I'll level with you. Excluding the spectacular GT3 for a moment, I am not an unalloyed fan of the 992-gen Porsche 911. Before that statement creates a pile-in on the comments, this isn't a binary thing. It's a nuanced criticism and doesn't mean I think the 992 is a terrible car. It isn't. I simply mean that, so far, the versions I've driven have left me a bit, well, meh. And let me explain briefly why as the context for this UK drive of the Carrera GTS.
Partly, it's the 992's bulk. Yes, that's a the well-trodden (although accurate) trope, but since the birth of the 996, the 911 just keeps expanding like Augustus Gloop. When does enough become enough? I don't know - but if you measured 'enough' out as a 4.5-metre by 2-metre rectangle on the road, the 992's footprint certainly crosses the line. Then there's its mass. The basic Carrera weighs more than 1,500 kilos, and its at-times imperfect body control alludes to a car struggling to control that heft. There are other niggles, too, like the brakes. Historically, the 911's brakes have been beyond reproach but all the 992s I've tried (again, bar the GT3) have a disconcerting 5mm of dead travel before they bite. To me, that's so not Porsche.
With that in mind, I approached the 992 Carrera GTS hopeful that it might address these issues. You see, fundamentally I adore 911s. Maybe a little too much, which is why I am so damn critical. And the 991.1 GTS I drove 'back in the day' was a really, really lovely thing. Yes, still wide-bodied and hardly a flyweight, but it was so beautifully sorted that none of that seemed to matter. I knew then, what with it being among the final naturally-aspirated Carreras, that the 991.1 GTS was going to be one of those sought-after 911s. The ones discussed by afficionados with an, "it's the last of the..." preamble that's bestowed on any 911 prior to an epoch change. A preamble that, usually, indicates it's time to invest and, as it happens, I've just checked: they're £85k now. The last time I looked they were £65k.
Anyway, back to the new model. My first experience was in the Carrera 4 GTS with the PDK transmission. It's a good gearbox, as we know PDKs tend to be, and a cause for optimism. The GTS's revisions include specific springs that drop the ride height by 10mm compared with the Carrera S, and the addition of GT3-style helper springs to soften the initial response. The brakes are from the Turbo (408mm cross-drilled iron discs up front and 380mm at the rear) and the GTS's modest but welcome power gain is delivered with a higher boost and better charge cooling - look at the rear, just under the numberplate, and you'll see some vents that are aren't there on the regular Carreras. They allow a freer flow of air from the engine cover vent through the intercooler matrix and out again. This particular Carrera 4 GTS also had rear-wheel steering, but that's nothing to worry about. Porsche's RWS doesn't usually corrupt things, and it doesn't here. And I happened to have driven to the launch event in a Cayman, which, despite being a very well-sorted car, didn't have the GTS's light touch and finger-tip feedback.
The GTS's engine sounds like a flat-six should, too. It's still not quite as musical as the pre-turbo days, but there's plenty of interesting whirs and harmonics do get lost in. Although it's better without the GTS's standard sports exhaust activated, because the extra resonances seem a bit unnecessary in the mid to upper reaches of the rev range. The engine is quite boosty, too, even in Normal mode, with a stark difference in response between 1,800 to 2,100rpm, but it zings round to the 7,500rpm limiter eagerly and there's no doubting it's stupidly quick. Add in the Carrera 4's traction and you find yourself pulling onto a dual carriageway muttering, "good Lord; how's that 70mph already?"
Nevertheless, reservations remain. The brakes are still blighted by the dead patch, and the body control, while better than the Carrera's, still doesn't feel properly locked down on uneven roads, unless you switch the damping to Sport. Doing so doesn't ruin the ride, mind, which is fine for an everyday sports car. The four-wheel-drive system is quite rear-biased if you prod it, which is good. But the relatively abrupt transition from understeer to oversteer on damp roundabouts did make me wonder whether the Carrera 2 GTS would be a bit of a handful. Yet by the time I handed the Carrera 4 GTS back I was content. It's a decent thing. Though no revelation.
Then I took the Carrera 2 GTS manual out. Wow, what a difference. And I'm not talking the usual manual vs auto thing, either. Sometimes cars that are broadly the same just feel different. Perhaps because of variances in how they've been put together at the factory, or maybe it's down to spec differences. In this case, the Carrera 4 GTS is around 80kg heavier than the Carrera 2 manual, which also has the standard iron brakes (the 4 had optional carbon-ceramics) and standard steering (without RWS). Even so, these two cars, on the same roads, felt fundamentally different and despite consulting the Porsche UK guys I am not entirely sure why.
The most striking aspect was the relative effortlessness of the Carrera 2 GTS's damping. It flows along so capably with the dampers in Normal, to the point that now you believe in the helper springs rather than thinking of them as an apparition. They're there doing something discernible - providing welcome elasticity that makes smaller imperfections disappear, and then, when the road gets more challenging, giving way to tautness and composure in the primary springs that delivers utter confidence.
Even the power delivery feels smoother. There's some logic to that when you consider the PDK has eight more tightly packed ratios than the seven-speed manual. Even so, I cannot fully explain it, but the torque delivery is just easier-going below 3,000rpm. It was nowhere as snappy at the rear as I'd expected, either. On the still-damp roads it displayed that age-old-911 trait of mighty traction and was perfectly manageable when that was exhausted. And yes, the manual adds something into the mix. Of course it does. No other manufacturer, other than Porsche, does pedal boxes and throttle responses so attuned to telepathic heel-and-toe shifting. But there was more to this Carrera 2 GTS's abilities than just that.
I liked the Carrera 4 GTS. It's a thoroughly nice thing but, if you'd asked, "is it worth the near-£30k uplift over the standard Carrera 2?" I'd have said not. And yet, based on my drive of this particular Carrera 2 GTS manual, I have to say, 100 per cent, that it is worth every penny. It is hands down the best 992 I've ever driven; at least one that you can walk into a Porsche dealer and buy without the funny handshake that gets you a GT3.
I liked it so much that I was considering ending this review with a cliché like "It's a GT3-lite." But then I tested that theory by taking a manual GT3 out for a drive and decided that statement was a load of codswallop. The jump to the GT3, in immediacy and rawness, is vast. At best there's some essence of GT3 in the Carrera 2 GTS - but honestly that's all you'll need to thoroughly enjoy every second with it.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 2 GTS (MANUAL)
Engine: 2981cc, turbocharge, flat six
Transmission: 7-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 480@6500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 420@2300-5000rpm
0-62mph: 4.1 secs
Top speed: 193mph
Weight: 1510kg (DIN)
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