Porsche 911 GTS

For those times when a Carrera S just isnít quite enough

DANIEL GARDNER

IF YOU look at the proliferation of variants in the average premium Euro model line-up, it seems choice has become key to establishing a firm foothold in the segment. And Porsche is certainly adhering to that mantra by adding five fresh GTS versions that blow the 911 range out to 22 variants.

Finding the room was tricky: Carrera versions already look after the entry point, the GT3 has track fanatics covered and the Turbo keeps well-heeled speed junkies happy. What the GTS offers is something in between thanks to a power hike over the Carrera, and a selection of performanceenhancing extras.

The engine is Porscheís familiar 3.0-litre turbo flat six, but a boost of 22kW and 50Nm over the Carrera S takes the vital statistics up to 331kW and 550Nm. Add hot, 20-inch centre-lock wheels borrowed from the Turbo (regular FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE five-stud alloys are a no-cost option) and tweaked spring and damper rates for a sportier disposition and you have a series of 991.2 variants with greater corner-carving agility that still retain the day-to-day practicality of more proletarian variants.

Three bodystyles are offered Ė coupe, Cabriolet and Targa Ė with each available in rear- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $282,700 for the manual rear-drive coupe to $320,400 for an AWD convertible or Targa. Choosing Porscheís excellent seven-speed dual-clutch adds $7390, though purists will doubtless pocket that sum and retain the seven-speed manual.

Spend a little time Ė and a lot of cash Ė with the options list, and you could create something similar to the GTS from a Carrera 4S. But not when it comes to the rear-drive version which, for now, is the only way you can have a rear-drive 911 with the wider (by 44mm) rear arches.

There is an immediate feeling of cohesion in any of the current 911 variants, but the GTS incrementally hones the dynamics, from the smaller, 360mm steering wheel, to lowered, firmer suspension that delivers even sharper handling.

Piloting a rear drive Carrera coupe through some challenging corners in slippery early morning conditions will have you questioning the wisdom of spending another $16K on allwheel drive. Traction on corner exit is so reassuring itís like being led in a waltz by someone better at dancing than you.

The pumped-up flat-six delivers peak torque at just 2150rpm, but despite all the midrange turbo shove, the boxer engine maintains linear and strong acceleration all the way through to the lofty 7500rpm limiter.

Admitedly the extra grunt isnít immediately obvious compared with the not-exactly-lazy Carrera S, yet even with more poke the rear-engine layout is fearsomely efficient at getting power to the road, backed up by spookily effective traction and stability control calibrations.

The engineís crisp and charismatic note belies its turbocharged induction. The only unwelcome noise comes from the massive rubber, which generates a cabin-filling roar over coarse surfaces. But the 20-inch wheels and Pirelli rubber (245/35 up front, 305/30 out back) deliver pin-sharp handling, without detracting much from the compliance of the secondary ride.

Adding five extra variants to a crowded 911 range might have seemed akin to shoving passengers through the doors of the Shinjuku train at rush hour, but a few hours with the GTS underscores why it has developed a reputation as the sweet spot in the 911 line-up.

PLUS & MINUS

Sharp chassis; extra shove; fat rear arches for all, including the RWDs Tyre roar on broad 20s; all-wheel drive versions a big step up in price

THE JESUS NUT 01

Forged 20-inch centre-lock wheels wear Pirelli P Zeros and add a little race-car magic.

Theyíre pinched from the 911 Turbo but decorated in satin black for the GTS. If youíve taken leave of your senses, you can swap them for more conventional five-stud rims.

SITTING PRETTY 02

Powered seats are standard fare but can be upgraded to optional sports seats which bring unpainted carbonfibre for reduced weight and road-racer looks. The sportiest seats offer only manual fore/aft adjustment but the base height and backrest angle is well-judged.

GOOD TIMES 03

The Sport Chrono package that Porsche ordinarily charges extra for is included in the GTS.

It allows drivers to record and compare their lap times on any of the 130 stored race tracks from around the world. The dashtop dial is an elegant timepiece and comes as part of the pack.

Big game hunter

This latest series may be positioned as the crowning Carrera models for the road, but the GTS can still hold its own on the track. Straight out of the showroom, wearing standard road tyres, the GTS tore up a lap of performance-car yardstick the Nurburgring in a swift 7 minutes 24 seconds.

Thatís 4.0sec quicker than Porscheís mid-engined V10-powered Carrera GT.

Progress, eh?

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Mercedes-AMG GT S $294,325

Mighty twin-turbo V8 lends brutal performance coupled with frontengine, rear-drive dynamics. Itís more than a hot rod though, and both exclusivity and presence count in the AMG coupeís favour.