You have high expectations for an “enthusiast-spec” Porsche, and the 2017 Porsche 911 GTS lives up to a lot of them. Hell, it steps to twice the speed limit in as long as it took you to read this introduction. But for all its power and precision, the car doesn’t have much personality.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche flew me to Lake Tahoe and put me up in the freaking Ritz-Carlton at Northstar for two nights. Food and beverages of comparable exorbitance were also provided.)
The GTS is supposed to be the driver’s 911 for those of you who don’t want or can’t afford the supernatural performance of a 911 Turbo or GT3. Though, of course, the GTS has a turbocharged engine now too. You may have heard purists are pissed because a “Porsche with a turbo that’s not a Turbo is blasphemous.”
Don’t worry about that. As one of our readers astutely explained: “GTS is no sacred cow—just an end of the model run option package designed to keep interest up and stop people from waiting the one year extra for the next face-lift or full model step.”
I mean, hang on, I’m not rude enough to write-off a 190 mph Porsche in three paragraphs. This is still a 911 we’re talking about; it’s the car that driving enthusiasts have been benchmarking everything against since before the dawn of mainstream fuel injection. And the GTS “package” arguably looks like the tastiest combo plate off Porsche’s impressive menu of lower-tier 911 options.
This year’s GTS gets red detailing inside and black trim outside, aggressive seats, adjustable suspension, enormous brakes, that sexy Porsche dashboard clock and its 3.0-liter twin turbocharged flat-six uprated to 450 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. A “loud button” sits in the center console to provide a little attitude-on-demand.
The GTS treatment can be ordered as a Targa, coupe or convertible with all-wheel drive or rear. You even have your choice of a seven-speed PDK (the excellent shiftable dual-clutch automatic) or a traditional manual transmission.
The lightest variants will naturally be the quickest, but Porsche claims every 911 in the GTS lineup is good for a 0-60 mph sprint in under 4 seconds and a top speed of over 190 mph.
You wouldn’t guess that cruising along in this thing, though.
I won’t deny it—I was twitching with exuberance at the opportunity to imprint my ass on the Alcantara of a Porsche 911.
And for the first dozen or so miles of town-speed driving around Tahoe, sitting in the pilot’s seat felt like slipping into a hot tub after a long day of skiing. The GTS-embroidered seats are beautifully balanced between soft and supportive. You’re coddled and comfortable enough to think “yeah, I could cross the country in this thing.”
But when we got clear of civilization and started spooling up the turbos, I still felt like I was soaking in that slopeside jacuzzi. Except the bubbles had turned off and I could see everybody’s gross feet. The ambiance was shattered, and thinking about a few more hours in the GTS started to seem more ominous than enticing.
The 911 GTS moves up to absurd speeds at pretty much a linear rate with how far down you’ve depressed the gas pedal. You’re not overwhelmed with the sensation of thrust sucking your guts into the rear-mounted engine. The most appreciable sensory input is the scenery outside rushing across the windows with a bit more blur.
Through corners, the car clings to the road with the calm tenacity of a sloth on a tree branch in a tornado. Yes, there are awesome physical forces at work, but not enough to bother waking up from your nap.
The PDK transmission shifts up and down quickly enough to convince yourself you’re driving in a video game. With the manual, the engine blips so readily that heel-and-toe downshift mastery is almost instantly gratifying. That’s in spite of the fact that the travel of the clutch pedal feels very long and imbalanced with the brake. I found the shift knob to be awkwardly high, too, no matter how I adjusted the seat.
Shifting the car yourself recovers some sense of ownership over the 911 GTS driving experience, but after a couple hundred miles of winding through some of the prettiest and least-straight roads in California I couldn’t really break through the numbness I felt behind the wheel of this car.
The 911 GTS will run through your favorite roads with ruthless indifference. It will get you to the end of them more quickly with less effort than you thought was possible. But the performance of the 911 GTS is so ironed-out that it’s tough to find a wrinkle of emotion in it. And no, turning the volume up on the exhaust pipe doesn’t help. The soundtrack, at least in the cabin, is more “muted air pump” than “high-compression firebreather.”
I’m disappointed with the 911 GTS also because other GTS Porsches are simply more engaging. I was awestruck when I drove a three-pedal manual Cayman GTS a few years ago, for instance. It was responsive and tossable, light but not floaty. That car seemed precise, but more importantly, communicative.
When I took the Macan GTS up Pikes Peak last year, it was like nothing else I’d driven. Anything with the build of a crossover shouldn’t be able to take corners at the speeds that thing could manage.
Those cars set me up. I expected the 911 GTS to be something exceptional, a car I’d park and stare at through the window, dreaming up excuses to take it out again.
But this 911’s emphasis is on compliance and everyday usability. Exactly what pro driver Robb Holland really appreciated when he drove it a few months ago made the car feel soft and forgettable to me.
The 911 GTS is an objectively exceptional car, and I don’t doubt an ace hotshoe like Holland can wring fire out of it on a track. But if I’m going to spend $120,000 on a toy car for street driving, I need it to be exciting below 120 mph.