As I'm sure we've all seen while window-shopping the Porsche website, there are a total of 22 different 911 variants—that was at the time of writing this. It's probably gone up since. I won't even get into the sedans, SUVs, or mid-engine cars. The 911 you see here is the latest variation that wedges in between the Carrera S and other higher-performance models. It is the GTS, which is in some ways a performance package for the regular-ole 911, and moves it closer to a Turbo or even something like a GT3. This isn't the first GTS, but it certainly deserves a new conversation.
When I drove the 991.1 GTS, Porsche had me take the car from L.A. out to Rosamond to lap the car at Big Willow, a fast-sweeping racetrack that allows high-strung sports cars to really stretch their legs. That GTS was powered by a high-revving, 430hp 3.8L flat-six. This new 991.2 GTS has switched to the same 3.0L twin-turbo flat-six found in the current base and S model 911s. As with the power bump from base to S, the GTS uses bigger turbochargers to get its 450 hp. The 20hp difference between the new 991.2 and old 991.1 GTS doesn't sound like much. The big difference, however, between dot-1 and dot-2 cars is the personality of forced induction, which feels different on the road, given that the old engine makes 325 lb-ft of torque at 5,750 rpm, while the smaller forced-induction engine is more of an early riser, producing 405 lb-ft as low as 2,150 rpm and carrying that number all the way up to 5,000 rpm. The question you should be asking is, do I want a truck-like torque curve in a sports car? The answer is a resounding, "It kinda depends." And I will cover that in great detail a little later.
For this trip, Porsche decided renting a racetrack for the GTS would have been a bit too cliche. After all, if you really intend to track your car on a regular basis, you should be buying a GT3, or a GT3RS, or even a Cayman GT4 Club Sport (it's not the craziest idea). Instead, we flew to Reno, Nevada, to then drive up to Truckee, California, a peaceful ski town bordering beautiful Lake Tahoe. It gets more complicated as not only did our drive encircle Tahoe, but we also spent time on the famous Virginia City Hill Climb Route. It's somewhat of a substitute for a track, while being more in line with how owners will likely use these cars.
The GTS is available in all the regular 911 variants, so if you want a coupe in rear or all-wheel drive, you can do so. You can have a Cabriolet in rear of all-wheel drive, or a Targa, with the one caveat being the wonderfully complicated Targa is still only available with all-wheel drive. I still can't quite grasp the desire to own a high-performance car in anything other than a coupe, but I guess if you can swing a car like this, you can also afford great hair that deserves to be on display. Someone at Porsche must share my feelings, as all GTS cars use the wider body of Carrera 4, but only the coupes get the higher-performance and ever so slightly lower PASM Sport Suspension, while Cabs and Targas get standard PASM.
All of the cars, however, get the more aggressive front bumper and a rear spoiler that deploys higher than either the base or S Carrera. While it does claim greater downforce, Porsche doesn't give an actual number. On the outside, GTS buyers also get standard SportDesign Mirrors, Bi-Xenon headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System, satin black center-lock wheels off of the Turbo, as well as some shiny black exterior trim pieces to help distinguish it from other 911s. Mechanically, there is the aforementioned PASM Sport on coupes, Porsche Torque Vectoring differential, standard Sport Chrono Pack, Sport Exhaust (with decreased sound insulation), and don't forget the "GTS" stickers on the doors. All of this was explained to us sitting fireside, sipping cocktails in an outdoor lounge filled with Scandinavian furniture—for the record, that's how I imagine all of you are reading this.
Our host hotel is a quaint, rustic log cabin roughly the size of a shopping mall. Although we're well into spring, Porsche arranged for a nice snow flurry the day before our arrival. It made for some great scenery on the way in, luckily without hampering the next day's drive.
Nearly every breakfast item on the hotel restaurant's menu includes some combination of bacon, maple syrup, and flannel. I order the yogurt, which comes with granola, fruit, and a look of disappointment from the bearded cooking staff. It's OK, I do my part for Porsche light-weighting, too.
Like all of the current widebody cars, the GTS is big; the silver paint on our Carrera4 is none too slimming. It looks big parked in the valet and it feels big on the road. Luckily, most of the roads in this area are plenty wide, but I've found in the past that driving one of these on some of my favorite roads in Southern California proves nerve wracking as those rear fenders, which require an extra 1.73 inches of real estate, tend to fill up a standard lane pretty handily. What helps shrink down the car, at least perceptually, is the optional rear-wheel steer system. I've had mixed feelings about it in the past; I can assure you, it's gotten better as Porsche has spent time on continual development with every new model.
Our caravan of test cars roll out of the circular drive framed by decorative snow early in the morning; Porsche had planned an extra-long drive route. The roads around Lake Tahoe are similar to something you might find around St. Moritz or Zurich, just lined with liquor stores selling cheap sunglasses and beach umbrellas. In the short off-season, Tahoe's roads are free from tourists either on their way to ski slopes or to put boats in the lake. For the most part, I was able to drive along at whatever pace felt appropriate—that wouldn't land me in jail.
Buying the GTS earns you the privilege of choosing the $4,130 GTS Interior Package; as privilege never comes without price, it also requires the purchase of the $3,850 Alcantara Package. For the almost eight grand, you get contrasting stitching, carbon-fiber interior trim, Alcantara wheels, shift boot, and armest along with some embroidered logos on the headrests—great for subtle social-media selfie bragging. You also get a red-faced tachometer, which I would try to find a way to skip. It sounds like a big chunk of cash and—let's be honest, it is, but you deserve it. Overall, the interior is 911 excellent, just with racier materials. Right from the start, everything is where you think it should be, and like all 911s of the past, the headroom allows for proper upright seating, there is plenty of room for bigger people, and material choice and build quality are excellent. If multimillion-dollar fighter jets were flown by the people paying for them, I would imagine the cockpits would look more like this.
There is a section of Highway 89 that traces the ridge above Emerald Bay high above the water. One turn in particular is a 180-degree hairpin without guardrails with a steep drop-off to the outside and the perfect place for photography. After several sweeps of that same corner, I was able to get the GTS right up to its limits. It lets go at the back first in a very predictable and smooth way. The rear-engine weight bias is still obvious, but with a 305/30-20 tire outback being wrangled by a torque-biasing differential, it's simple to keep it in check. It doesn't scream all-wheel drive, but it feels more automated than in a base Carrera that would require a bit more discretion of the right foot and a little faster hand on the wheel. Suddenly a big difference in personality becomes apparent.
The roads start to open up as soon as you drop out of the south side of the lake. The pine trees become scarce and you find yourself in the high desert heading east. On some long, narrow straight sections, it's possible to open up the car. The GTS has power at any rpm. Even at 2,500 rpm, it pulls hard. Unlike a lot of current turbo engines, it still builds power at the high end. So many cars now with huge torque numbers run out of breath not long after 5,000 rpm, but the GTS keeps building up until 6,500 rpm, a thousand short of its redline. The old GTS spun up to 7,800 rpm, but for some reason, it felt higher and the 7,500-rpm horsepower peak made for more of a crescendo.
I'm sure the aero of the GTS is better than the base car, but it would certainly take back-to-back drives at high speeds to really know for sure. I can tell you, the car is amazingly stable at any speed attainable by non-lunatics on U.S. roads. Even with reduced noise insulation, the GTS at 70 mph is quieter inside than a 993 coasting down a hill at 30 mph with the engine off.
We stop for lunch in Gardnerville. The Overland Restaurant and Bar is famous for its Piggy Poppers, which are like jalapeno poppers, but wrapped in bacon before being breaded and deep fried, the perfect accompaniment for a tri-tip hoagie. Some may see this as gratuitous excess, but I'm not sure anyone pulling into the parking lot in a $155,000 sports car is capable of making that call. I had a Cobb salad. During lunch, I asked Porsche PR why anyone still buys a 911 S, after the launch of the GTS. Apparently not everyone wants all the performance options included in the GTS. Why buy an S, if not for the added performance?
After lunch, we jumped into a red Carrera 2 GTS for comparison. We take the scenic route out of Gardnerville, through Genoa, briefly back onto more mountain roads, before dropping back into Carson City, the state capital of Nevada. The Carrera 2 GTS isn't glaringly different than the Carrera 4 GTS earlier in the day. The front may feel slightly lighter, but you couldn't tell if placed in a car blindfolded. Accelerating out of the tightest of corners, you can feel the difference, but you have to be pushing, hard.
After a traffic-jammed Carson City, we started toward Virginia City, what was once a 19th century mining town, now home to fudge and taffy emporiums neighboring saloons that certainly sell more T-shirts than whisky these days. On the way up, instead of the major road, we use the Virginia City Hill Climb route of Occidental Grade, a 5.2-mile climb, ironically passing the Storey County Sheriff's Office Detention Center, right at the top of the road. Luckily, we only saw it from the outside.
We took several passes at the famous route, ya know, for science. The Carrera 2 GTS never really struggles for grip, when pushed, it just doesn't feel quite as well balanced as the C4. With all the extra rear width, big tires, and everything happening out back, the front end feels less involved. It is hard to pinpoint if it is the power going to the front wheels, or if just adding some heavy luggage in the front of the car would balance out the sensation. Either way, if I was buying a GTS, I would definitely lean toward the C4. Either car will fly up the hill in a manner that should earn you a spot in the previously mentioned detention center. The brakes, like all 911s, are race car-level powerful and provide nearly as much feedback and confidence. The C2 I was driving was equipped with the seven-speed manual, and while I will happily sing the praises of PDK, I was smitten with the three pedals. It isn't Cayman GT4 good, but Porsche engineers were forced to create a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine to manually shift what is essentially a PDK stripped of its robot.
With the exhaust valves open, it crackles and pops like all modern performance cars, but doesn't seem quite so obnoxious as some others. The engine sounds good, like a real 911. The beauty of it, even with the bigger turbochargers, is the linearity of the power delivery. Like the smaller turbo cars, it never develops that big wallop of torque that ruins cars like the M3 and M4. It feels like a really big Porsche flat-six, like if they would have built a 5.0L at some point. That is the beauty of this engine: While you have all the torque down low, it isn't delivered in a way that makes you drive the car differently.
With all the technology on this GTS, from torque vectoring to rear-wheel steering and the active suspension, not to mention the power, I am traveling at speeds that would leave the base Carrera in the weeds. The question is—am I having any more fun? And that is a tough one to answer without also asking the question of how much performance do you really need for the street?
I can't answer that one for you. Some of it comes down to what you will use the car for. If you are buying a Porsche with the intention of doing track days, you have to consider the 450hp GTS isn't far off of a 500hp GT3 in terms of price. The C4 I started the day in was $155,000 as equipped; a GT3 has a base price of $144,650 with no options.
I have said in the past, more than once, that if I were buying a 991.2, it would be a base car with a manual, very modestly optioned. This GTS has made me rethink that. I've never been one of those guys who would be afraid to pull into Cars & Coffee in a base car because people might think, "He couldn't afford the good 911." Anyone who can swing any 911 is clearly doing OK and will impress everyone at their high school reunion. The GTS is a more cohesive package than the S. Although you can easily call it the Value Performance Package-equipped S, it works and feels natural.
If it came down to it, I think I would still buy the base car, with just a couple of carefully chosen options to keep it as simple as possible. As happy as I would be, there would still be nights I would lie in bed wondering if I should have just stretched a little more and bought the GTS. Either way, I think it would be a manual transmission.