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The ultimate non-Motorsport 911 is now available in the UK with a manual gearbox. Does it offer pure driving pleasure?

What is it?

In theory, this is the ultimate ‘normal’ 911 for those focused on the provision of pure driving pleasure, before the range takes a big step up in both price and concept into the uncompromised realm of the Porsche Motorsport-developed GT series of 911s.

The GTS range mirrors that of all ‘lesser’ 911s and is therefore available with coupé, cabriolet or Targa bodywork, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and manual or paddle-shift gears. But given that less has almost always meant more in the land of the 911, our focus here falls on the simplest: the basic rear-drive, three-pedal coupé, which has finally landed in the UK.

In practice and when viewed with the most objective of eyes, this car is a parts bin special - the 911 Porsche would build were it ticking the options boxes for you. Yes, it’s the first rear-drive 911 to be available with the wider bodywork usually reserved for four-wheel-drive models, but the 30bhp hike in engine output to 444bhp is the same as you’d enjoy if you ordered the power upgrade kit for your Carrera S. Also, the PASM suspension management and lowered sports suspension that are options on cheaper 911s are here in standard form. The centre-lock wheels are taken from the Turbo model.

If you want adaptive dampers, rear-wheel steering or carbon-ceramic brakes, you’re still going to have to put your hand in your pocket.

Visually, there’s a fractional aero enhancement to the front spoiler, balanced by an additional lip on the rear wing and the usual GTS treatment of black wheels, blackened sports exhausts, smoked headlamp glass and, inside, a smattering of badges and a swathe of Alcantara upholstery.

What's it like?

I can’t think of a car I’ve driven that's more spec-dependent than this. Drive another GTS, but with four-wheel drive, a PDK gearbox and a Targa body, and it’s not like you’re driving another kind of 911, but another kind of car altogether. This car is as different in character from that car as is that car to a Panamera, and not just because the Targa is an enormous 135kg heavier than the coupé.

The manual, rear-drive GTS coupé may just be largely an artfully assembled confection of pre-existing components, but when it’s Porsche doing the picking, we should perhaps not be too surprised when the result appears somewhat greater than the sum of its parts. Without affecting to the smallest extent the everyday practicality, ride and refinement of the standard 911 offering, this GTS adds an entire additional dimension of dynamism.

And yes, I’m sure this could be measured by how quickly it accelerates to any given speed, or what number you could get to appear on its little g-force meter, but that, emphatically, is not what this 911 is about. It’s about feel, establishing a sense of connection between car and driver, born from the confidence inspired by a near-flawless chassis and thrust forward by an engine that’s as strong in the mid-range as ever but in a different league at the top end.

You’d not think 30bhp could make such a big difference, but its real contribution is to allow the power curve to climb more steeply as the revs rise, creating a crescendo effect closer to that of a normally aspirated engine than traditional turbos usually manage.

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The engine helps the chassis, too. GT models aside, this is the most powerful rear-drive 911 in history, and its added urge balances out the additional ability provided by the PASM adaptive damping and sports suspension to perfection. The nose bites hard into the apex, but you can use the torque to tax the rear tyres right to edge of adhesion at the exit, or over it if you so choose.

Should I buy one?

For those wanting a 911 that retains all its legendary everyday appeal while providing a level of driver involvement beaten only by the GT3, the GTS should be the automatic choice. Financially, just adding the powerkit and suspension modifications to a Carrera S brings you to within a few hundred pounds of the GTS’s list price, without the wide body, centre-lock wheels and visual enhancements that are not on the options list.

But there’s another way of looking at the GTS altogether: think of it not only as an up-spec normal 911, but as a slimmed and toned Turbo. It has more than 90% of the Turbo’s power-to-weight ratio but doesn't have the fat body and heavy four-wheel drive system, plus it gives you the choice of two or three pedals. It also has a far nicer engine noise, and I’d bet it would be quicker around a track, too. It’s also almost £33,000 cheaper.

In short, if you’re in the market for a non-Motorsport 911, don’t ask yourself why you should buy a GTS, but answer a far more difficult question instead: why you should not.

Porsche 911 GTS

Location Exmoor Price £95,795 Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 2981cc, twin-turbo, petrol Power 444bhp at 6500rpm Torque 405lb ft at 2150rpm 0-62mph 4.1sec Top speed 193mph Gearbox 7-spd manual Kerb weight 1525kg Economy 30.1mpg (combined) CO2 212g/km, 37% Rivals Jaguar F-Type R, Aston Martin V8 Vantage

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Comments
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DVB78 15 May 2017

Re: Er......

As we know most yank cars cant corner for didly squat!
It probably only comes in LHD, and while you may save 40-50k on price, you'll need that to cover the petrol costs!
manicm 12 May 2017

'If you want adaptive dampers

'If you want adaptive dampers, rear-wheel steering or carbon-ceramic brakes, you’re still going to have to put your hand in your pocket.'

PASM is adaptive dampers and is standard across the 911 range.

Quattro369 12 May 2017

3.0?!

Erm... @Autocar: I'm pretty sure to GTS has a 4.0 engine... not 3.0.
liquidgold 12 May 2017

Don't be

It is a turbocharged 3.0.