Test Drive: 2017 Porsche 911 GTS

Photos by Justin Pritchard and Chris Koski

A small drive-mode dial with four LED lights and four letters sprouts from a spoke of the sport steering wheel in the Porsche 911. You twist it into one of four detents, at 3, 6, 9, or 12 o’clock, to engage Sport, Sport+, Individual, or Ordinary / Normal modes, respectively. It’s like the mode selector on an expensive camera, and each mode can be tailored further via various console-mounted toggle switches that fine-tune settings for the suspension, stability control, and even exhaust volume.

In milliseconds, at a click, this tiny little button triggers the 911, activating a full-out, high-performance mode so extreme it operates within an on-screen countdown timer.

Beyond the dial and toggles for fine-tuning, the PDK transmission’s lever can be shifted into Drive, Sport, or Manual modes, too. When it comes to deploying various levels of 911 performance, drivers have options aplenty.

But, beyond all of these controls, there’s a little, unmarked black button, encircled by the drive-mode selector dial. Pressing it overrides all settings engaged elsewhere, and sets the 911 into a fifth drive mode called Sport Response. As fast as you can click it, the tachometer snaps towards redline at a startling speed. Turbochargers pre-spool, pre-emptively eliminating lag, and the transmission and throttle get ultra-sensitive. In milliseconds, at a click, this tiny little button triggers the 911, activating a full-out, high-performance mode so extreme it operates within an on-screen countdown timer.

Should drivers be at the wheel of the new 911 GTS, the Sport Response button has a full breadth of performance systems to crank to 11.

GTS variants comprise 5 of 21 currently available 911 models, and are built around a simple concept: they offer numerous performance-enhancing 911 features value-bundled as standard, exclusive badging and visuals, and a touch more power than the Carrera S models upon which they’re built. If you’re after something more than the $120,000 911 Carrera S, but less than the $184,000 911 Turbo, the $138,000 911 GTS is what you’re after.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) comes standard, with PASM Sport suspension included on the tested 2017 911 Carrera 4 GTS Coupe. This fits a multi-mode suspension, with a 10 mm reduction in ride height, and the ability to toggle between settings, with continuous damping adjustment at each wheel deployed per the selected drive mode. With PASM Sport, the 911 GTS rides lower over its blacked-out wheels, and can be set into a soft and comfy cruising mode, or a stiffened-up sports mode, each able to adapt to the surface beneath. This system benefits the stance, handling, and comfort of the 911 GTS, virtually without compromise.

Porsche’s Sports Exhaust kit is standard, too. Click the little tailpipe button on the console, and the GTS’s exhaust note swells up, drenches the cabin more fully, and shouts more loudly at full song. Here, an exotic, mellow, and quivering wail follows the GTS around, flooding out from the black-accented exhausts. Don’t miss the orchestra of gurgling and popping that accompanies quick throttle lift-off.

The Sport Chrono package is standard – with its telltale dash-mounted stopwatch and easier-to-access launch-control function. Just engage Sport+ mode, hold the brakes, then the throttle, enjoy the rev-limiter, and release the brakes. The car then violently leaps from the line, the tester’s all-wheel drive helping access 100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds. Yahoo! If you’ve got glasses on top of your head, they’ll wind up in the back seat, and you’ll check your rear-view mirror to see if you’ve been rear-ended by meteorite.

That’s a few tenths faster to 100 km/h than a standard 911 Carrera 4S coupe, thanks to a (standard) bump in power to 450 horses and 405 lb-ft of torque – an increase of 30 and 37, respectively. Shoppers can add a special Powerkit to a 911 Carrera S or 4S to bump output to this level, but at $14,000, Porsche says most shoppers just opt for the full-out GTS, with the power boost, and a laundry list of extra goodies, for about $4,000 more.

Add in the standard sport seats, the standard sport-design front bumper, the increased lift height from the speed-deployable rear spoiler, and the widened rear body borrowed from the Carrera 4S, and you’ve got the 911 GTS in a nutshell – a touch more power, added visual exclusivity, and extra performance toys fitted as standard. The GTS is a high-value model for the shopper after the most athletic 911 Carrera variants going, and it’s available in all body styles, and with two- or four-wheel drive.

Of course, there’s always room to spend more – the tester included a few thousand dollars in seating, lighting, and stereo upgrades; the add-on PDK transmission; a premium stereo; and a $3,500 Miami Blue paint job.

As equipped, said tester proved expert at two things: getting noticed, and delivering that joyous sensation of being effortlessly flung down the road in a serious hurry.

Getting noticed was easy. Your writer was the only one who didn’t love the Miami Blue paint job, an almost-too-playful-looking non-metallic flat blue that’s visible from orbit. The colour is shouty and bright, though the black accenting and decals stand out nicely against it. The very shape and sound of a passing 911 turns heads, and that increases about 400 percent with this colour applied. (If you get too much attention at a traffic light, it’s easy to get away quickly.)

Being flung down the road, fast, is another talent on full display. The 911’s new twin-turbo 3.0-litre flat-six engine manages something rare: using twin turbochargers to fill in the power band massively with abundant low-end torque, while maintaining a great exhaust sound, and a high-revving, peaky power curve. If you’re coming into a new 911 GTS out of a former, all-motor-powered GTS, expect a more refined and quieter engine during easy use, greatly improved low-rpm throttle response, and maintenance of the signature 911 power curve, nearly in full.

Just a light throttle squeeze gets the turbos whistling audibly, and the car oozes along. Dawdle through traffic, and you’re in seventh gear by 65 km/h, the engine never breaking 1,500 rpm. Press harder, and you’re shoved into your seat just as quickly as you shove the throttle pedal down.

Hammer on it, and after just a blink of boost lag, the GTS surges ahead, with gears spaced such that a good pull through first and second leaves you out in demerit-point territory. Be careful though – 6,000-plus revs at full throttle in this car is a silly place to be. Here, the GTS’s power curve is provocative and explosive, and nearby radar cops will hear you approaching.

Handling, steering, brakes, and performance are all familiar. Push your 911 GTS hard, and you’ve got power and grip to spare, massive brakes that seem to outshine everything else, and a slightly squirmy, shifty, and confidence-inspiring setup to the chassis that entertains with controlled slips and slides, but never intimidates as you get to driving towards its limits at a lapping day. Amidst this, there’s that effortlessly athletic feel that characterizes the 911 as a machine that’s pleased to be driven as hard as you’d like, all day long, with a giant grin on its mug.

Don’t forget to push the car around fast corners with the throttle – trust that it’ll bite, and the throttle becomes a viable way to steer the car, as the AWD system and steering and brakes work in sync to help it slip and slide about its axis with playful predictability. Novice drivers will feel flattered, and track-day veterans will feel well-supported.

Plus, the 911 GTS is easy to see out of, easy to park, comfortable, and easygoing enough for running daily errands. It’s easy to get in and out of, by performance car standards, too. Heck, it’s even excellent on fuel when you’re driving it gently.

You could, literally, take your 911 GTS to church on Sunday, then to the grocery store, and then to an afternoon lapping event, without missing a beat. It’s totally daily driveable.

Gripes? At times, the PDK transmission can feel a bit clumsy. By and large, shifts are perfectly rev-matched, instant, and so fast you can barely follow the movements of the tachometer needle, though occasionally, it slams or lurches into the next or previous gear. The cupholders feel flimsier than dollar-store toilet paper and I don’t trust them not to spill my iced capp all over the centre console. Finally, though the (extra-cost) Alcantara suede seat inserts hold you nicely in place during sporty driving, their abundant grip caused numerous wedgies over the course of my week at the wheel, some bordering on atomic.

All said, here’s a 911 that compellingly packages more power, and more features and technologies to help deploy it best for the situation in question – all in a in a high-precision driving tool that’s ready for everyday use.

Your writer’s pick? A two-wheel-drive 911 GTS, with the manual transmission. The PDK is the better transmission (see below for salty comments), but the manual suits the personality of the car better. Equipped thusly, you save thousands, get friskier handling when pushed, and are connected more readily and directly with the performance capabilities on offer. I’ll have mine in black though, please.

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS
Engine Displacement: 3.0L
Engine Cylinders: 6
Peak Horsepower: 450 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 405 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 11.8/9.2/10.6 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 125 L
2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS
Base Price $143,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,200
Price as Tested $163,790
Optional Equipment $18,590 – Miami Blue Paint $3,590; PDK transmission $4,250; Heated Steering Wheel $540; BOSE stereo $1,820; Adaptive Sports Seats Plus $3,460; Led Dynamic Headlights $3,160; Premium Package Plus $1,770
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.1
9 Styling
9 Powertrain
9 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value