It’s not been the strongest of relationships between evo and Porsche’s 992-gen 911. We’ve admired it, been impressed by its capabilities on both road and track, and enjoyed moments that only Zuffenhausen’s rear-engined icon can deliver. Yet we haven’t really fallen for it, not in the way previous generations have tugged at our heartstrings and left us craving a 911 hit at every possible opportunity.
Why? It’s been hard to identify one single thing that’s left a blemish on our 911 relationship, but neither the Carrera nor Carrera S models have got under our skin as much as their predecessors did. Yes, they’ve grown and put on a few kilos, though so have all modern cars as they succumb to legislation requirements and the need to carry ever more tech and driving systems, the merits of many of which are still moot. As a result, more often than not we’ve felt that the current 911 has had a bit of an identity crisis, falling into the gap between being a 911 in the traditional sense and a 911 in a new, more rounded, GT-car sense and missing the mark with both, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
Within a mile of driving the rear-drive Carrera GTS, it feels instinctively like a 911. Ten miles later, the smiles are back. After 100 miles, you know this is the 992 we’ve been waiting for: a 911 that knows exactly what it is and how it needs to conduct itself. It feels like a 911 should feel: responsive, agile, communicative, engaging, fun. Yes, Carrera and Carrera S models have offered these traits to a point, but drive the GTS and it feels authentic and organic rather than programmatic and sweating an algorithm.
As with previous GTS generations, the latest incarnation takes hardware from other models in the 911 food chain, such as the Turbo’s chassis hardware but with an added helper spring on the rear struts and PASM dampers recalibrated to suit the GTS’s 10mm ride height drop. It means there’s a 911 chassis beneath you that breathes with the road rather than shunning it, the tuning of the springs and dampers providing the GTS with a wider operating window.
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It’s also less aloof when you want clarity, more stable and settled when the tarmac begins to buck, crest, dip and roll. Crucially, you feel plugged in to the process, able to calculate and react accordingly, managing throttle and steering inputs as you sense the car reacting to bumps and lumps. Where in an S you’d know something was taking place but feel detached from the process, in the GTS you need to get involved, adjust your throttle inputs, relinquish or tighten your grip at the helm. Like those 911s of yesterday that we fawn over, the GTS is a 911 you drive, rather than one you are driven by, just as the best always have been.
Set the GTS up for a corner and the nose take a little sniff of your chosen line before committing and, as you apply the lock, that distinctive 911 thing happens as the weight from behind gains a little more momentum, pushing the car through the corner , all balanced and poised, the rear tires greedy for more torque to force into the surface. As you get into a flow and build a rhythm, the 911’s responses quicken as your senses attune to the process.
Porsche’s latest – and optional – electronic Steering Plus strikes a sweet balance between weight, feel and precision. The wheel might not writhe around between your fingers as it once did but it has that feel only a 911 is able to generate, allowing you to position it exactly where you need it to be. Four-wheel steering is available as an option but we’re not sure it would add much to the package, the GTS feeling agile and responsive as it is, at least enough for the road.
If options are your thing, there are plenty to choose from on the GTS, but our press car came with no tech or mechanical upgrades beside the aforementioned Steering Plus and it felt all the better for this restraint. There was even a stick between the front seats and three pedals in the footwell. String times. Yes, we would have the manual over the eight-speed PDK and not just because we like our beer warm and beards unkempt. The Carrera GTS is a more involving 911 to drive and changing gear yourself is a more immersive and involving experience.
It’s not as quick a process as leaving it to the PDK unit, and the first seven ratios in the double-clutch gearbox are better suited to the 3-liter turbocharged engine’s power and torque delivery, but only by a margin you’d notice if you drove both back-to-back and took detailed notes to rival those of the engineers who developed both transmissions. And the PDK’s eighth gear is so intergalactic in length that the smallest of throttle openings has it changing down one, sometimes two gears when all you want is an extra 5mph added to your speed. The manual’s ratios aren’t exactly short, but when you’re on a good run it’s the precise shifts and quick action that focus your attention rather than being able to negotiate almost every road in the country in third gear.
As with previous GTS models, this latest example delivers a slightly stronger punch than the S it shares its powertrain with. Both peak power and torque have swollen, by 28bhp and 29lb ft respectively. Gas particulate filters have robbed the flat-six of some of its melody, but it’s still one of the finest sounding turbocharged motors on the market, blending feelsome grunt with an edgy top end that sings as the needle swings around to the near-7500rpm red line. Yet there’s a sweet spot between 3000 and 5000rpm that gives you the best of both as the torque swell joins forces with the power’s race to its 6500rpm peak. The level of work that’s been achieved to make this flat-six feel naturally aspirated is frankly mind-scrambling.
In truth, the work that has been carried out across the GTS board to create the best 911 this side of a GT3 leaves us a little slack-jawed. As we said earlier, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the 992 Carrera models; They have simply fallen short of the high expectations we have of the 911. The rear-drive, manual Carrera GTS shows that Porsche’s icon is back to its very best.
Prices and rivals
This is where things get a little sticky, because while no 992-gen 911 is inexpensive the GTS is very far from a bargain at £114,800. This is £12,000 more than a standard S, and like all Carreras you won’t save anything by opting for a manual transmission. This price point puts it much closer to rivals like the Aston Martin Vantage, Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT – V8 and V10-powered models it’s historically been priced more substantially below.
Yet with the GT3 being so much more focused, there is plenty of breathing space between it and a standard S for the GTS to occupy. Take the plunge and you’ll own the best non-GT3 992 there is, which is extremely high praise.
|Engine||Flat-six, 2981cc, twin-turbo|
|Power||472bhp @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||420lb ft @ 2300-5000rpm|
This review was first published in evo 296. For the latest issue, or to subscribe, click here to go to our online store.