This may border on sacrilege for a guy with as much German heritage as me, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the Porsche 911. Sure, I loved them as a kid, and built plenty of 911 models and slot cars. By the time I finally got to drive one, maybe my expectations were just too high; the car failed to live up to what I thought a 911 should be. Early models felt like fast VW Beetles to me, and even the storied 930 didn’t intimidate me as much as it should have. I admired the 911SC for its superb balance and bulletproof reliability, but never had the ambition to own one. There were far better cars, in my eyes, for far less money.
I had some down time between Friday’s events at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, so I ambled up to the Porsche booth, intent on driving the Panamera Turbo. Maybe, I thought, the car’s performance could get me past its looks. As I filled out the liability waiver, the friendly representative asked if I’d driven the new 911 Carrera GTS yet. Since the answer was “no”, I shelved the idea of driving the Panamera in favor of the latest flavor 911. Slotted between the 911 Carrera S and the 911 GT3, the Carrera GTS seemed to have just the right recipe of performance and civility. It was, however, a 911, so I climbed on board with some skepticism, prepared to find something I didn’t like about the car. By the second turn, I was trying hard to remember why I didn’t like 911s in the first place.
The 911 Carrera GTS makes 408 horsepower, which is 23 more than the Carrera S but 27 less than the GT3. From the outside, it looks like a “standard” 911, albeit one with a slightly wider track since the GTS uses the body of the Carrera 4. It doesn’t get the Carrera 4’s AWD, though, sending its power to the rear wheels only just as Ferdinand Porsche intended. Clutch uptake was as smooth as a knife through butter, with a surprisingly light pedal effort. Shift throws were short, without the rubbery feel I mentally associated with previous generation 911s. The steering was as precise as a laser scalpel, and heavily weighted to remind you that this is a driver’s car.
Zero to sixty comes up in about 4 seconds, although I didn’t have the opportunity to time it. Top speed on the GTS is 190 miles per hour, but that’s another bit of data I couldn’t certify on Amelia Island’s traffic-clogged roads. In Sport mode, I tried without luck to get power-on oversteer in a corner; I also tried to get lift throttle oversteer to no avail. No matter what I threw at it, the car was nothing but poised, with much higher limits than I could explore on public roads.
I have to admit that the 911 Carrera GTS impressed me, and was everything I expected a Porsche 911 to be. I could own one of these (if only there were two more zeros before the period in my bank balance) and never be disappointed by performance or feel. It’s docile enough to drive in traffic, but hardcore enough that you won’t master the handling in a single track-day session. It’s the most solid 911 I’ve ever driven, and the first that didn’t leave me scratching my head at buttons, knobs and switches in all the wrong places. Regardless of your past impressions, drive the GTS if you get the chance. The downside is you’ll end up wondering how long you’ll have to eat ramen before you can scrape together enough cash to buy one.