If You Want the Purest Porsche Experience on the Road, Buy This Car
When Porsche introduced the manual 911 R last year, it made only 991 of them. The super-tuned monster sold out within minutes, though you can find them floating around now on the aftermarket for $1 million or more.
This is too bad, in a way, because Porsche ostensibly made the model for enthusiasts—but it was scooped up largely by collectors, strict purists, and VIPs, making it unavailable for the hordes of rabid Porsche fans and track addicts who would have killed to own such a singular prize.
Those who missed out on the 911 R parade may have mollified themselves with something like the 911 GT3, a $143,600, 500hp, track-ready racer complete with a spoiler lifted so high on the back the whole car screams “boy racer” from blocks away. (It’s not the look you’d want for an elegant evening out or a luxurious weekend getaway.) It is the water-cooled boss of the 911 family—super powerful, smooth, low, and tuned very tightly, with a suspension, brakes, and aerodynamics best-suited for track dominance.
But there’s also the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS to consider. With understated good looks, track-ready performance, and a starting price of $120,000, the 911 GTS is the obtainable alternative to the ultra-exclusive 911 R and the thinking man’s version of the flashy GT3. It’s the one you will want to take out (plenty of them will be made to go around)—the sweet spot in the 911 lineup you may have overlooked.
What’s the difference?
Porsche’s 911 GTS is the more-powerful, faster, tighter 911 that still looks calm and collected. It’s meant to appeal to the discerning buyer—not flashy, but engineered to perform on a par with others that are.
The coupe comes with Porsche’s famous boxer six engine tuned for 450-horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. That’s only 50hp fewer and 66 pound-feet more torque than the GT3, which I’ll remind you costs $23,600 more even if you don’t get upgrades.
What’s more, the twin-turbo 911 GTS hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds in manual (more on that in a second) form, just 0.1 second slower than that GT3. And the top speeds are basically the same, just shy of 200 mph.
In real-life terms, that means the car has a sporty punch and a sense of immediate power, whether you’re on the highway or the streets of Harlem. The tension on the GT sport-style steering wheel and the response from the chassis and suspension are impossible to ignore. (A refined slip regulation system and automatic brake differential help here, too; the car feels as connected to the road as a magnet.) Just put the car where you want it—it’s no lag, no hesitation.
A real joy comes with driving something so nimble and tightly tuned as a Porsche 911. But the beautiful thing about the GTS is that you don’t have to pay through the nose for it.
Save the Manual
The seven-speed, rear-wheel drive on the GTS in particular merits mention. It’s run by a manual transmission, which is standard here but not on many other cars. In fact, not many cars these days, let alone Porsches, can claim that.
After Porsche introduced the manual 911 R, the response from clients was such that Porsche introduced manual versions of the GT3 and GTS. (Manuals have been phased out largely in favor of the Formula 1-developed paddle technology that allows for optimal shifting. Automatic shifting is faster and more efficient than manual shifting, if a less than thrilling alternative.)
First, as the driver with a manual shifter, you control when and how quickly the car accelerates, at which engine speed and along whichever point in, say, the turn that you want. That engagement, rather than letting a computer doing it for you at preset increments, makes driving quite fun. While the PDK (paddle) automatic shifting on the GTS is 0.4 seconds faster to 60 mph and more fuel efficient, a manual transmission allows for more spirited driving on the road. It means you can pick the exact moment when you shift up to extend the car’s legs, as it were, or shift down in anticipation of leap frogging someone in traffic a moment later. It means you get nervous chasing down cars ahead of you, and choosing the right moment to downshift out of a curve feels like a game.
Secondly, in an age when even Malcolm Gladwell questions the viability of human-piloted cars in the near future, controlling a car through shifting is a worthy badge of honor. It’s becoming a rarified skill—a tangible link to Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and James Bond.
Rather than sitting ON seats inside the car, grasping the stick shift awkwardly over a bulbous center console or reaching to fumble through needless knobs, the minimalist controls make you feel as though you’re sitting IN the sport seats, with the few control buttons, adjustment switches, and shifting stick all within easy reach. You never have to extend or reach out of your way; it’s always eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. That perfect design interior is key to why Porsche is the most beloved German brand on the road today.
In fact, the policemen who approached me last week in New York identified the GTS from blocks away.
I’ve driven many sexy, expensive, and/or rare cars in my neighborhood, but it took a carmine red Porsche 911 GTS to compel the fellas from the local precinct to get out of their cruiser and chat while I photographed the car. The GTS is their dream Porsche—their dream car, they told me. They knew all the specs: the manual transmission, the rear-wheel drive, the bi-Xenon headlights, the rear spoiler that extends automatically under certain speeds, and the horsepower and engine configuration that characterize the one car they’d buy if they could afford it.
They’re not the only ones. Just days ago Porsche announced it will offer both the plucky Boxster and the playful Cayman in GTS versions as well. If those two are anything like the 911 GTS, they’re going to be very special. I can’t wait.