A little fine-tuning goes a very long way
Those on the point of ordering a new Porsche 911 Carrera S have until now been faced with an interesting choice. Do you keep the car standard, or spend nearly £10,000 on an engine upgrade that raises the power of the 3.8-litre flat six from 394bhp to 424bhp?
This new GTS model already comes with the more potent engine. But it also comes with the wider body of the Carrera 4, active engine mounts, bespoke dampers, 20in wheels and a raft of cosmetic upgrades including an Alcantara and leather interior, black wheels, sports seats and sundry GTS badges stitched into the upholstery. What premium would you expect Porsche to charge for this package? £15,000? Actually, it’s just £7553.
I drove it in California at and on the roads around the extraordinary Willow Springs Raceway, which claims to be the oldest purpose-built Grand Prix track in the US, though what Grands Prix were held there is less clear – certainly none that I know. No matter, it is a facility in the finest traditions of the best old-school US circuits – blindingly fast, and merciless for those that get it wrong.
Within the road-going arena, it would be hard to think of another mainstream car that would have been easier to drive fast. The very next day I tried the new Mercedes-AMG GT coupé at Laguna Seca, which is a far easier track. While enthralled by the car, I found myself with hands as full as I’d like them to be. By contrast, the 911 swept around Willow Springs as if it had been set up for that track alone. Once, when I realised I was carrying too much speed into one steep downhill curve, I was able to bleed off the excess and make the apex as if I’d planned it that way all along. There was a time when a 911 would have put you in the County General for less than that.
The GTS is also the first 911 to receive the reworked seven-speed manual gearbox. Until now this transmission has provided as good a reason to spend the extra on PDK as you could find, but despite insisting there was nothing wrong with it, Porsche has still made the shift lighter and more precise and reduced internal friction in the ’box. And while still not quite as good as the six-speed unit in the Boxster and Cayman, it’s now and at last a pleasing and effective means of involving you more fully in the fun.
The GTS doesn’t feel like a new model, but rather a standard 911 that has been carefully optimised. It is at least as easy to live with as the cheapest Carrera, yet dynamically it’s on a different plane. The price of trading from an S to a GTS is £7553, but upgrading from a GTS to a GT3 costs £9442. And that is a different world.
Engine: 3.8 litres, 6 cylinders, normally aspirated
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 324lb [email protected]
Transmission: seven-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 190mph