Driven: 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

By Matt Davis

December 07, 2010

—Palm Springs, California

Between the civilian $90,500/$101,500, 380-horsepower Porsche 911 Carrera 2S coupe/cabriolet, and the $131,400, less-civil, 435-horsepower, track-oriented 911 GT3 there is apparently a chasm, nay, a lacuna in the so far 19-model 997 911 range that needed filling desperately by another 911 offering.

It’s called the Carrera GTS—at $103,100/$112,900 the numbers it puts up with or without a solid roof are 402 horsepower at 7300 rpm and then 310 pound-feet of torque between 4200 and 5600 rpm. That happens to be the exact engine tune used in the $204,000 Sport Classic and Speedster limited editions, so think of the money you’re saving!

Our favorite trim for the day in the high desert through the gorgeous No Man’s Land between Palm Springs and Borrego Springs was the 911 Carrera GTS coupe with optional PDK seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and (still optional) better paddle-rific steering wheel, because it is the fastest one.

We’ll be danged and damned, too, but the GTS does exactly split the difference most convincingly between the everyday 2S and the not-everyday GT3. It feels noticeably more aggressive and at-the-ready than the Everyman 2S, but it stops short of rattling free your older fillings as the GT3 might do. It takes the drive-all-day Porsche 911 dream right to its limit if that is what you seek.

This is Porsche playing around with a very advanced fantasy configurator as we arrive at the end of the 997 generation’s life cycle. Because the GTS is an amped-up 911 Carrera 2S that comes with the 3.7-inch wider Turbo body look of a GT3 (or 4S) in the rear quarters, it can come with the aforementioned PDK which is not available on the purist GT3. And the GTS is now the only standard-range 911 with this junk-in-the-trunk tail end while remaining rear-wheel-drive. There are no rear seats in the GTS either, though you can opt to have those useless things put back in.

The very latest version of the 3.8-liter flat-six “9A1” engine gets some lower-friction cylinder heads for lung-inhaler help via the cast aluminum enhanced intake system that we really feel as we throttle through the whole rev range in all seven gears. Power and torque delivery are just that much more ready to be called upon in Normal, Sport, or Sport Plus modes. Leave the GTS coupe in Sport Plus and get ready for Launch Control, and acceleration is 4.0 seconds flat to 60 miles per hour, and 9.1 seconds to 100 mph. Monitored testing will undoubtedly get that down to a 3.7-second run to 60, we’re betting.

Outside, what you see is a full standard Sport design pack with the enhanced side skirts, extended front chin spoiler, blackened single-bolt Spyder wheels (standard also only on the Turbo S), and sweet-voiced yet forceful four-tip sport exhaust. Inside, look for Alcantara everywhere, and we had the optional childseat-unfriendly sport bucket seats, loving the all-around support and comfort all day long for our 300-mile trip.

There is an optional aero pack as well with the GT3-style rear wing, but then that messes up the clean elegance of the GTS and isn’t really needed, according to the 911 team of experts. Another option we think a good one—only for the coupe version—is the nearly one-inch lowering of the chassis (standard GTS height is half an inch lower than the C2S) to an even sportier aspect. Depends on whether you intend to drive every day or not.

In the tell-all curves of this desert area, the slightly wider front track versus the C2S and 1.3-inch wider rear track pay big dynamic dividends. For the suspension, all springs have been altered to more rigid from the C2S, and the hollow rear anti-sway (or stabilizer) bar is an appreciated bit larger in diameter. The standard differential lock at the rear axle works overtime without a sweat, especially when we push it and switch off the Porsche Stability Management (PSM). Given the revamped suspension, on the less perfectly smooth asphalt sections, switching off the little green sport suspension light doesn’t turn the GTS into a sloppy mess at all. It’s just enough easing back to allow us to carry the same speed through such bits without going cross-eyed from the rough treatment.

So, now we’ve got 21 911s to talk about in this 997 generation that started back in 2005. The GTS is the last, best effort for the standard lineup prior to next year’s launch of the new generation, referred to as “991” internally.

Both the coupe and cabriolet GTS arrive in the States by late January 2011.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS PDK

Engine: Flat-six, 3.8 liters, 24v
Output: 402 hp/310 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.0 sec
Top Speed: 188 mph
Weight: 3197 lb
Base Price: $107,420
On Sale: January 2011