The middle ground isn’t exactly a term that many sports-car manufacturers would like associated with their tarmac-gobbling wares, but that’s exactly how Porsche positions the premium on-road niche in its long-celebrated 911 range. But its pitch explains everything: the GTS is a notch below the try-not-to-get-killed madness of the GT3, marrying sporty intent with everyday usability, making it the most-aggressive 911 this side of its race-ready road cars. The middle ground has rarely disappeared behind you so rapidly: at its quickest, from 0 to 100kph in 3.6 seconds, to be precise.
Anybody who has seen the 911 in the past few decades won’t exactly be knocked off their feet by any radical design updates – don’t mess with a solid-gold classic has long been Porsche’s approach – although the magic under the bonnet just might cause wobbles. The GTS’s bi-turbo 3.0L flat-six engine pushes out a not-inconsiderable 450hp and 550NM of torque. That’s 30hp and 50Nm better than a Carrera S. Yet while the GT3 might very well give you an unwelcome close-up of the nearby sights should you be anything less than super-respectful with your right foot, the GTS has no such sensation of taking your life into your own hands every time you press the starter button.
There are five different GTSs now available. Across two days in Cape Town for the car’s launch, I drive all three of its body variants (coupé, targa top and full cabriolet), covering both of its rear- and all-wheel-drive power-trains in three vastly different environments – the Targa is the only one not afforded the two-wheel-drive option. The most enjoyable is undoubtedly a dash down the South African coast to the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-westerly point on the continent, in a Carrera 4 GTS cabriolet. The winding route along the stunning cliffs and through small towns and villages tests the GTS as a daily driver and a blast-master. It alternates between slow-moving traffic with stationary spells at numerous “robots” (the South African term for traffic lights, to the uninitiated) and stretches of joyfully empty road, particularly in the Table Mountain National Park. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the latter velocities are its true fortes; spend too much time navigating rough surfaces at lower speeds and you soon almost feel your spine compressing thanks to the deliberately stiff suspension.
The purest test of the GTS’s touring chops arrives on the first day with an afternoon spent in the verdant hills and valleys around Franschhoek, one of South Africa’s oldest settlements, east of Cape Town, in a Targa 4 GTS. Even accounting for the fact that I’m traversing a country that drives on the left, but in a left-hand-drive car (on German plates), overtaking requires little to no anticipation – just plant and go. The light, instantly responsive steering is at once rewarding and village-idiot simple.
Understandably, Porsche is keen to show everybody what its charges can do on the track. While I can report the Carrera GTS coupé, in gloriously sunny “racing yellow”, does anything but embarrass itself around the Killarney Raceway on the first morning in Cape Town, I’ll leave track records for racing drivers and GT3 addicts. Yes, the GTS sticks to the floor as if its very life depends on it, but that’s sort of not the point – this is for ultimate road-based performance, where its sisters beg you to take them out for fun on the track. Naturally, you will need a track to approach the Carrera GTS coupé’s top speed of 310kph in the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) incarnation, the fastest of double-clutch auto options. And the new Porsche Track Precision app is admittedly a dose of competitive vim, allowing you to analyse your skills behind the wheel.
The trim and interiors take black as a fits-all shade for everything from rims to air intakes to the Alcantara seats. The only occasional splashes of additional colour outside that and the main paintwork are subtle: red seat belts and brake callipers, for example, on my white Carrera 4 GTS cabriolet.
Niggles are few and far between. Indeed, I can only locate one significant one: despite Porsche’s claims that the soft-top will close at low speeds, when rain threatens and the temperature drops as sunset approaches on the first day while piloting the Targa, the roof refuses to close until the GTS has come to a complete standstill.
On a practical level, fuel consumption has been improved, by up to 0.6L per 100km, which levels out, at best, between 8.3L to 8.7L, depending on your coupé/Targa/cabrio preference. It’s stabler, too, partly thanks to a body widened by 44 millimetres across the rear axle. Not that this equates to sensibleness in audio terms: reduced sound absorption catalyses throaty exhaust outputs.
In the final shakedown, the cabriolet emerges the narrow winner for pure unadulterated looks and enjoyment. There’s so little to choose between that and the Targa or coupé, though, that you can imagine those with the means and a Porsche adoration might just line up the three variants in their garage and select according to weather and mood. Not that your mood is likely to be a problem after time in the GTS. That middle ground has been well and truly conquered.
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