FIRST DRIVE | The new 2021 Porsche 911 GTS is basically a GT3-lite
There’s something for everyone in the Porsche 911 line-up. At the less extreme side of the spectrum you’ve got the lovely Carrera and Carrera S models that honestly offer all the rear-engined performance most of us mere mortals will ever really need.
However, if you feel the need for an extra wodge of speed plus increased Cars & Coffee bragging rights, then you can slide on over to the range’s red zone occupied by the bat-shit crazy Turbo and Turbo S — the latter being quite possibly the fastest road-going sportster I’ve ever driven and, baby, I’ve driven many over the past 13 years. There’s also the recently unveiled GT3 that though not quite as quick as the Turbo S in a straight line will teach it respect around a track. Yeah, it’s the 911 for all you Kévin Estre wannabes.
However, as of now there's another model to consider: one that sits slap bang in the middle of the Neunelfer offering — the Gran Turismo Sport. Now though the GTS nomenclature is nothing new to Stuttgart’s favourite son (these three letters first graced the rump of the sixth-generation 911, the 997), this is the first time we’re seeing it applied to the current eighth-generation 992 derivative that was launched locally in 2019.
As such Porsche SA thought it only fitting to throw me and a bunch of other motoring hacks on a plane and let us sample this newcomer around some of the most joyous driving roads the old Western Cape has to offer.
So what can I tell you about this 'Racing Yellow' 992 GTS Coupé, then?
Well first that it comes peppered with a host of cosmetic enhancements that give it an identity all its own. Reading like a greatest hits compilation of some of the modern 911’s most historically sought after options, these include a black-trimmed Sport Design front apron and spoiler lip, tinted LED headlamps infused with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus technology and a set of planet-sized centre-lock alloy wheels borrowed from the aforementioned Turbo S.
Painted black (The Rolling Stones would approve), these circular works of art are staggered in size and wrapped in low-profile Pirelli P-Zero rubber: 245/35 ZR20 up front and 305/30 ZR21 at the aft end. Scuttle around to the rear and you’ll find tinted tail light clusters as well as black satin-finished engine lid louvres, badges and exhaust tailpipes.
Noticing the theme here yet?
Dive inside the cabin and you will discover that the innards of the GTS are a veritable monument to what Porsche calls Race-Tex: essentially a fancy name for alcantara. Seriously, everything from the standard electric four-way adjustable Sport Seats (Plus) and GT Sport steering wheel to the door handles, arm rests and gear lever are trimmed in the stuff. And, yes, before you ask, it’s also all black.
Other standard niceties take the form of a centrally mounted Sport Chrono clock, matte carbon inserts on the dash and door cards as well as Porsche’s latest-generation touchscreen infotainment system that sports streamlined software, wireless Apple CarPlay and, finally, wired Android Auto integration for all you diehard Samsung users. A less obvious feature comes in the omission of sound-deadening material in and around the interior, which Porsche says amplifies the bellow of the standard sports exhaust.
Right, before I bore you to death with all these spec-sheet semantics it’s worth mentioning that the GTS Coupé is available with an optional Lightweight Design Package that trims 25kg of fat through the fitment of carbon fibre reinforced plastic bucket seats, thinner side and rear window glass plus a lighter battery. Ticking this box also relegates the car’s teeny rear seats to the bin and sees the installation of rear-axle steering and an aerodynamic underbody panel. Finally, all-wheel drive is also available as an option but it adds an extra 50kg (not to mention an extra R200,000) to the equation.
Got it? Good, now we can move on and talk about how this beast drives.
After escaping the treacly ooze of Cape Town city traffic I cruise along the N7 highway and turn off on to the R304: a piece of meandering rural blacktop that coils its way through Philadelphia and Klipheuwel en route to Stellenbosch.
And it’s here, further away from authoritative eyes, that I get a chance to exploit this 911’s specially tuned engine: a modified 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six that warbles out 353kW and 570Nm worth of torque. For some perspective that’s 22kW and 40Nm more than what you get in the Carrera S. Paired to a smooth, seamless and sniper-accurate eight-speed PDK transmission (Porsche’s somewhat gawky seven-speed manual gearbox is a no-cost option), it delivers the kind of instant accelerative urge that’ll send your inner juices pooling around your spinal column every time you stomp on the throttle.
Sure, it might not be quite as ludicrously quick in a straight line as the more powerful 911 Turbo and Turbo S (few cars are) but, honestly, the GTS doesn’t feel all that far off. It also goes about its business with a heightened sense of drama thanks to that fruity exhaust system that shifts from a gravelly baritone at low revs to a frenzied falsetto-like wail as the tachometer closes in on the 7,000rpm mark. It’s an enduring feature of the GTS set-up as is the deliciously flat and thick torque curve.
Despite this boxer engine’s willingness to rev it still manages to produce peak torque from 2,300rpm all the way up to 5,000rpm. This makes the GTS a remarkably tractable piece of kit even when lugging along in higher gears – one that you don't necessarily need to thrash to get the best out of.
Top marks for the powertrain then but how does the rest of the package stack up?
As with the multi-cylinder mechanical animal snarling away behind me, the chassis of the 911 GTS Coupé has also been the recipient of myriad different tweaks to help it fare even better in the handling stakes than its lesser Carrera siblings.
As such it sits 10mm lower to the ground and features both stiffer springs and anti-roll bars. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM for short) is standard as are specially adapted shock absorbers and a set of rear helper springs again plucked from the flagship Turbo models. If you’re not au fait with the latter just know that they basically ensure that the rear springs remain under constant tension, which allows for more consistent rebound and therefore optimised grip during cornering and over choppier surfaces.
Speaking of which, I have to say that the 911 GTS Coupé does ride fairly hard. Sure, Porsche admitted to the fact that they had for the purposes of this press launch pumped the tyres to their maximum pressures (2.5 bar front and 3.1 bar rear) but even then there’s no disguising the fact that this newcomer feels more high-strung across lumpier tracts of tarmac than the rest of the 992 range. More aggressive than 911 GTS models past (even with the steering wheel-mounted Drive Mode dial turned to normal), I would dare argue that this one feels closer in poise and purpose to Porsche’s more hard-core GT offerings.
But, hey, what you might lose in overall compliance you certainly gain in dynamism. For if the 911 Carrera S slices up twisty road ribbons like a folded steel samurai sword then the GTS dispatches them with all the clean, surgical accuracy of some lethal Sci-Fi laser beam. It. Is. Incredible. From the heightened steering feel no doubt brought on by the car’s stiffer front end to the almost supernatural way it resists body roll, the GTS is a sports car that revels in changing direction. It lives for the next apex point.
While mechanical grip is immense — I saw the car’s built-in G-force meter hit over 1.3 g lateral through some corners — the chassis is surprisingly neutral with controlled understeer and a planted rear-end that feels light years removed from the fast 911 models of yesteryear.
Similar to the steering it also communicates in crystal clarity through your buttocks the way those Pirelli gumballs are hugging the tarmac beneath you. Squirming and chirping in defiance, you know exactly how much traction you have left in reserve. All of which makes the 911 GTS Coupé a thoroughly entertaining and confidence-boosting steer — even up the gnarly, sometimes blind and off-camber Helshoogte Pass just outside Stellenbosch.
The only caveat here is that to reach this level of driver involvement you’ve got to have the bravery to carry speeds that will, if caught, see you sent straight to the slammer.
Fortunately if you do need to scrub off speed in a hurry the Turbo derived cast-iron brakes (408mm rotors with six-piston calipers front and 380mm discs with four-piston calipers rear) provide eye-bulging retardation even from unprintable velocities. Offering excellent modulation and feedback, they also showed no sign of fade even after repeated hard stabs of the Left pedal. Make no bones about it, this Porsche stops, turns and grips like a bona fide racing car.
This is why, all things considered, the GTS Coupé is perhaps the ideal whip for weekend warriors looking to tame the occasional track day. Sure, you can use this 911 as your daily driver if you so wish (the stiffer ride is by no means a deal-breaker or unexpected), but it would be a waste to not exploit its newfound talents around the circuit — or circuits — of your choosing. Especially if you do give the nod to that Lightweight Design Package.
So for those looking for something a bit more special than a common or garden Carrera S but don’t feel like committing for whatever reason to the take-no-prisoners GT3, then the purist-friendly rear-driven GTS Coupé should be the brightest new 911 blip pinging on your radar right now.
Fast Facts: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
Engine: 2981cc twin-turbocharged flat-six petrol
Power: 353kW at 6,500rpm
Torque: 570Nm from 2,300 — 5,000rpm
0-100km/h: 3.4 seconds (claimed)
0-200km/h: 11.6 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 311km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 11.4l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R2,290,000 with a three-year/100,000km Driveplan.