The Goldilocks zone is the precious distance from which a habitable planet orbits its sun.
Too close and you’ll sweat like you’re wearing a vest of cocaine in an Indonesian airport. Too far, and she’s a bit cold. Give us the middle, the 20-degree bit, thanks. Cars are the same.
A Toyota 86 is a little undercooked to some, while a Koenigsegg One:1 could be too hot to enjoy; not that I’ve driven one, but 1000kW and rear-drive doesn't earn you a hall pass around the laws of physics. Some, too, find a base 911 Carrera a little vanilla while a 911 Turbo too much. Enter GTS – the Goldilocks 911.
It’s basically a Carrera S with a grind of pepper and some make-up. Breathing mods like a more aggro intake cam and tweaked inlet ports extract an extra 22kW from the 3.8-litre flat-six, power now 316kW, although torque is unchanged at 440Nm.
Crucially, the GTS is important because it’s now the fastest manual 911 you can get. It weighs 10kg more than the manual Carrera S, but scores more rubber. Like Carrera S, the GTS has 245/35 front tyres, but stretched over 9-inch-wide front rims (8.5 on Carrera S).
Meanwhile out back, mega 11.5-inch-wide rear rims wear 305/30 Pirelli P-Zeroes. The GTS, too, uses the widebody from the Carrera 4, so those hips, which wouldn’t look out of place in Zoo Weekly, are 44mm wider than a Carrera S. Rear track, too, is also 44mm wider, lending the GTS a mega stance and making it one inappropriately gorgeous 991 911.
The extra engine paprika means the manual GTS is a bee’s dick quicker than the manual Carrera S. Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds, 0-200km/h in 14.3sec. A manual Carrera S does 4.5sec and 14.4sec. But both are slower than their PDK equivalents; the PDK 911 GTS does 4.0sec and 13.5sec, obviously helped by launch control.
Never mind, though, because the gearshift in the manual GTS, which Porsche recently tweaked, is beautifully accurate and mechanical, although for lovers of buttery gearshifts, it does feel like it’s been lubricated with graphite powder rather than grease.
The GTS’s driving position, like all 991 911s, is literally perfect, with generous room for limbs, great visibility and uncomplicated ergonomics. The seats are firmly padded and flawlessly sculpted, and the interior drips in Alcantara (that said, our test car did have $17K of interior options).
At low speed the controls have an appreciable heaviness about them, particularly the steering, but the clutch, while heavy, delivers rich feedback about its bite point and only a muppet would stall this thing.
Meanwhile the ride for a sports car is excellent. The GTS feels softly sprung with a buoyancy over big bumps tempered by buttery damping. There is a firmness, sure, probably due to the fact you’re on 30-profile tyres and 20-inch wheels, but the ride is perfectly comfortable for the daily grind.
Unfortunately, on a 100km/h Aussie road (where you’ll be seeing just 1900rpm in seventh gear) those big Pirelli P-Zeroes penetrate the cabin with roaring road noise. Fortunately the stereo makes a nice sound. But the exhaust is even nicer.
As you wind through the tacho in first and second gear, it’ll have you cackling with glee. It grows in music and anger, not just volume, a distinct, rich and aggressive flat-six bark. In the top of third gear, as the revs wind out slowly towards the 7800rpm redline, the cabin floods with a vibration and bewitching exhaust note that’ll give you the tingles. Just don’t look at the speedometer.
The gears in the GTS, like the Carrera S and other Porsches, are crazy tall. First gear, at 7800rpm, is 75km/h. Top of second is 130km/h. Top of third, your licence will be shivering in your wallet. But despite pinching gears from the Starship Enterprise the 911 GTS pulls through them with a powerful and satisfying thrust. She’s fast.
There’s incredible, almost unbelievable grip, too, on the road. Owing to tremendous suspension performance, the 911 GTS is spooky in that the faster you barrel into a corner, the more grip is magically revealed. After taking one corner at what feels like seven-tenths, you bowl through the next at what logically should then be eight-tenths.
But in fact, owing probably also to tyres coming up to temp, you realise, humbly, what you thought was seven-tenths was actually six-tenths; the limit is further away than you first thought. By god, it has crazy levels of adhesion.
On the road, the 911 GTS is easy to drive fast but its ultimate limit is positively stratospheric and requires skill, and balls, just to kiss, let alone dance around. At this point, you are going seriously, seriously fast and if you hit an unexpected slick of gravel mid-corner, you’re in big trouble. And you can’t help but feel aware there’s several hundred kilos in the boot.
The GTS, like other 911s, is not a car in which you suddenly double brake pressure as a fast corner tightens. You need to put this thing on a track to properly, and safely, appreciate its on-limit behaviour.
Immense grip and satisfying power aside, traction through those 305 rear tyres is no problem. The electric steering is perfect in weighting and ratio, if a little numb in feel. The brakes are mighty and the pedal feel perfect. The electronics are expertly calibrated, interjecting quietly rather than abruptly.
The engine is a total sweetheart anywhere on the tacho. If you want to go full throttle in seventh gear at 40km/h, the engine will groan, and wonder what the hell you’re doing, but it’ll haul without fuss or splutter.
At $268,700 the manual GTS is $23,500 more than a manual Carrera S, and $24,900 cheaper than a PDK GT3. We’ve given the Carrera S four-and-a-half stars so it seems appropriate we give the GTS five. It’s an unbelievably talented car, in as much ergonomics as performance.
And we’re so glad, and lucky, it exists, because god knows the days of the naturally-aspirated, manual 911 are severely numbered.
5 out of 5 stars
Engine: 3800cc flat-six, DOHC, 24v
Power: 316kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 440Nm @ 5750rpm
0-100km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)