What is it?
It is, if Porsche’s new boss Matthias Muller has got his head around the product plan during his first six weeks on the job, the last of the 997-generation 911s before the next model arrives in the autumn of 2011.
In fact, other Porsche insiders suggest there may yet be one or two more editions to come but either way, this model, called Carrera GTS has the potential to be one of the sweetest 997s, period.
It takes the wider track and shell of the four-wheel-drive Carrera 4S but drives the rear wheels only. The 3.8-litre engine has the power kit installed, so it has six per cent more power than a Carrera S (now 402bhp), produced slightly further up the rev range (now 7300rpm). There’s a 4.6 per cent more torque, too (at 310lb ft), and its peak is available slightly earlier, at 4200rpm. The sports exhaust system comes as standard, incidentally.
The wider track (by 2mm at the front and 32mm at the rear) has allowed some suspension reprofiling, so you get stiffer springs and anti-roll bars. The 19in rear tyres are wider too, at 305/30. Porsche claims the GTS is “more neutral” than the Carrera S.
Cosmetically the car gets a GT3-esque, Alcantara-coated steering wheel; the material is used on the gearlever and handbrake. You lose the rear seats in the coupe, saving helping a GTS to weigh 5kg less than a Carrera S, although you can still have the rear accommodation as a no-cost option.
External styling features include a front splitter and side skirts, logos on the doors, black-painted, centre-hub wheel and similar-coloured exhaust pipes at the rear. You can also spec a 90-litre fuel tank as a no-cost option, as with the GT3.
For all this you’ll pay just under £77k in the UK, around £11k less than a GT3.
What’s it like?
Sublime. The first thing that strikes you is just how great the car is at being docile. Pock-marked, urban roads don’t seem to trouble its suspension set-up (we’d think long and hard before choosing the optional sports chassis with limited-slip diff), and the engine’s flexibility allows you to cruise with ease.
Show the GTS a bit of open road, though, and it has more than enough dynamic ability to put a smile on your face. The steering is wonderfully direct, with excellent initial bite and great feeling. And while the eventual trend is towards understeer, the chassis does feel like it wants you to lean on it through every corner. It’s perhaps not quite as light on its feet as a GT3 - but hey, it does weigh 25kg more.
The power kit makes its presence felt, but you’re more likely to feel it on a racetrack. That’s because while there is indeed a small increase in torque lower down the revs, as if the engine is breathing slightly more freely, the bigger gain comes beyond 6200rpm, when the motor feels like a completely different powerplant.
The air intake system suddenly opens an extra inlet to each cylinder, freeing up a few more horses and making a noise like a pure racing engine. Your only regret will be that it doesn’t sound like this at 4000rpm, because you need to be pushing on to hear it.
Our test car had Porsche’s carbon composite brakes fitted. An expensive option, they have terrific feel and they proved resistant to fade on even a long mountain descent. But we see little to worry about on the regular spec, which we tried in cabriolets on similar roads.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. If you frequently want to get from A to B in appalling weather, by all means stick with a Turbo. If you’re a regular on the track day scene and want to take everything to extremes, you can still sign up for a GT3 RS.
But if you want an intoxicating blend of everyday usability, the throttle response of a naturally aspirated engine, communicative steering and enough performance to thrill you on any B-road, you shouldn’t look past the GTS. It is quite possibly all the 911 you’ll ever need.
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
Price: £76,758; Top speed: 190mph; 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Fuel economy: 26.6mpg (combined); CO2: 250g/km; Kerb weight: 1420kg; Engine 6 cyls, 3800cc, petrol; Power: 402bhp at 7300rpm; Torque: 310lb ft at 4300rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual