There’s always room for one more – at least, that seems to be the philosophy guiding the Porsche 911 Carrera, which has seen two additional variants join the family for 2015. Hot on the heels of the style-driven Targa 4 comes the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS, the successor to one of last year’s most popular models and a vehicle that has been thoroughly revised in order to position it as the most powerful, and best-packaged, Carrera of all.
You’ll notice that I’ve been careful to include the ‘Carrera’ moniker in discussing the new GTS, and that’s because I’m mirroring the language used by Porsche product planners at the launch event I attended at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park this past month. Specifically, the 911 Carrera GTS is intended to slot in as the most powerful member of the Carrera family, a vehicle that bridges the gap between the very quick Carrera S and the track-oriented 911 GT3. It’s not just marketing mumbo-jumbo, either – as I discovered after a full day behind the wheel, the GTS has a number of Easter eggs in its basket should see it stealing sales away from each of the vehicles that book-end it in the showroom.
Details, Details, Details
It’s easy to focus on the biggest advantage enjoyed by the 2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS over the lesser Carrera S: the 30 additional horsepower squeezed out of its same-displacement 3.8-liter flat-six engine. Porsche’s engineers worked their magic on both the unit’s intake and exhaust system in order to achieve the extra oomph, bringing the total number of ponies offered by the GTS to 430, complemented by 325 lb-ft of torque.
As with all other Carreras, you can order the GTS with all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, and it also comes with the choice of either a seven-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual PDK transmission. Once you leave the Carrera universe for the more exotic shores of GT3-land or Turbo-beach, however, you end up losing that shift-it-yourself experience in favor of a PDK-only approach. Herein lies the first of the GTS model’s Easter eggs: it’s the most powerful 911 you can buy with a traditional manual transmission, and while it might be down 35 horses compared to the next-step-up GT3, that gearbox availability is going to mean a lot to a substantial number of sports car enthusiasts.
Dedicated Porschephiles will have already noticed that the extra grunt produced by the 2015 Porsche 911 GTS’ 3.8-liter engine is in fact identical to the numbers one would achieve if they ordered the Carrera S with the optional Powerkit. That’s because the Powerkit, even if it’s not mentioned by name, is standard equipment with the GTS edition of the 911, which leads us to the second egg on our Easter hunt through the vehicle’s features list: packaging.
While some might point at the $17,000 sticker shock that separates the Carrera GTS from the Carrera S and shudder, those in the know are actually celebrating the new model’s $115,195 MSRP, because it represents a substantial value when considering just how much gear the GTS bundles in free of charge. Items that would have been options with the Carrera S – such as Porsche’s PASM adaptive suspension, an active exhaust system, HID headlights, and the Sport Chrono package – are all included with the Carrera GTS. In fact, the price of the Powerkit alone eats up the entire pricing gap between the S and the GTS, which actually makes the more expensive Porsche somewhat of a bargain.
You also get a styling bonus when you go the Carrera GTS route. Center-lock 20-inch rims tell enthusiasts that you’re driving something other than a run-of-the-mill 911, and the car comes with the same widebody design and pushed-out rear track featured on the Carrera 4S regardless of whether you order all-wheel drive or not.
Hot Lap Or Canyon Cruise
The 2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is available in both fixed-roof coupe and convertible cabriolet body styles, and assuming money is no object (the drop-top is an additional $12k over the hardtop) deciding between the two boils down to how you intend to use the car. On the track at Willow Springs it was easy to develop a preference for the coupe’s stiffer chassis, which offered better feedback from the asphalt beneath its wheels along with a quicker response to steering inputs at high rates of speed. On the street, however – and particularly when carving through the canyon roads that connect Big Willow to the lusher environs of Pasadena – it was much harder to discern a difference between the cabriolet and the steel-roof GTS, as each demonstrated a remarkable willingness to stick to the pavement while being hustled up and down some of the twistiest, cliff-bordered roads you can imagine.
It really comes down to personal preference, not to mention how easily you tend to collect sunburns on the top of your head. My one word of advice would be to stick with the rear-wheel drive Carrera GTS over the Carrera 4 GTS if track days are in your future – you’ll appreciate the more direct steering and livelier suspension tuning at the limit.
Make Mine GTS
There’s no question that a base 911 Carrera is an enjoyable grand touring car, but if you’re looking for more performance – and don’t want to subject yourself to the molar-rattling suspension settings of the competition-oriented GT3 – then the 2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is the clear choice. Skipping the intermediate step presented by the Carrera S is a no-brainer if you hope to hit the track in your coupe, as the additional power and PASM pay for themselves almost immediately (and are priced more affordably than if you had ordered them with the base S). The extended leather interior, big rims, and fat fenders that also come with the GTS package are simply there to remind that you haven’t had to sacrifice the finer things in life in the pursuit of speed.