At the risk of sounding blasphemous, it’s all too easy to be a bit “What’s the big deal?” when first jumping in a Porsche 911. Just ask my wife.
The 911 Big Bang happened over 50 years ago, and the expansion of the resulting cosmos has accelerated dramatically in recent years.
In the case of this 2015 Carrera 4 GTS that carries a $137,900 list, she just doesn’t get it. And I can understand her bewilderment. The car is cramped, noisy, crashes over road irregularities, the seats are hard, and when driven in default “normal” mode, the seven-speed PDK transmission keeps the 430 hp 3.8L flat-six so far below its elevated power band that this most legendary of sports cars feels, dare I say it, a little off pace.
Dig a little deeper and the GTS offers an automotive bounty that few cars on the planet can match. Actually none can, because this arse-engined icon in any of its iterations is so unique in the way it sounds, looks and drives, one could argue it counts for its own vehicular universe.
The 911 Big Bang happened over 50 years ago, and the expansion of the resulting cosmos has accelerated dramatically in recent years. So much so that the Porsche-dream nightscape is peppered with more 911 variants than you can shake a stick-shift at. Or, a paddle-shifter, as the current sales trend dictates.
Take this Carrera 4 GTS for example. Porsche says the harder edged GTS bridges the gap between S models of the 911 and the balls-out track-ready $148,800 GT3, although in reality it’s positioned closer to the S. The GTS could be considered a value proposition when looking at what you get for the extra dough – in this case $17,400 over the price of the 911 Carrera 4S on which it is based.
Chief among the offerings is a 30 hp bump to 430 from the 3.8L naturally aspirated flat-six. We also get forged centre-lock black 20-inch wheels, dynamic engine mounts, the Sports Chrono Package, PASM adaptive damping with a lowered ride height, an interior swathed in Alcantara, a sinister front fascia with black intakes and custom rear apron with black tailpipes that broadcast the goods through an uber-nasty sport exhaust system. Other trim details include black lettering and smoked headlights. If your GTS is rear drive, it sports the wide body of the AWD cars. GTS-badged 911s also come in Cabriolet guise.
We realize “value proposition” might sound a bit ridiculous when speaking of 140-grand playthings, but were you to attempt to option out a 911 C4S to these specs, you’d come out spending more and getting less. Most significant being the 30 extra horses and this engine’s edge in the top end zing department.
Value or no, as is the case with all Porsches, this tester was laden with options - $24,855 worth - chief among them being the $5,530 PDK seven-speed dual-clutch transmission along with some interior and infotainment upgrades. And hey, if you want to pay $385 for the privilege of having the key painted to match the car’s exterior, more power to ya. Were I in the pecuniary position to gleefully tick off option boxes while ordering my GTS, I would pirouette around the room, click my heels three times and say, “Gimme that frickin’ key too.”
Whatever colour the key may be, it unlocks a world of scintillating performance. Like certain rare and expensive violins, you have to lean into the naturally-aspirated GTS to make it sing. In this era of pressurized V8s with astonishing shove just off idle (the Jaguar F-Type R and Mercedes-AMG GT come to mind), the Porsche’s 324.5 lb-ft peak that arrives at 5,750 rpm could be considered a little tepid.
Be that as it may, when the flat-six charges toward its 7,500 rpm redline and that metallic symphony escalates from yowl to banshee wail, there’s little doubt something special is happening. The scenery gets all blurry and children run for their mothers skirts. Up here in the lofty regions of the tachometer is where the GTS unifies. Every millimeter of throttle travel is instantly answered, and if you’re fortunate enough to be coursing a winding road in this last of the naturally-aspirated 911s, you’ll be playing it like a Stradivarius.
This is when you’ll notice the firm seats offer perfect support, the GTS steers with uncanny accuracy and it is absolutely nailed to the road. Yes, you can feel the weight of the drivetrain hangin’ back there, and it sure lends a sense of excitement when transitioning through bends, but years of tinkering by countless clever engineers has pretty much exorcised all of the 911’s dynamic demons. Especially in the case of this all-wheel-drive car. Nothing hunkers down and powers out of a bend like a 911.
For those who don’t want the GTS’s standard seven-speed manual transmission, it’s pretty hard to argue against the alternative. Porsche’s seven-speed PDK tranny has to be the best dual-clutch extant. In normal mode, shifts are instantaneous and imperceptible. If fuel economy is on your mind, pressing the auto start/stop button also activates a “freewheel mode” wherein the engine decouples from the drivetrain and drops to idle when coasting at speed. On one extended highway jaunt I dipped into the high 8s (l/100 km).
Select Sport and the suspension stiffens, the exhaust opens up, the transmission wakes up and the stability control adopts a more lenient program. Sport Plus furthers this missive and put the GTS in full attack mode.
When driven in anger, this the PDK is spectacular. Bang off shifts with the paddles or let it do its own bidding. From a crap commute to a burning lap at Mosport, the this robotized tranny never puts a foot wrong.
Just over the horizon is the next-gen 911. It will be motivated a turbo-charged engine. As sure as the day is long, it will be faster, more comfortable, more efficient and post quicker Nurburgring lap times. We will drive this car and be seduced by its low end torque. We will marvel at Porsche’s unblinking focus and its unrelenting massaging of the most unusual architecture that underpins the world’s best sports car.
It’s a pattern repeated with every evolutionary stage of the Porsche 911. But here’s the beauty - no 911 is ever dated. As a testament to the thrill of a naturally-aspirated Porsche flat-six that needs to sing for its supper, the 2015 Carrera 4 GTS is a classic in the truest sense.
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS|
|Price as Tested||$163,840|
Black leather interior with Alcantara package GTS Carmine Red stitching $4,400; GTS communication package $4,710; PDK transmission $5,530; park assist with reverse camera $1,880; sunroof $1,700; colour-matched key $385; Adaptive Sport Seats Plus (18-way) $3,460; Premium Pkg i.c.w $370; Bose audio $2,420