New upper-mid-range 911 is as notable for its value as its performance credentials; both are very good

What is it?

The 911 GTS is the latest addition to the fabled Porsche 911 family, recently arrived on UK roads. It joins equivalents in the company’s Cayman, Boxster, Panamera and Cayenne ranges and plays yet another distinct role within a 911 model range already crowded with bit-parters.

Slotting in on price, performance and sporting purposefulness between a normal Carrera S and the full-blooded GT3, the GTS is Porsche’s new medium-hot, medium-affordable derivative. Moreover, its identity is allegedly that of the everyday-use, highly developed road-going performance special.

That’s as distinct from the comfy one (Targa), the fast one (Turbo), the trackday one (GT3) and the upcoming even more specialised trackday one (GT3 RS) – and it’s not counting coupés and convertibles, rear-drive and four-wheel-drive variants, normal and ‘S’ models or special editions separately.

So on the face of it, this is a car that seems to answer absolutely no need whatsoever. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cars like the 911 subsist on a fairly modest customer base, and with the current 991 generation now approaching middle age, Porsche needs something to lure owners back into the showroom.

With the awesome GT3 now all but sold out, the company also needs a more pragmatic counterpoint to offer customers clearly not in the market for the imminent GT3 RS. That, in a nutshell, is the GTS’s raison d’etre: to add spice to the model range, but at a level that isn’t too rarefied.

What's it like?

It’s very good – mainly because it’s a Porsche 911 sprinkled with go-faster dust, when normal 911s are already pretty special devices. But when you strip away what it really is, the GTS actually appeals more as a shrewd buy than as some kind of idealised sweet spot on the 911 ownership ladder.

Porsche has simply taken a regular Carrera S, thrown into the mix the wider body and axle tracks of the Carrera 4 and the engine upgrade of the optional ‘powerkit’, and likewise included some items of drivetrain and chassis equipment as standard that you’d otherwise have to pay extra for. So the GTS gets Porsche’s Sport Chrono Plus package with sports exhaust and dynamic engine mounts, its torque vectoring set-up with the limited-slip diff and its actively damped PASM adjustable suspension thrown in.

It doesn’t have Porsche’s PDDC active anti-roll bars, but conveniently you wouldn’t want them. However, were you to order the car’s standard specification on a normal Carrera S, you’d get within £2000 of the GTS’s list price - not counting the leather/alcantara interior, wide body or the powerkit upgrade. Easy sell, then.

Added to that, there are one or two ways in which the GTS’s mechanical specification is genuinely new. The suspension and steering have been retuned for greater dynamic poise and feedback, with 10mm of ride height having been taken out of the former compared with the PASM set-up on the Carrera S.

The GTS is also the first 911 to benefit from a retuning of the 991’s standard seven-speed manual gearbox for better shift quality. While it was a popular opinion, I’ve never had a problem with the way other manual 911s change gear. Nor did I lose sleep when the GT3 switched to PDK-only.

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While it’s a more civilised device than a GT3, you wouldn’t call the GTS a particularly comfortable tourer. The standard 20in rims and low-profile tyres kick up noticeably more road roar than you’ll find in any GT worth its salt, the flat six ranges from vocal to very vocal in its various exhaust modes, and you have to keep that engine stoked up with frequent gearchanges in order to make the car feel seriously fast.

All of which you’ll take considerable pleasure in doing. The car’s deliciously harmonious and substantial controls make every interaction a joy, and the way the flat six builds to an eccentric 7500rpm climax is automotive theatre at its most addictive.

The car’s ride is compliant enough to deal well with most UK road surfaces, but it feels resolutely firm – and quite uncompromising in its body control at times. Porsche 911s are inherently busier on their springs than other sports cars because of their weight distribution, and rather than allowing the body to bob a little at either axle when disturbed by a bump, the GTS’s dampers make their presence felt.

The car is better tied down than lesser models as a result, as well as flatter and more precise when cornering, but it can be a touch wearing over a bad surface.

Besides the improved shift quality, the GTS also beats its lesser siblings on steering weight and feedback, which both build more usefully away from straight-ahead. Lateral grip levels are such that you’ll need to be on a closed road or a circuit to probe them fully; on the road, even in fairly slippery conditions, balance, directional response, handling accuracy and stability are excellent.

Should I buy one?

The Porsche 911 continues to offer a more immersive and invigorating driving experience than any other sports car for the money, and this one certainly deserves a rank as one of the good ones.

It isn’t the most rounded or well mannered of grand tourers, and judged against rivals its bald performance is now much more commendable for its quality than its quantity, but its usability continues to distinguish it among less practical two-seaters.

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That the GTS feels more like a well-equipped but familiar 991 than any new, more variously talented machine speaks volumes about its stature in the canon of great 911s. Though less practical, a GT3 is a much more compelling drive than the £9000 difference in list price between the cars would suggest. The going rate for an as-new GT3 currently makes that difference more like £40,000, for what it’s worth.

For this tester’s money, assuming the GT3 and other more exotic models were out of reach, it’d be a toss-up between this GTS and a sparsely equipped, rear-driven, 3.4-litre manual Carrera for the pick of the 911 range. If going fast matters as much to you as having fun, the GTS wins. But whichever you chose, you’ll have a sports car of effusive charm and character.

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

Price £91,098; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3800cc, petrol; Power 424bhp at 7500rpm; Torque 325lb ft at 5750rpm; Gearbox 7-spd manual; Kerb weight 1500kg; Top speed 190mph; 0-62mph 4.4sec; Economy 29.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 223g/km, 35% 

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Matty_Hall 30 January 2015

Of course you can still have

Of course you can still have a manual! That's the only reason they'll sell some and stop everyone going for the GT3.
jason_recliner 29 January 2015

you can still get a manual!

Might be the pick of the range.
eseaton 29 January 2015

It is strange. I don't

It is strange. I don't recall ever reading a post from a fan of manual gearboxes wishing for the demise of the automatic gearbox. If you don't like changing gear, you are lucky - you have what you want. I love some cars to be autos. And some to be manuals. And I dearly want to be able to have both. Really, I think the 'electronics is best brigade' need to be very clear in their minds which physical function it is they do like doing. Steering? What if someone came up with a 'line enhancing' steering system? I can't see that exactly the same arguments couldn't be applied.