 1.7 inches, and the rear track widened 1.6in. Up front is the new SportDesign front fascia with its lower front spoiler and larger cooling air intakes, and at the rear the spoiler extends higher than that of a regular Carrera. Standard wheels are 20-inch center lock items, previously only available on Turbo models and 0.5 inch wider than standard Carrera S rims, finished in satin black. There are splashes of black elsewhere, too, from the GTS logos to the headlight surrounds to the Targa bar on the GTS 4 Targa.
Inside, the GTS gets standard four-way power sports seats trimmed in Alcantara, a 14.1-inch sports steering wheel also trimmed in Alcantara, and the Sport Chrono Package, which includes the analogue stopwatch, a performance display on the dash, and the nifty Porsche Track Precision app. The GTS models also get the top of the range navigation system and Porsche Connect Plus, which delivers the 7.0-inch touchscreen user interface and onboard Wi-Fi connectivity.
The changes run more than skin deep. Controlled by a GTS-specific calibration, those bigger turbos pump up to 18psi of boost pressure, compared with the Carrera S’s 16psi, which helps deliver not only 30 extra horses at 6,500 rpm, but 405 lb-ft of torque between 2,150 rpm and 5,000 rpm, up from 368 lb-ft. The standard Sport Exhaust system also features calibration unique to the GTS for actuating the bypass flaps.
Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is standard on the GTS Cabriolet and Targa models. GTS Coupes get PASM Sport Suspension, which drops the ride height 0.4 inch, though the standard PASM setup is available for those who want the option to dial up a more comfortable ride. Cars ordered with the seven-speed stick get Porsche Torque Vectoring and a mechanical rear diff lock as standard, while those equipped with a PDK transmission are equipped with the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system, which includes an electronic rear diff lock.
Standard brakes are steel, straight from the Carrera 4S, but there’s an additional air duct on the lower rear wishbone to improve cooling. As on the Carrera S, 4S, and the Targa 4S, the steering ratio is 10 percent sharper than that of a regular Carrera, and rear-wheel steering is available as an option. The Sport Chrono Package also delivers electronically controlled dynamic engine mounts to minimize NVH and counter unwanted drivetrain motions during cornering.
More power, more torque, more grip, and sharper steering means … more 911. Porsche says all GTS models are at least 0.2 second quicker to 60 mph than a Carrera S or 4S, and up to 3 miles per hour faster. The quickest accelerating of the GTS models, the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 GTS Coupe, will hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. The rear-drive Coupe is the fastest of the bunch, with a top speed of 193 mph.
Porsche claims the rear-drive GTS Coupe has lapped the famed Nürburgring Norsdschliefe in 7 minutes 26 seconds on standard tires, 12 seconds faster than the previous model, and 4 seconds faster than the current Carrera S. Fit the newly developed ultra-high performance, road-legal, track tires that are available as an option—245/35 front and 305/30 rear—and you can expect to shave another 4 seconds off that 7 minute 26 second lap time, the engineers at Weissach say. Assuming, of course, you know the gnarly, unforgiving, 12.9-mile track like they do…
We sampled a manual Carrera 4 GTS Coupe on the short but entertaining Killarney racetrack just outside Cape Town, South Africa, and a PDK-equipped GTS Cabriolet on roads around the beautifully situated city. The all-wheel drive Coupe impressed with its velvety punch out of tight corners, its confidence-inspiring stability and grip through fast sweepers, and its smooth power all the way to the redline. It was entertaining to drive a three-pedal car quickly on the track again, and the oily, rifle-bolt action of the shifter confirmed Porsche is one of the few automakers still spending time and money developing old-school manual transmissions. If the seven-speeder has a weakness, it’s the fourth-fifth shift; you simply can’t rush it or you’ll almost invariably get the wrong gear. It’s here that the foolproof PDK most emphatically makes its case as the transmission of choice for serious track work.
With its PDK transmission and slightly more compliant damping, the GTS Cabriolet proved to be a remarkably relaxed cruiser on South African roads. Yet a quick twist of the steering wheel mounted Sport Chrono controller to Sport Plus mode instantly stiffened the 911’s sinews and sharpened its responses, the throaty exhaust snap crackling behind you. Easy going when you need it to be, quick and agile when you want it to be, the GTS Cabriolet reinforced yet again the 911’s peerless reputation as the 24/7 supercar.
Porsche has niched the niche so well there now seems to be a 911 for every occasion. Until the arrival of the new GT3—which will, Porsche sources confirm, be available with the seven-speed stick shift—we’re torn between the sublime purity of a base Carrera and the near-hypercar thrust of a Turbo S, in terms of choosing our favorite 911. But there’s no denying GTS offers a well-judged combination of performance and equipment that will appeal strongly to today’s heartland 911 buyer.
Date Posted: February 3, 2017