After the relative disappointment of the 997 Speedster, it’s a huge relief to find that from the moment your hands clasp its Alcantara-rimmed Sport Design steering wheel, the £76,758 Carrera GTS feels like a proper 911.
A last hurrah for the 997-generation 911, the rear-drive GTS is, like the Speedster, built around the wide-track body normally reserved for all-wheel-drive and Motorsport department models. It’s fitted with the same 402bhp ‘Powerkit’ version of the 3.8-litre direct-injection motor too, but in this case you have a choice of either the standard manual transmission or PDK. Best of all, if you decide to add the sport suspension, limited-slip differential and Fuchs-style alloy wheel options you’ll have a Sport Classic in all but ducktail.
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Should your name be Toni or Guy, you’ll be glad to know that the GTS also comes as a Cabriolet, but, as ever, the manual coupe is the enthusiast driver’s choice. That said, as long as you also spec the Sport Chrono package (more on which in a moment), a PDK-equipped coupe remains a fine machine.
Outside there are some well-judged styling details, including a more prominent front splitter and the sills from the GT2, while, inside, sports seats and the extensive use of Alcantara cloth lend it the air of a GT3 with a few added luxuries. Other GTS goodies include black 19in ‘RS Spyder’ alloys complete with race-style centre-lock fixings, which look fabulous. Two special paint colours – GT Silver and Amethyst – are offered, along with old favourites including Guards Red, Speed Yellow and Carrera White. Whichever hue you choose it’s unquestionably a cracking looking car.
It’s a cracking drive too, for the combination of tweaked motor, wide-track chassis and fat rear tyres gives the GTS a subtly different feel to the narrower rear-drive Carrera S. You can sense its broad-shouldered stance and self-assured hold of the road, but it’s less full-on than a GT3, with a more rounded ride and greater isolation from road and tyre noise. It’s hard to imagine a 911 that strikes a better balance of being the consummate weekday worker and thrilling weekend warrior.
Start to explore the middle and upper reaches of its performance and you get tremendous confidence from the sheer grip available, yet there’s still that delicious sense of balance you get from all the best rear-drive 911s. There’s plenty of feedback from the front end and huge traction from the rear, but you also get brilliant poise when you want to make fast progress, and throttle adjustability when fun is more important. Basically the harder you drive it, the better it feels.
The Powerkit engine isn’t night-and-day different from the regular 3.8-litre Carrera S motor, but the 22bhp gain is noticeable and welcome. The torque curve is fatter, so while the peak figure remains the same, it kicks earlier and lasts longer. As a result it always feels that little bit sharper and more responsive – especially at the top end where the power gains have been made – so you feel even more inclined to enjoy the full performance on offer. Crack the window down (or drop the roof) and it sounds that bit more serious too, thanks to a standard-fit sports exhaust.
The optional Sport Chrono package makes most sense with the PDK transmission, for it peps up the shift strategy and gives you launch control (dropping the PDK car’s 0-62mph time from 4.4sec to 4.2), but even with a manual transmission car (which takes 4.6sec to reach 62mph, Sport Chrono or not) the keener throttle maps and more relaxed PSM thresholds add a welcome dimension to the GTS driving experience.
Purists may say they prefer the ultimate subtlety and delicacy of the narrow-body Carrera S, but in truth the gains in grip and pace made by the GTS come at a very, very small price in terms of tactility. The GTS’s firmer suspension and anti-roll bars do bring an increased sense of stability and grip, but it’s so well judged you never feel like the elevated road-holding limits have come at the expense of handling or feel. You just have to try a little bit harder to breach those limits.
As a package, the Carrera GTS is very hard to fault. That’s why for all-round performance, value and desirability it’s our favourite non-Motorsport department 911, and a fitting finale for the 997 generation.
|Max power||402bhp @ 7300rpm|
|Max torque||310lb ft @ 4200-5600rpm|
|0-60||4.6sec (0-62mph, claimed)|
|Top speed||190mph (claimed)|