Here's what the 2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is: the ultimate naturally-aspirated Porsche. No, wait, that's the GT3. It's the ultimate roadgoing 911. Wait, that's the Turbo S (and, eventually, the GT2). It's a slightly faster Carrera S, the fastest car to be deemed Carrera, then -- but that doesn't do justice to the GTS as one of the best propositions in the 911 Kingdom: a bit of horsepower, a better sound, and a standard Sport Chrono package result in one of the most easygoing all-around 911s in the convoluted lineup.
Like the last GTS, a clever intake manifold and some selective tuning bump horsepower by 30 over the Carrera S, for a total of 430. The manifold features tuning for 15% more airflow, and the intake ports are machine-polished. A more aggressive cam increases valve lift. 320 lb-ft of maximum torque arrives at 5,750 RPM; redline doesn't occur until a lofty 7,800 -- 400 rpm more than the Carrera S. PDK might enable the fastest sprint to 60, at 3.8 seconds, but a manual-transmission coupe reaches the highest top speed of the lineup: 190 miles per hour. Just seven mph off Porsche's official figure for the Turbo S. You know, the 911 always looked more aerodynamic going in reverse…
New for this GTS generation are a multitude of choices: sure, you can pick between a coupe and a convertible, but this time, you can choose between rear-wheel drive and AWD. All cars wear the wider bodywork of the 4S. For the GTS, the cool Sport Chrono package is standard. And, unlike the Turbo and GT3, you can get a manual transmission.
Wait, what's that like?
For the first time, the GTS range includes two-wheel drive and Carrera 4 models.PHOTO BY PORSCHE
What's it like to drive?
At Big Willow's Turn 5, braking downhill into the sharp left-hander, we thought, "you know, this two-wheel drive GTS is just as planted as the Carrera 4." And just at that moment, the car nearly spun out.
The GTS accentuates all that we know to be great about the 911: It's a grand-touring champ that revs a little higher, makes a better noise. Go up to 7,800 RPM and its standard Sport exhaust makes a perfect WAAAAAHHHH, an intoxicating sound, heavy and deep like gargling with molasses. The throttle response is fantastic: coming up Big Willow's vestigial hill, one can lift off the throttle through the uphill corners and fine-tune the car's position right up to the apex. On the freeway heading back from the racetrack, few cars are as capable of slowing down time as a modern-day Porsche…at any speed, it feels like time stands still.
The brakes are perfect. Carbon ceramic brakes are a frivolous expenditure. The steering could still use some feedback, and the clutch could be smoother -- flies in the proverbial ointment of such a taut package. The manual transmission gets a mechanical limited-slip differential, and the PDK an electronic one -- hooked up to various computers, as it is -- while torque vectoring makes it to all models.
The latter makes it too easy. We've sung high the praises of PDK, but this is the fastest 911 with a manual transmission, and a snappy, easy-to-use shifter that sprouts out of an Alcantara boot. Like Colt 45, the manual's rev-matching works every time. And despite seven speeds, both Big Willow and the return down Angeles Forest Highway require third gear, maybe fourth -- like a great American once drilled into our brains, just set it and forget it.
The GTS gets exclusive Alcantara interior trim, and the option of red stitching and center gauge.PHOTO BY PORSCHE
Do I want one?
The modern-day Porsche 911 lineup is convoluted enough to make Gregor Mendel beam with joy. But, forgetting the catankerousness of water-cooled German machinery, bear with us here: For some, the Turbo is too insane, too expensive. The GT3 is too focused. For sun-baked lizard scum, the 4S is unnecessary. The Carrera and Carrera S are great, right? The GTS is the ultimate Carrera -- fast, ferocious, simple, yet uncompromised. Vector had a point: why not drive the ultimate?
There are few motoring experiences that can beat the simplicity of a two-wheel drive GTS with a manual. A dying breed, it sometimes seems, but the world is full of dying breeds. The 911 was a dying breed, once. Yet, we kept them alive -- because some things are worth preserving.
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