As-Tested Price: $117,345
Drivetrain: 3.8-liter H6; RWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual - 24-valve flat-six with variable intake and valve timing/lift; rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
0-60 mph: 4 seconds (with PDK gearbox and Sport Chrono Plus option)
Top speed: 190 mph
Output: 408 hp @ 7,300 rpm, 310 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,521 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 22/17.5 mpg
ROGER HART: Every time I get out of a Porsche 911, I wonder why, if you had the means, would you drive anything else? This car comes about as close to a machine becoming an extension of you as any car I've driven. It's easy to dive in and out of traffic on the freeway, and with all of that power, way too easy to cruise way beyond the legal speed limit. The speed comes on effortlessly and before you know it, triple digits are registering.
The GTS model has 23 more horsepower than a 911 Carrera S, but it's difficult to really sort that out during a daily commute. Maybe the extra ponies would make themselves more known at the track, or on the autobahn. On the interstates in Michigan, it was difficult to notice them.
The 911 is always a joy to drive. With the Alcantara-covered wheel to the outstanding brakes, this is a terrific car. And it looked absolutely stunning sitting in my garage this morning. It's something I could get used to seeing.
MAC MORRISON: Other than allowing you to say, "My 911 is a GTS," I'm having a hard time justifying the substantial price jump from this Carrera S to the GTS. An extra 23 hp is nice, but it's far, far from changing the Carrera S experience in any significant way.
I'm quite familiar with 911s, and various versions of the car top my personal wish list. However, from what my drive in this car told me, I wouldn't spend a moment wishing I had spent the extra money on a GTS over a standard S. Porsche is squeezing every last bit it can out of the Carrera range before the next iteration arrives, but there's just no reason to buy into the 11th-hour madness.
But I want to look at the final sticker on a similarly equipped Carrera S. If it ends up being pretty close, then yeah, might as well go with the GTS.
JONATHAN WONG: What separates a Carrera S from a Carrera GTS? For starters, the GTS puts an $11,200 bigger dent in your pocketbook if you compare base prices, but you do get more in the GTS. More begins with the additional 23 hp that Mac and Roger mention above. Torque remains the same at 310 lb-ft but comes 200 rpm earlier at 4,200 rpm, compared with that on the S. Top speed of the GTS is 2 mph higher in the GTS at 188 mph and it gets to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch transmission, which is a smidge quicker than the S's 4.3-second time with the same gearbox, according to Porsche.
Visually, the GTS gains the wide bodywork from the all-wheel-drive models, a wider track, center-mount RS Spyder wheels with meaty 305/30R-19 tires in back, a different lower front fascia and side skirts. All of the exterior jewelry is painted black, which gives our particular black test car an even more sinister appearance.
In the cabin, the sport seats get Alcantara inserts to keep occupants better held in place, and Alcantara is also used to cover the steering wheel and the parking-brake handle.
Driving the GTS is, as expected, nothing short of spectacular. The boxer six-cylinder is eager and pulls throughout the rev range. The ZF gearbox is one of the best dual-clutch units available, with impeccable shift response. Steering is direct with loads of feedback and satisfying weight, and the brakes are typical Porsche strong. Find some corners and the GTS is unflappable, with more grip and capabilities than you'll ever be able to exhaust on the streets.
Porsche says it did the GTS to close the gap between the S and the GT3 with 435 hp. I didn't really think that gap was in need of filling, but with this generation of the 911 heading off in the sunset, you can't fault Porsche of squeezing ever last drop out of the 997 in its last year. And in Porsche terms, an $11,000 price jump isn't exactly jaw-dropping. You get some extra power, a wide body, slicker wheels and some fancy interior touches. I wouldn't blame you for throwing down for the GTS over the S.
MARK VAUGHN: If this is compromise, somebody alert Congress. The 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is supposed to be the perfect balance between screamers like the GT3 and the GT3 RS and the lower orders of Carrera. Well, frankly, I would take any of them, but the GTS is less severe and more liveable than a GT3 while allowing you to safely approach the GT3's handling prowess. It is maybe the fastest car you could drive every day, though, again, I would drive any of them every day. I'd be like the rat in the experiment that keeps hitting the "pleasure" button until it collapses from joy.
In this case (though the car is full of them) the pleasure button is perhaps the seven-speed PDK transmission on the GTS that I drove in Los Angles. In "D," in case you are trying to save gas or for some other reason restrain yourself, it upshifts way early. Use the shifter paddles while the trans is in D and it'll shift where you want it to shift but will then go back on its own to upshifting early. However, knock the shifter lever over to the left and it'll hold gears, allowing you to maintain composure through a turn, though if you forget and stop for a while at a red light it'll start in first. In sport and sport-plus it will hold gears and shift at higher rpm.
In any case, you get an awful lot out of the 408-hp flat-six with this. I got a 4.3-second 0-to-60-mph time, for instance, using our Racelogic timing device. Just step on the gas and go. I did not try the top track speed of 188 mph, but I have no reason to doubt it. If you insist on having angst you could say that the GT3 is best for great mountain roads and the simple Carrera is best for freeways. Frankly, you need to have one of each. But if you can't do that, the GTS is the best of all worlds.
That is, until the new 911 debuts at Frankfurt.
DAN NEIL: The new Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is heinously quick (4.0 seconds to 60 mph) and vulgarly fast (190 mph). It's also something of a personal fashion statement. Our test car, in "Guards" red with black-lacquer center-lock wheels, looked as if it had been drinking the blood of German supermodels. It sounds amazing, thanks in part to a sport-exhaust switch in the dash that uncorks the smut pipes. To fully engage the GTS's 3.8-liter flat-six is to answer the question: What does it sound like to cut Iron Man's head off with a chain saw?
And even though I actually, visibly crumpled when I looked at the price tag—$120,725, fully loaded—the car is kind of a bargain, considering it's from Zuffenhausen. The GTS is essentially an optioned-out version of the rear-drive Carrera S with an additional 23 hp. If you're ordering a Carrera S, that additional horseflesh will cost you $16,900 (the optional power kit). With the GTS, you get it free, sort of, as well as the wide-body, Amber Rose rear fender flares borrowed from the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4.
Repeat after me: Honey, we can't afford not to buy a GTS.
Alas, the car is obsolete. Porsche will unveil a new generation 911 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September (see sidebar). That car promises to be even quicker and faster, more fuel efficient, more comfortable and refined than the car it replaces, and it will avail itself of the Panamera's splendid console and switchgear design. Why would anyone buy a sports car that's instantly old, unless they have some sort of depreciation fetish?
I can only speculate.
The Porsche 911 is a special case in car connoisseurship, the only sports car for which enthusiasts actually pine for the older, less evolved versions of the car. There are many reasons for this. First, because the 911 has been around since 1963, there are generations of gearheads who became imprinted like ducklings on the 911's of their youth. Then there's reflected glory, guys wanting to buy a 911 like the one Steve McQueen drove at the beginning of "Le Mans" or like the one Hurley Haywood drove at Daytona. We're talking about the most-winning car in motorsports history. Plenty of glory to go around.
Then there's the weird mentality of 911 aficionados. The older cars, with their snatchy throttles, eruptions of turbo boost and catch-me-if-you-can oversteer, constitute a kind of hazing to be endured before one can join the 911 fraternity. Sure, anybody—even a poseur like me—can be fast around Laguna Seca in a new 911. To be fast in a '76 Turbo whale tail? That takes talent.
All the software and circuitry that makes modern Porsches safer and more accessible—traction and stability control, torque-vectoring, brake-force distribution, adaptive suspension and shift-by-wire double-clutch gearboxes—are regarded by many as dulling overburden between the driver and the pleasure of machine mastery.
It's a strange thing in the history of industrial design. Nobody goes in for a quadruple bypass and asks the doctor to pull the old heart-lung machine from storage. Nobody's shopping airline tickets looking to fly on a Douglas DC-3. But sports cars are sensual things, and the older cars are, well, more sensual.
2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
Base price: $103,100
Price, as tested: $120,725
Powertrain: Naturally aspirated 3.8-liter DOHC, 24-valve flat-six with variable intake and valve timing/lift; six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission; rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential.
Horsepower/Torque: 408 hp at 7,300 rpm/310 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm
Length/weight: 174.6 inches/3,197 pounds
Wheelbase: 92.5 inches
0-60 mph: 4 seconds (with PDK gearbox and Sport Chrono Plus option)
Top speed: 190 mph
EPA fuel economy: 19/26 mpg, city/highway
Cargo capacity: 3.7 cubic feet
Again, Porsche 911's are different. It's a rare and seriously unhinged car guy, or gal, who longs for the vital animism of an early 1990s Chevrolet Corvette. The guy on the block with a first-gen Viper is clueless. Older Porsches somehow get a pass—as do their owners.
The 911 GTS is not exactly a stone axe, of course. The engine is amazing: a direct-injection flat-six with Porsche Variocam timing and lift, punched up with a variable intake geometry acctuated by six butterflies, one for each cylinder. Some grinding and polishing, and more aggressive programming in the ECU, pencils out to an additional 23 hp (408 hp total) over the stock Carrera S, and delivers a flatter torque curve, plateauing from 310 pound-feet from 4,200 rpm to about 6,000 rpm (my estimate).
My test car's wick was further turned up with the double-clutch PDK gearbox and the Sport Chrono Plus package. It is certainly not the most powerful car in Porsche's lineup—that distinction goes to the 620-hp GT2 RS streetable race car, which could easily be the star in the remake of "How to Murder Your Wife." Nor is it the most focused. The variable-rate steering feels noticeably relaxed on center, compared to some of the company's more dance-y products. The cabin ambience is more relaxing and quieter than the sawmill that is the GT3.
But the GTS pushes all the right 911 buttons. For one thing, it's just plain fast, with a stern and devouring sports car demeanor from corner to corner that encourages you to brake ever later and get back to the throttle ever earlier, counting on the car's good manners to be there when you have to catch it. It's a wonderful combination of edginess and easiness.
Turn up the three-way suspension dampers and the GTS will utterly rattle the bone house, very like a proper sports car. The interior and steering wheel is wrapped in suede-like Alcantara. The seats fit me like a 42-Long suit. And, swathed in the company's SportDesign front spoiler and side skirts, the GTS offers much more of the usual curbside malevolence.
More than anything, this car makes me instantly, preemptively nostalgic. Can the blue-tipped acetylene of the current 911 survive another modernizing redesign? Gone soon will be the hydraulic power steering, the hilariously tiny rear seats, and the super-short wheelbase, which gives the car that ax-juggling, toss-and-catch thrill.
I can easily imagine purists waiting for the deep discounts to come on the superseded 911, the last real 911, by some accounts. I too find myself strangely dreading a better 911.
You Did What to My Porsche?: A Short History of 911 Sacrilege
Eternal and ever-changing, Porsche's 911 is nothing less than sports-car religion—or maybe a cult. Whenever the company changes the 911 in the interests of comfort, drivability or even performance, Porsche can expect to hear from zealots who fret the car is being softened, civilized, weenie-fied.
The next-generation 911 will be unveiled in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show but we already know the car (codenamed 991) will have 4-inch longer wheelbase in order to accommodate larger back seats and, a few years from now, a hybrid powertrain. Bigger back seats? Hybrids? Are they mad? Not only that, a longer wheelbase could threaten the nimbleness, the flick-ability that 911 fundamentalists cherish. The handbrake lever is going away (adieu, bootleg turns). And, greatest apostasy of all, the new car will have electric-assisted power steering, replacing the 911's much-beloved, nigh-perfect hydraulic system. Expect another chorus of indignation.
Below is a brief list of other Porsche 911 sacrileges. It should be noted that all of these changes ultimately made the car better.
1948 Type 356 'Gmund'
Arguably, Porsche's original sin. Rather than follow the example of the mid-engine 356 Number 1 Prototype, the series-production 356 situated the engine in the rear, over the axle, in order to take advantage of part sharing with the Volkswagen Beetle. The arrangement is less than ideal dynamically because it tends to make a car tail-heavy, more likely to over-rotate in corners and spin. The 911, introduced in 1963, followed the 356's rear-engine template. Porsche has spent decades perfecting the 911's rear-engine design, turning a handling vice into race-winning virtue.
1963 Type 911
Introduced in 1963, the car that would go on to be the most successful racing sports car in history was itself bigger, more comfortable and less severely elemental than the 356, which the 911 eventually replaced. Some purists get off the Porsche bandwagon with the 356.
1990 Type 964
A long-overdue update of the 911, the Type 964—first introduced as the Carrera 4, with all-wheel drive—deployed power steering, anti-lock brakes and coil-spring rear suspension, all of which made the car less demanding to drive and so less of a shibboleth barring ownership to the unskilled. The subsequent two-wheel drive version of the car introduced a torque converter-based automatic transmission, called Tiptronic.
1998 Model 996
For some Porsche-ophiles, this generation marks the division between Old and New Testament. This is the first 911 to have a water-cooled engine, as opposed to the time-honored air-cooled design. The end of history for some, the beginning for others.
Road Test: http://edmu.in/g4eEgU
Road & Track: http://bit.ly/cN9fXJ