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2017 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS First Drive

The new Porsche 911 Carrera GTS can turn a racetrack into a pleasure cruise

The GTS tweaks the Porsche 911, successfully delivering more fun without sacrificing comfort.

The Porsche 911 is the poster child for the very notion of a daily-driver sports car – performance on tap when you need it, civility when you don’t. The GTS model skews things further towards the fun side of the equation, being optimized for greater dynamic driving than the rest of the 911 offerings, but still easy to live with. The next step up puts you in GT3 territory, where creature comforts begin to diminish to fulfill would-be race car driver dreams.

This year, Porsche has introduced a new 911 Carrera GTS. With the promise of the car being more powerful, faster, and better than ever, we flew to beautiful Cape Town, South Africa to experience it firsthand.

The far side

Five different flavors of 911 get the GTS treatment: The rear-wheel drive Carrera, the all-wheel drive Carrera 4, the cabrio versions of both, and the Targa 4. All pack the new 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat six power plant that churns up 450 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque.

Each flex of the foot sends the nimble 911 rocketing down the road.

It takes a keen eye to spot the visual tweaks in the trademark silhouette of Porsche’s famous sports coupe, so it goes without saying that the upgrades brought to GTS models are subtle. First off, each GTS sports the Carrera 4 body, which is 44 millimeters wider than the standard 911. A front apron with a black spoiler lip sits beneath larger air intakes, while the front nose gets tweaks to improve aerodynamics. The rear spoiler extension pops a bit higher when deployed as a complement to this tweak, reducing lift on both the front and rear axles.

If you need something a little more concrete to give the folks in your Porsche club a case of FOMO, the GTS will rock black 20-inch wheels with center locks, smoked tail lights, black logos and exhaust, and a standard black roof for the Targa model.

Firmly fast, but not harsh

Dropping the top on the 911 Carrera 4 GTS, we fired up the new turbo engine that cranks out 30 more horsepower than the Carrera S, and 20 HP more than the naturally aspirated engine in the previous GTS. This was the best way to hear the standard sports exhaust system burble to life as the car rolled out onto the busy Cape Town avenues.

On the way out of town, the GTS felt comfortable on jarring roads despite its track-ready setup. Thanks to the Porsche active suspension management (or PSAM), the electronically controlled dampers kept the ride firm, not harsh.

It was on the outskirts by the beautiful South African coast that the 911 GTS came into its own. With a twist of the drive mode selector on the steering wheel, the GTS was primed for performance. In either sport or sport plus, the GTS model’s engine response felt sharper, and shifts with the seven speed PDK dual clutch transmission become even quicker. Porsche isn’t shy with the revs, as each flex of the foot sent the nimble 911 rocketing down the windswept shoreline, with the bark of the exhaust echoing against the craggy seaside hills we drove along.

When you want, the 911 GTS reverts from Mr. Hyde, to the stately Dr. Jekyll.

Coming out of a bend or facing an uphill stretch of road with trundling minibuses, we unleashed everything the 911 GTS had with the “sport response” button on the steering wheel. Like an afterburner, the button commands the engine and transmission to deliver as much power as fast as it can for 20 seconds. With a quick peek and a press of a button, the GTS launched around a convoy of commuters in half of the 20 seconds of insanity it allowed.

While we journeyed deeper inland, we’re led by Porsche’s navigation module to our destination with ease. The seven-inch touchscreen is intuitive to use, and makes getting an overview of the route, as well as making minor adjustments, a breeze. The usual suite of phone connectivity and music playback is available, as well as access to Porsche Connect, a subscription service that connects Porsche owners to their cars and gives them access to a collection of apps. Porsche Connect allows drivers to pre-plan routes and points of interests on mobile devices or computers, then send those plotted points over to the car, saving you the hassle of doing so through the in-car dash. The app also has a bunch of car status and geofencing applications that keep you appraised of your car’s situation when you’re not in it.

More: These are the 10 greatest Porsches ever made

The navigation system easily lead us to our destination — Killarney Raceway, a 2-mile circuit where the GTS would prove its mettle.

A race car, when you want it

Killarney Raceway is a tight course that emphasizes agility more than straight-line muscle. The sprints are quick, the tarmac varies in texture, and the hairpins are tight. Here, we hopped out of the all-wheel drive cabrio and swapped over to a rear-wheel 911 GTS coupe, ready to demonstrate its capability. And it was indeed capable.

The run started with the Porsche’s considerable pull. Then, under deep breaking, I felt the 911 already eager to wag its tail. Porsche’s stability management (PSM) is oversaw everything, while still allowing fun. In its latest form, it PSM lets the back end to swing out a little before intervening. That way, it’s not there to keep drivers from having fun, but it’s still there to make sure to keep the car righted. It’s a smart tactic, because it makes the driver feel like a hero.

Killarney Raceway proved incapable of pushing the 911 GTS to its limits. Its stability control, as well as active rear-axle steering, made carving the sharp hairpins effortless. The optional real-axle steering its some tricky voodoo, with the rear wheels turning slightly in place in relation to your speed and the angle of the front wheels. At low speeds, the rear steers to the opposite of the front, virtually shortening the wheelbase and making the turning radius shorter. At high speeds, the rear wheels mirror the front, giving the car the stability of an extended wheelbase.

Throughout the drive, the PDK was firing through gears faster than human thought, and the GTS felt planted, rotating through bends and relentlessly gripping the track through high-speed kinks with tenacity. All the while, the cabin was cool and comfortable, preventing weariness over long stints, and thus kept me more sharply attuned to the task at hand. At the end, we simply drove away, the 911 GTS reverting back from the track-hungry Mr. Hyde to the stately Dr. Jekyll.

Our take

When the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS makes its way stateside this April, GTS models will start at $119,000 for the rear-drive coupe, and go up from there for the all-wheel drive and cabriolet versions, reaching as high as $138,200. Keep in mind that in true Porsche fashion, this is without any options like the Sport Chrono package that provides the various driving modes, rear-axle steering, or any of the fun bits.

Predictably, the latest Porsche 911 doesn’t reward budget supercar shoppers. But if you have the scratch and are already itching for something to keep you in style in comfort in-between track days, the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is a safe bet.

Highs

  • Comfortable, firm ride
  • Great burble from the exhaust
  • Rear axle steering is a solid option

Lows

  • Price skyrockets with options…
  • … And everything good is an option