“…Even five years on from Porsche’s first seven-speed manual, there’s still curious fun to be extracted from going down from seventh to third”
Yet another new Porsche 911?
“Oh God,” you’re thinking. “Porsche has given the 911 a new ashtray lid and so Top Gear have found another excuse to write about a car I’ve seen a thousand times before.”
And yes, this Carrera GTS doesn’t look an awful lot different to the plethora of 911s that have gone before it, never mind the other 36 versions of 911 you can currently buy. But pop your anorak on and you might just spot that this is one of the very best.
While there are numerous iterations of Carrera GTS, spanning coupes, cabrios and Targas, two- and four-wheel drive and manual and paddleshift gearboxes, the cheapest is the one you want: a RWD manual coupe.
Just like the 911 R, then…
Yup. The magic of the GTS badge is that it brings quite a lot of the sharpness of Porsche’s motorsport cars – the GT3s and so on – but combines it with the everyday usability associated with the Carrera.
Keep the spec simple – avoiding 4WD, an automatic gearbox and a folding roof – and you’re as close to the 911 R’s ethos as possible. But there are still back seats, and it costs less than £100,000.
That’s still a lot of money.
It’s a lot of car, though. Driving this GTS for a few days made me think about how chuffing brilliant I’d feel if I’d just bought one in this spec and driven it home for the first time. Which led me to ponder whether I’d have this, a McLaren 570S or an Audi R8 as my ‘everyday car’ in the dream garage. Yep, GTS spec lifts the standard 911 into that kind of company.
What’s so special about it?
Porsche has basically ticked the most exciting options boxes on your behalf. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six engine gets the ‘Powerkit’ pack that takes it up 444bhp, there’s 20mm lower sports suspension and the wheels are some fine looking 20in items.
There’s also some tasteful trim upgrades inside and out; silver detailing makes way for black and there’s sheets and sheets of suede-like Alcantara, most notably over the entire steering wheel rim. Everything just feels right.
Can it really be compared to proper supercars?
I think so. While it exhibits a power deficit compared to an R8 or 570S, it would hardly feel left behind on the road. It’s a monstrously fast car, this, and certainly as quick as you really want (or need) your road car to be. Its 0-100kph time is 4.1secs, its top speed 311kph. And Porsche is famously conservative with its quotes.
And while the 911 Carrera’s switch to turbocharging was a big deal when it was announced, it’s not something to fret about. This engine doesn’t quite howl like its forebears, but it still loves to rev. And with full control over the gearbox, you’ll love to rev it.
Yes, the old-fashioned gearbox…
It’s not as quick or as user-friendly as the optional PDK transmission, and nor, we suspect, will it prove as popular. But not only does it save you nearly three grand, it’s also a lot more satisfying to use.
The biting point of the clutch takes some adjusting to, but otherwise it’s a brilliant example of why manuals still have a place in performance cars. It’s got seven speeds, which is easy to forget at first, as the car cruises very well in sixth.
But it’s rare you’ll ever get tangled at the top end of the gearbox, and even five years on from Porsche’s first seven-speed manual, there’s still curious fun to be extracted from going down from seventh to third when a dual carriageway merges into a roundabout. With a ‘box this good, you might as well make it four separate changes…
How’s the grip? Do you miss AWD?
It’s been unrelentingly warm in the south of England recently, so conditions were rarely less than perfect in our time with the GTS. It was always utterly faithful. Corner harder and you can get a degree of movement at the rear, particularly with the eager turn-in of the optional rear-wheel steering (£1,592), but so wonderful is the steering, that you know exactly what’s going on. This is one of the best electronic steering setups ever.
Most importantly, it controls a car that’s both extremely competent and lots of fun. The two aren’t always compatible. The ride is noticeably firmer than a regular Carrera, but it’s just a nice reminder that you’ve specced something a little more serious.
And how’s the ashtray lid?
Our car didn’t have the requisite £38 ‘smoking package’ to find out, sadly. The rest of the interior is smarter than ever, though. Like all recent 911s, you get proper mobile phone mirroring on the touchscreen, and a smartphone-like layout even when you don’t have any devices plugged in.
The age-old 911 dial layout remains – five circular readouts with the rev-counter in the middle – but everything around it has been brought up to date. I’m not a fan of the fiddly buttons on the steering wheel, but Porsche still lets you have one free of buttons. I like that. I like the whole thing. It’s the best Carrera you can buy, and if you need back seats, the most fun 911 on sale.