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First Drive: 2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS, And We Mean DRIVE +VIDEO

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     • SEE ALSO: 2014 LA Auto Show-Press Pass Coverage +VIDEO

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
November 21, 2014

One of the cars that make me smile is the Porsche 911. Why? Because through half a decade the 911 has maintained its typical silhouette, thanks to a brilliant design philosophy. During my first test drive on the road and on the race track, the smile gets even bigger, as the new Carrera GTS is another 911 that is a joy to drive.

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In 2010, the 911 range was expanded with the first generation Carrera GTS, which has been quite successful with one out of four buyers choosing this variant.
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It came at no surprise when, earlier this year, Porsche announced the arrival of the new 911 Carrera GTS ahead of its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show .

With 430 hp, 30 hp more compared to it predecessor, the Sport Chrono package and the sportier tuned PSAM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), the new GTS closes the gap between the Carrera S and the GT3. It is offered as coupe or convertible with rear-wheel drive or as Carrera 4 with all-wheel drive.

Just days before the Convention Center opened its doors for the media days of the LA Auto Show, I drove the new GTS models on the road and on the track.

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A first look at the 911 Carrera Gran Turismo Sport proved that, again, the designers have succeeded in maintaining the family styling, while providing an even sportier stance with a 36 mm/ 1.4 inches wider track (1.56 cm/61.4 in.) and the wide flared rear wheel arches of the 911 Carrera 4. While those 20-inch wheels with their standard central lock look racy indeed!

As usual during such first drive events, I shared the car with a colleague. Our test drive started just north of L.A. in Pasadena with the Carrera 4 GTS. This time, I jumped onto the passenger seat, knowing that we would change places half way on the long and winding Angeles Crest Highway to Willow Springs Raceway.

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I noticed that the usual grip handle above the door was lacking. But during the ride I never needed it since the Porsche remains flat as an iron in the bends and the partly Alcantara covered sport seat provides optimal lateral support.

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Then it is my turn to enjoy driving the Porsche on the famous highway and although it was quite inviting to really push the throttle, that would not make much sense when there is a race track on our route. Where we would get the opportunity to drive both the rear-wheel drive and AWD models without having to watch out for the guys that are trying to keep us safe by means of a radar gun…

The GTS does not make it difficult to restrain yourself, as it is also great at a decent(legal?) speed. The steering is communicative and beautifully direct with a firm feel and the 911 quickly turns into bends. Rough roads do not bother the sport chassis, and when changing throttle input the car remains stable. The flexibility of the 430 hp and 440 Nm/ 324 pound-feet strong 3.8-liter flat 6-cylinder engine is really great. It purrs nicely when cruising and the optional ($ 4,840) PDK Porsche Doppelkupplung transmission shifts unnoticeable at the right revs. As soon as I ask for more power, the exhaust sound deepens and after the exhaust flaps open there is an exciting GTS sound, which can be enhanced by pushing on the button in the center console.For additional involvement you can shift yourself by using the flippers on the steering wheel.

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We are up for more fun after arrival at Willow Springs. For my first stint, I choose a blue Carrera 4, while my companion jumps into a GTS Convertible.
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The Carrera 4 also is equipped with PDK, in English: dual clutch 7-speed transmission. When in Drive it is fully automatic. The transmission is self-learning, which means that it registers the way you drive in order to respond with matching revs. Move the gear lever to ‘M’ and you can shift up or down, or start paddle shifting.

Before starting my first laps, I moved the lever in applied ‘D’, pushed the Sport Plus button (part of the Sport Chrono Package) in the center console, as well as the PDCC button. Then, I lapped the track by paddle shifting. To be honest, there is not much difference, just the impression that you are more in charge when paddle shifting than in Drive. The power of the ‘flat six’ in the back of the 911 is available at all times. . Acceleration is sublime and the car rapidly obeys orders from the right foot and both hands. Handling is great. With all-wheel drive the car remains stable and there is no tendency to under steer at all. It was not hard to follow the instructor on his bumper – and later on push a bit. PDCC stands for Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, a system that extends the width of the dynamic performance by body roll compensation.

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The car is also equipped with optional PASM active suspension management that lowers ride height by 10 millimeters/0.4 inches in order to generate more rear-end down force. If you choose the optional Sport Chrono Package the height is reduced by another 10 mm/0.4 in.

When it is time to change cars I get into the red GTS, also with PDK, but that makes for a good comparison. On the road you would probably not feel that the GTS only weights 99 pounds less than the AWD model, but on the race track it proves to be more nimble.

Another factor may be the difference in what is called Porsche Torque Vectoring. PTV intervenes at the rear wheel at the inside of the bend for better traction and stability. It is standard in the GTS, but in vehicles with dual-clutch transmission PTV Plus is used, an electronically controlled, fully-variable rear differential lock. In the GTS it feels as if there is more room to play. I wished we had more laps to practice a well-controlled drift.

But it is absolutely possible to force it a bit more into the corner while applying the right amount of pressure on the throttle…

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Time flies and we have to leave the race track to drive back to Pasadena in the sapphire blue 911 Carrera 4 GTS with the 7-speed manual.

According to the engineers, shifting has been improved. But for comparisons, it is too long ago to recall the feel of the first GTS. It has been four years since I joined the first drive event in Palm Springs.

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Anyway, the new stick shift feels excellent. Click, click, shifting through the gears goes fast and effortless. Both my colleague and I are impressed by the elasticity of the engine and both love its racy sound leaving the exhaust manifold. As from very low revs, say 1,000 rpm, and in higher gear, the GTS speeds forward. You do not need to shift gears like a mad man when driving in the mountains. So, I raised the question: would I prefer the Double Clutch transmission. Even though I really appreciate the technology and the possibilities of shifting manually, would it be worth spending nearly 5 thousand dollars extra? Not for me, nor my driving companion.

At that point we also had to figure out what model we would prefer: a convertible or a coupe. That simply is a matter of taste. But the choice between rear-wheel drive and AWD is not. If I lived in a cold climate, I would go for the the Carrrera 4 GTS, otherwise the rear-wheel drive GTS would meet all expectations that you may have of a Porsche 911. Moreover, you would save some money and use it for ceramic composite brakes, or one of the other options. Or keep it in you pocket.

The 911 Carrera GTS is exactly what the three letters stand for: Gran Turismo Sport. It offers an inspiring combination of everyday usability and thrilling performance to enjoy track days.

2015 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

Engine: 6-cyl., flat
Cyl. Capacity: 3,800 cc
Transmission: 7-speed manual
Power: 430 hp/316 kW @ 7,500 rpm
Torque 440 NM/324 lb-ft @ 5,750
Kerb weight: 1,425 (1,445) kg
                      3,141 (3,186) lbs
Top speed*: 306 (304) km/h
	         190 (189) mph
0-62 mph*:  4.4 (4.0) seconds
Fuel cons * (combined EU  cycle) in l/100 km: 10.0 (8.7)
CO2 emission*  g/km: 235 (202)		       
Base price* : Germany € 117,549 (€ 137.422)
                      USA       $ 115,195 ($ 120.035)

*values in brackets for PDK transmission

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