American culture often equates priciest with best. In contrast, Porsche, the German marquee best known for its iconic 911, seems to favor a “best for you” mentality with the new Carrera GTS Porsche. The brand has recognized that its almighty GT3—a track-tuned, no-nonsense specimen of dominance—doesn’t always mesh with daily life. Drivers seeking top performance for less-sanctioned tarmac may agree that it doesn’t get better than the slightly more attainable GTS.
My opportunity to pilot the GTS whisked me off to the west coast, with the promise of a romp through Angeles Crest Highway and surrounding vicinity. These are some of the best driving roads the Golden State has to offer. I met my companion in sunny Pasadena—a bright yellow, rear-wheel-drive GTS Cabriolet—and immediately felt in good company.
Presented by Stuttgart execs as a bridge between standard S-level and the aforementioned GT3, it is not the ultimate Carrera, but perhaps the best-suited for everyday street performance and style. The aesthetic differences of the GTS are subtle in nature, but their cumulative effects make it a much more aggressive-looking 911. An active damper suspension drops the ride height by about an inch and a half, while smoked bi-xenon headlamps and standard 20-inch matte black wheels add a sinister dash to its already well-established sexiness.
Sliding into the car’s highbacked Alcantara-lined race style seat, my first thought was, “These can’t be a US option.” Forgive the cynicism, but many a car aficionado knows the Europeans typically get the really good stuff they don’t send here. To my delight, I was wrong. To my even greater delight, the snug, well-bolstered bucket spooned my average build perfectly.
Glancing around the cabin gave me the impression GTS means business. While everyone else in the industry is trending digital, gauges here remain analog. Interior trimmings are for the most part soft touch, but noticeably inspired by the grease and grit of the racetrack. And the pop-out coffee cup holders above the glove box? They’re clearly an afterthought. Porsche prefers you get your buzz in other ways.
Firing up the flat-six, I immediately stopped looking around for what the car didn’t have. Listening to the smooth but stout, gurgle behind my back, my eyes were only on the road ahead. From a cold start, the GTS is calm and well behaved; its steering is firm, but not unmanageable for an around-the-town jaunt.
At the canyons however, the wild side came out with zero provocation. Rocketing upwards into the San Gabriel Mountains, I hit the first major bend, a switchback, at around 60mph with guarded certitude. Unfazed, the car pulled through with the connectedness of a rollercoaster, catapulting me hard to the next ascending stretch. Confidence now assured, I pressed harder, only to find it a downright challenge to send the GTS’s backside into a drift, a testament to its track-proven engineering. The car obliged to every new move I threw its way, playfully daring me to expand my comfort zone. As I tested my own limits, it remained a dedicated wingman.
If paddle-shifting isn’t your cup of tea, the PDK (dual-clutch) gearbox in sport mode may be the most bullish performer on the market. Programmed for holding its shifts to just short of redline, there were a couple of moments I almost went for the paddle out of fear for the engine’s well-being.
This is also the perfect place to note the one option the GTS offers that the crème-de-la-crème GT3 does not: a stick shift. Jumping into a manual equipped coupe after an outdoor, vineyard lunch break (followed by the obligatory afternoon catnap), it was clear I’d never outperform the lightning-fast shifts of the semi-automated PDK transmission. But the coupled feel is the one driving element technology will never quite replicate, no matter how hard it tries. Yeah, the GT3 may be the faster, more results-oriented flagship of the current 911 bloodline, but I’m good right here.