The problem with a car like the Porsche 911 is that at some point you have to make it better. That hasn't stopped Porsche, which for decades has continued to refine its rear-engine sports car. The resulting stream of constant, sometimes incremental updates almost define the 911. Today, the result is one of the best sports cars money can buy.
2017 Porsche 911 GTS First Drive
Speeding Through the Intersection of Performance and Value
Yet, the improvements must continue. Like all sports cars, the 911 could always be a little more powerful, it could handle a little more sharply, its bodywork could reap better aerodynamic benefits, and so on. Porsche provides options for the base and S 911 variants that do these things, but what if they were standard equipment? And how about for a slight discount? That's the 911 GTS.
It's in the Details
The GTS trim is available on Carrera coupe and Cabriolet (convertible) models, as well as the power-retractable hardtop Targa model. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed manual are standard, save for the Targa, which is all-wheel-drive only. Regardless of roof type or the number of drive wheels, all GTS models come standard with go-fast upgrades that are optional on lesser 911s. Larger turbochargers develop more boost and help increase engine output to 450 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. The SportDesign front bumper and rear spoiler reduce lift, a standard sport exhaust gives the engine bigger lungs, and the interior comes wrapped with Alcantara simulated suede.
Aside from the requisite logos and black exterior trim, the GTS also has a few upgrades you can't get on other 911s, though they're subtle enough that only aficionados might notice. Coupes come with a 0.4-inch-lower suspension (standard ride height is available at no cost), and rear-drive models use the 1.7-inch-wider body from the all-wheel drive models, which permits a 0.5-inch width increase for the rear wheels. Speaking of wheels, buyers can choose between two styles of satin black 20-inch rollers. Both designs use Porsche's center-lock system, with one large centrally located lug nut instead of the usual five. The design makes the wheels marginally lighter, but the special tools they require mean costlier and more time-consuming removal and installation when you get a flat.
More than the Sum
The changes sound minor because they are minor, which takes us back to the difficulty of improving the 911. What do you do next? To find out, we drove a rear-wheel-drive convertible and an all-wheel-drive coupe, both with manual transmissions, which Porsche expects how most GTS models will be ordered.
We learned that rather than transform the driving experience, the GTS hones the qualities that make the 911 so engaging. Crucial to that experience is an immediate feeling of familiarity. Settling into the soft faux suede-shod interior is pleasing, as is the absence of superfluous controls on the base steering wheel. A small dial on the bottom right adjusts drive mode, and there is little else to interfere with driving.
The first step after turning it on? Press the button with the image of tailpipes on it. While doing so doesn't seem to make the exhaust louder, it introduces some welcome burbling and popping on deceleration. The twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six revs quickly. There's torque immediately off idle that builds to a brawny midrange. And where many turbocharged engines stumble at high revs, the 911's builds in power and excitement.
The GTS feels faster than its 450 horsepower might suggest — after all, you get more horses in a Camaro SS. But many sports cars with greater power falter in delivering the confidence that ultimately makes a car and its driver faster. The accuracy and weighting of the 911's steering, the tractable power of its engine, and its chassis' balance provide a sure-footedness that compels you to push harder. The 911 builds speed deceivingly and shrugs off corners with little regard to how fast you've gone through them. No matter the skill level, drivers of all types will find easy enjoyment with the 911.
Pay to Play
The GTS starts at $121,750. That might induce some sticker shock, but it's a deal in the context of the lineup. If you were to option any 911 equally, the GTS would be around 10 percent less expensive. That makes it the sweet spot for performance-minded buyers who don't want the extreme speed or cost of the GT3 and Turbo models.
Alas, not every performance option is standard. If little matters to you beyond 0-60 mph acceleration, Porsche's seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission not only shifts faster than any human can with a manual, it also adds launch control and a sport response button that temporarily puts the car in its most aggressive drive mode for when you need to make a quick pass. A rear-steering system improves both low-speed turning radius and high-speed stability by turning the rear wheels slightly in and out of phase with the fronts. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control adds active anti-roll bars that continually adjust roll resistance through corners. Carbon-ceramic brakes intend to improve the life of brake rotors during super aggressive driving. And Porsche offers a track-oriented Pirelli Corsa tire that's sure to improve lap times at the expense of tire wear.
The necessity of these options depends entirely on the perceived value from the person checking the list. But no matter how it's optioned, the driving experience reiterates what we hold true to all modern 911s: You can't go wrong with any of them.