Frank S. Washington, Mon, 26 Mar 2012 12:20:47 PDT
DETROIT - When you're dealing with near automotive perfection, improvement comes in inches, ounces and tenths of a second. So it is with the venerable Porsche 911.
Although the 911 first appeared in 1964 as a 1965 model, don't let the "venerable" fool you. The 911 is an icon in the sports car world. It is based on an engineering pedigree that is only matched by the most expensive of car brands.
And while Porsche has expanded its nameplate offerings, it has also expanded the trim lines offered on the 911 which picked up the Carrera moniker in 1973. There are more than 20 different trims levels of the 911today.
Still, it's misleading to call variants of a car that starts at $78K trim lines. Because when talking about a Porsche 911 Carrera, those trim lines translate into power, raw and refined. I spent five too short days driving the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.
My test car had 408 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. That's 23 more ponies than a 911 Carrera S. The GTS' torque is unchanged from the Carrera S but it kicks in at 4,200 rpm; 200 rpm earlier. This is the incremental improvement I was talking about and in the world of performance this stuff makes a big difference.
The GTS was mated to Porsche's Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK). In English, that means a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. These transmissions shift faster than even the most skilled race car drivers using manual gear boxes. Thus, their zero to 60 mph time is faster.
In the case of the Porsche GTS, it gets from a standstill to 60 mph in four seconds. Top speed is 190 mph which is two mph faster than the Carrera S. Remember, in the world of perfection improvement is incremental. And for the record, the GTS is not the fastest Porsche 911 but its close.
The Zuffenhausen, Germany-based, automaker has begun to say that "high performance and fuel efficiency go hand in hand." My test car got 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway but who cares? I chuckled when I discovered two small cupholders embedded in the dash board. I've never seen anybody driving a Porsche drinking anything. Eh, no!
Anyway, the Porsche GTS has the wider flanks of the Carrera 4 (all-wheel-drive). The rear track is wider; so are the wheels. There's a myriad of engineering that goes into that 23 extra horsepower and the lowering of maximum torque RPMs but I won't get into it here.
Still, my test car had 19-inch center mount (no lug nuts) Spyder wheels painted black with high gloss flanges that looked like thin white walls (almost). The visual package included Porsche's front apron SportDesign with black spoiler edge, special side skirts and the Carrera GTS logo on the doors and the rear lid. The area between the quad tailpipes was also black.
Inside, I found the Alcantara (sued-like) material particularly exotic. It was on the seating surfaces, the brake lever, head liner, even the steering wheel. Porsche has also yielded to practicality. Bluetooth, a navigation system, a premium audio system and other creature comforts including automatic climate controls and heated front seats were in my test car.
There was no way and nowhere that I could let the Porsche GTS loose. But at low speeds I think the car can be an everyday driver in the proper climate, though I don't know why you would. Still, in northern winter months, I would park it, cover it, and put it away in its room; the garage.
The base sticker on my 2011 Porsche 911 GTS was $103,100. Add on options including the $4,320 PDK and a $950 freight charge and the total sticker for my test car was $117,345; a pittance for perfection.