New Porsche 911 GTS lives up to its driver’s car reputation
The old Du Toitskloof Pass that straddles the mountains between Paarl and Worcester may lack the glamour and the reputation of the nearby Franschhoek Pass. But from a driving perspective, it can be as thrilling, and as satisfying.
It offers fewer tight and twisty turns and more of the fast and flowing stuff. It’s also not as congested with view-hungry tourists, but it does attract a fair number of trucks that dodge the toll fees of the Huguenot Tunnel and chug up and down the pass’ steep slopes instead.
Right now, however, the ribbon of tar rapidly unspooling through the raked windscreen is empty, the fynbos on my right is a grey-green blur, and the narrow verge on my left is the only barrier between the road and a dizzying drop into the valley below.
The Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel in my hands squirms and twitches as the car rides the road’s bumps and dips, while behind me, I can hear the raspy rise and fall of a highly vocal flat-six engine above the rush of the slipstream.
This isn’t just driving. This is total immersion in one of life’s great motoring pleasures: piloting a Porsche 911. And this 911 is something special, as the GTS badge on the back confirms.
The GTS has become a favourite version of Porsche’s most illustrious model among those seeking something edgier than the vanilla 911, but who consider the fire-breathing GT3 (and it’s even more pugnacious GT3 RS sibling) too hot too handle.
It’s a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde machine, this GTS: docile and tractable in traffic, yet capable of delivering rip-roaring, adrenaline-pumping, sphincter-tightening driving fun when the traffic thins, the roads turn twisty, and you hammer the throttle in Sport or Sport Plus mode.
I had feared that this latest-generation 911 had become too large, too heavy and too laden with technology. My favourite 911 remains a late 1980s 3.0 Carrera, complete with five-speed manual gearbox, air-cooled engine and rear-wheel drive.
And yes, the 911 has come a long way in the intervening three decades. It’s become more complex and arguably less purist. But it’s also taken full advantage of ever-improving technology, and become faster, more efficient and more competent in the process.
The car I’m driving today is the all-new GTS – the first to use Porsche’s cleaner and more efficient turbocharged boxer six, as opposed to the previous, normally aspirated mill. Do I hear the traditionalists groan?
Indeed, it seems a shame to give up the linear power delivery, the free-revving spirit – and that spine-tingling sound – of the old 3,8-litre for what is likely to be a more muted, more polite delivery from the 3,0-litre twin-turbo engine. But wait – all is not what it seems.
On paper, the newcomer now serves up 331 kW at 6 500 rpm – 15 kW more than the previous GTS. Torque is pegged at 550 Nm, already on tap from just more than 2 150 rpm and sustained to 5 500 rpm.
But here’s the good news – the turbo engine revs with real enthusiasm. And it still sounds like a flat-six: a hoarse, raspy grumble that becomes a hooligan howl at full tilt.
The GTS comes in coupé, cabriolet and targa versions, with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, as well as either a seven-speed manual or the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox. Our steed is the Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet PDK. I’d rather have the tin-top coupé, but ragtops are hugely popular in glamour-conscious South Africa.
GTS-specific highlights include the wider ‘S’ body, combined with a more aggressive aero kit, black trim and black 20-inch wheels with centre-lock hubs. A louder (yay!) sports exhaust is standard, as is a sports chassis and a 20 mm lower ride height.
The cockpit gets Alcantara for the high-backed sport seats and the thick-rimmed steering wheel. Sound, comms and navigation are served up via a central touch-screen display, while a bespoke Porsche Track Precision app can record driving data for later analysis.
But really, the 911 GTS is all about driving – and Du Toitskloof provides the perfect proving ground. Short straights and fast sweeps encourage full use of the Porsche’s sprinting talents, while the occasional bits of tight demand a late dab of the brakes and incisive steering input.
Unsurprisingly, the GTS is quick: the all-wheel drive puts all the urge to work, allowing the car to rocket from rest to 100 km/h in just 3,7 sec, and to 160 km/h in 8,4 sec. Top speed is an unruly and largely academic 306 km/h.
However, it’s the way the GTS goes about its business in the curves and corners that really impresses. The steering is sweet and lively, despite the all-wheel drive: there’s just the right balance between heft and assistance, and the dialogue between car and driver is direct and unequivocal.
The ride is taut but always supple, with just enough stiffness to keep things tidy. And the brakes – 350 mm discs with six-pot callipers up front, 330 mm discs and four-potters at the rear – bite with intent, but offer plenty of pedal feel.
The GTS turns in crisply, and you almost expect the rear to loosen as the weight transfers, but the all-wheel drive keeps things tidy, with just a hint of oversteer to tighten the line when pressing on. The attitude is neutral, but the experience is thrilling and engaging.
The PDK gearbox is a beaut, shifting rapidly and incisively, while in Sport and Sport Plus mode, the exhaust crackles and pops on the overrun, adding further appeal to the sporty GTS soundtrack.
Despite a kerb mass on the wrong side of 1 500 kg, and dimensions that have grown to 4 ,53 metres long and 1,85 metres wide, the 911 GTS feels wieldy, lively, agile and boisterous. It gathers speed with an exuberance that demands respect, but offers levels of traction and poise that boost confidence and flatter driving skills.
And then, after a full day’s driving carving through corners for the camera, the 911 GTS becomes a docile commuter, effortlessly coping with the slow crawl of a congested highway, while the climate control and the sound system cool fraying tempers …
Is the GTS the ultimate expression of the modern 911 art? Petrolheads will argue that the hard-core GT3 deserves that title.
But the GTS is the more versatile, the more user-friendly, the more realistic choice – a sports car that can go harder and faster than most people dare, but is equally adept at cross-country cruising, or dealing with urban congestion. It is what a 911 should be: an everyday sports car, but with an extra dose of welcome spice.
911 Carrera 2 GTS Coupé R1 695 000
911 Carrera 2 GTS Cabrio R1 842 000
911 Carrera 4 GTS Coupé R1 820 000
911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabrio R1 966 000
911 Targa 4 GTS R1 966 000