First Drive: Porsche 911 GTS

2011 Porsche 911 GTSCarly Simon may have been singing about a certain secret agent when she sang ‘Nobody Does It Better’, but she might as well have been paying hommage to Porsche and its 911. Not only has it largely set the benchmark for a sports coupe that everyone else has to try and hit, it has also been tweaked and teased to create a number of different versions from the very fast to the devastatingly rapid. If you have somewhere in the region of £80,000 to spend on a new sports car, keeping the 911 off the short list is an impossible task.

It’s just been made even more impossible thanks to the engineers over at Weissach. There used to be a jump from the hot Carrera S to the hardcore GT3, but now the gap has been neatly filled thanks to the introduction of the GTS. Like all the best 911s its purpose is to offer the biggest thrills possible but without a teeth-rattling ride or giving up the ease of use that makes the 911 a genuine everyday proposition.

Even for the uninitiated, spotting a GTS won’t be difficult. The black-finished alloy wheels will give it away, standard on the GTS and only available as an option elsewhere. It’s an unusual touch but a pleasing one, especially with a classic body colour such as white or red. The GTS also has the wider body that only appears on the Carrera 4 elsewhere in the 911 range, and as well as giving it a wider stance and more presence it also provides a wider track, planting the GTS even more firmly on the road. It’s also distinguished by the Sports Design bodykit, which entails spoilers front and rear plus side skirts all finished in black. Colour choice is more important than on most 911s, but regardless of your own decisions the GTS is still a stunning and distinctive machine.

Porsche 911 GTSPorsche aren’t the kind of manufacturer to just have visual changes, so the tweaks underneath the GTS are even more interesting. Firstly the divine 3.8-litre flat six underneath the rear lid has been bumped up to a mighty 402bhp, with changes to the intake system liberating extra torque at low revs. That’s matched either to one of the best six-speed manual gearboxes in the business or the dual-clutch PDK seven-speed. Go for the later and you get conventional paddles behind the wheel, rather than the steering wheel buttons that appeared on early PDK cars. The suspension has also been lowered by 10mm, and should you go for the optional carbon ceramic brake option the ultimate in stopping power is under your right foot.

With all that history, presence and power it’s easy to be overawed on the first encounter with the GTS, but like all 911s it is far from intimidating. Slot down into the snug and supportive seats and the layout of the cabin is largely conventional, save for the slightly unusual view out. Firing it up creates the purposeful burble and distinctive rasp from the flat six that has become a key part of the appeal, and the firm but not over-heavy clutch takes up smoothly.

Trundling around typical British city streets reveals a car that is stiffly sprung but not harsh: you may be made aware of the bumps you cover but only disturbed by the worst weather-ravaged pot holes. Pressing it into limo service might be stretching it a little but if you’re lucky enough to drive to work every day in at GTS you’ll step out smiling rather than grimacing and holding the small of your back. It’s only noisy in the way that you would wish too, with the engine falling away when driven conservatively. But that’s something you’ll be doing as infrequently as possible.

Pushing on is what the GTS does best, and a clear stretch of road is the perfect opportunity to savour its abilities. Select a low gear, squeeze the accelerator to the floor and the GTS responds almost before you’ve asked it too. An immediate hardening of the engine note is accompanied by a determined surge forward, regardless of engine speed, and as the revs rise the push becomes ever more emphatic until the need for a gear change is almost met with relief. Unless of course you tick the PDK option, in which case accelerative bursts become one almighty blast until bravery or legality intervene. The engine dominates the experience, and any excuse to hear it sing is a pleasure. Better still, the GTS comes with the sports exhaust which can be turned up at the push of a button.

The first bend will be despacted with equal relish thanks to the immaculate responses from the steering, brakes and throttle. Stand firm on the reassuringly-strong middle pedal then peel into a bend, and the GTS is itching to obey your commands, doing so without hesistation and with pin-point accuracy. Grip is immense and almost unshakable, but push hard enough and there are sideways antics to be had. It is both immensely capable and entirely flattering, a thing for the novice to enjoy and the master to savour.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, the boring stuff is sorted too. The front boot offers reasonable space, you have a massive choice of options and especially with the PDK gearbox fitted there is surprisingly good economy on offer. If, of course, you can resist the temptation to enjoy the mesmerising performance.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Porsche 911 GTS Coupe, £76,658
Engine: 3.8-litre petrol engine producing 402bhp
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 190mph, 0-62mph in 4.2seconds
Economy: 27.7mpg
Emissions: 240g/km

By Matt Joy

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