Apparently Los Angeles is plagued by traffic jams. Not that we’d know, hurtling through the almost deserted roads of the Angeles national forest, this was the yin to the yang of those legendary asphalt snarl-ups.
From our base in Pasadena, just outside downtown L.A., we headed out into 120 km of the most spectacular mountain pass roads en route to the Willow Springs International Raceway on the other side of the range.
And that wasn’t the best part.
This was – the Porsche 911 GTS. It was my introduction to the 991 series 911 range, never having driven one before, and on the face of it, this was something of a leap into the deep end. That “GTS” badge fixed to the tail of any Porsche marks it as the purist version of the range and, in this instance, it slots between the 294 kW Carrera S and the track focused 350 kW GT3. There are four models in the range – a rear-wheel drive coupe and cabrio, and an all-wheel drive version of the tin and drop tops.
The challenge of the narrow, snaking, unfamiliar road and a powerful and equally unfamiliar performance car adds up to an intimidating package. I’d driven a Bentley Continental GT V8 through similar roads outside of San Diego earlier in the year and it was a bit of a handful when pushing on.
This, however, was something else all together – and it also answered another question that cropped up after our recent Performance Shootout road trip from Cape Town to the Aldo Scribante track in PE (read all about that in the January issue – out mid Dec). Among our posse of sports cars was the Porsche Cayman GTS. We were deeply impressed by its abilities and wondered whether this was beginning to make its bigger and more expensive 911 brother a little nervous.
Five minutes into the mountains and the answer was a clear “no”. As good as that Cayman GTS is, this particular car is very clearly on a whole other level.
Like all Porsche’s GTS models, the way to quickly tell it apart from the other 911’s is the black accented trim on the headlights, bumper, sill trim and tail pipes. All models also have the wider Carrera 4 body with flared wheel arches and widened rear track. Gloss black 20” centre-lock wheels are also standard.
Inside you get four-way adjustable Sport Plus seats with swathes of black Alcantara everywhere, though full leather is an option if you’d prefer. The GTS logo on the head restraints, instrument cluster, and aluminium doorsill plates clear up any doubt.
The GTS shares the Carrera S’s 3,8-litre naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine, except in this car it’s had a little magic dust sprinkled on it by the white coats at Weissach. The engine has gained an extra 20 kW by reworking the intake manifold to include a variable resonance induction system that basically shoves in the optimal amount of air into the combustion chamber all the time. Cylinder heads have been reworked and a new intake camshaft added for a larger valve stroke
What it all means is that you can access the engine’s full torque and increased power at full throttle. And that means bags of power on tap through the gear range. Talking of transmission, the GTS comes with a 7-speed manual or a 7-speed dual clutch PDK transmission, and the rorty Sports Exhaust System is standard issue.
Our cabrio was the 7-speed manual version, and aside from this crisp, short-throw action, meant the Porsche Torque Vectoring comes standard, working together with a mechanical rear diff for improved traction. Not that traction was much of an issue in this all-wheel drive version. The front-end grip is genuinely staggering. It’s mighty. Massive. Such that you can chuck it into an unfamiliar corner safe in the knowledge that even if the road does tighten up on you, you’re still going to rail right out of it.
Standard too is Porsche Active Suspension Management. Its active dampers are tuned specifically for enthusiastic driving and they certainly earned their development Euros through these mountain roads. A few high-speed corners had unexpected dips and bumps that would unsettle a normal car… in the GTS you’d feel a brief unweighting of the steering wheel as it lifted over the undulations before quickly settling down and applying all the grip its 20″ tyres (245/35 front, 305/30 rear) can muster.
The virtual absence of any traffic meant a full hour of exuberant driving in a car that flattered my meager abilities behind the wheel. You’ll love the sound it makes too. It’s not as shouty as the Cayman GTS – I’d often turn off the sound-enhancing exhaust button next to the gear leaver for a little peace. Rather the 911 GTS’s exhaust note echoes the car’s styling. It’s all about understated power. Floor the throttle and you hear it bouncing off the surrounding cliffs, but take it easy and it’s a concerto of restrained power waiting patiently for the next crescendo. Pass me my baton.
The nature of the road and the suspected presence of Mr State Trooper meant no straight-line heroics were possible to test the car’s top end. That would have to wait for the Willow Springs International Raceway… which is where I hopped into a rear-wheel drive GTS coupe for eight flying laps around the circuit.
But that’s another story… and one you can read in our January issue.
Full Porsche 911 GTS price list:
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS cabrio R1 727 000
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS coupe R1 587 000
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS cabrio R1 609 000
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS coupe R1 484 000
Price: R1 727 000
Engine:3,8-litre, six-cylinder, boxer, naturally aspirated
Power:316 kW at 7 500 r/min
Torque:440 N.m at 5 750 r/min
0-100 km/h:4,4 seconds
Top Speed:306 km/h
Fuel Consumption:9,5 l/100 km