Sept. 14--If there were a Hall of Fame for option packages, Porsche's Powerkit would be a shoo-in first-ballot selection. It's the heart of a set of upgrades that turn the already legendary 911 Carrera into a near supercar, at a price that could be called near-reasonable.
The beneficiary of the Powerkit and other goodies from Porsche's bottomless bag of tricks is the **** 2017 911 Carrera GTS. It's not fastest, most powerful or most expensive member of the 911 family, but it just may be the sweet spot in the lineup.
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Every 911 Carrera GTS starts its life as a Carrera S, the second step in the extension ladder of models that comprises the 911 family. This review refers to a 2017 Carrera GTS, but there are no significant changes to the model for 2018 save a small increase in price.
You can get a GTS five flavors: rear- or all-wheel drive; coupe, convertible or targa. "Targa" is perhaps best described as German for T-top, but owners are not required to have mullets.
The Carrera GTS theoretically has four seats -- the rear pair are better suited to grocery bags than bipeds -- but it competes primarily with two-seat sports cars like the Corvette ZO6, Jaguar F-type SVR and Mercedes AMG GT S coupe.
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Behind the Wheel
2017 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS
Rear-wheel-drive four-passenger sports car
Price as tested: $128,510 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: **** (Out of four stars)
Reasons to buy: Handling; performance; looks; legendary name
Shortcomings: Lack of common features; rear legroom; slow start after idle-stop
Prices for the 2017 911 Carrera GTS $119,000. That gets you a Carrera S, the Powerkit that boosts power 30 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque with larger turbos and more boost; sport seats; sport suspension, 0.39-inch lower ride; satin black wheels; sport exhaust; Chrono Sport timer and other goodies.
My Carrera GTS also had a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, active rear steering, heated front seats, auto dimming mirrors and front axle lift, which raises the car's nose 1.5 inch at speeds up to 37 mph to protect the GTS-specific front fascia.
My test car stickered at $128,510. All prices exclude destination charges.
The GTS's price is comparable to its competitors.
Competitive base prices (excluding destination charges)
(Automatic transmission, rear-wheel-drive models unless otherwise noted)
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS: $119,000
Chevrolet Corvette ZO6: $79,495
Jaguar F-type SVR AWD: $121,900
Mercedes AMG GT S coupe: $132,400
Porsche's new optional rear steering is a revelation. The 911 Carrera GTS responds to steering inputs like an extension your body. Suddenly, identifying the apex of a turn is as natural as putting one foot in front of the other. Except the result feels like moving with the seemingly effortless speed of Usain Bolt's finest races.
The engine is immediately responsive, with a satisfying throttle note that can be embellished in by sport mode. The combination of bigger turbos and two pounds greater boost pressure -- 18 lbs. vs. 16 in the Carrera S -- delivers power smoothly while the DCT transmission snicks through the gears with effortless precision.
The interior is trimmed in Alcantara, leather, with anodized and black aluminum trim. The center console buttons and dials to make controlling audio, climate and performance systems simple, unlike the plethora of controls littering the interior of some advanced cars. A big touchscreen, voice recognition and Apple CarPlay complement those controls, making it easy for the driver to concentrate on the fun of driving a GTS.
The Carrera GTS has the deceptively simple elegance of a design that's been refined continually for half a century, since the first 911 debuted in 1963. Satin black center-locking 20-inch wheels are standard, along with sport design side mirrors and GTS logos on the doors.
To minimize weight and maximize profit -- the only thing Porsche makes better than fast cars is cubic quantities of money -- Porsche omitted a few features you might expect for 128 large. Memory for the driver's seat and mirror settings, for instance. Also blind spot alert.
Like most new cars, my GTS had auto stop, which shuts the engine off to save fuel at traffic likes and when idling. It's reasonably smooth, but the restart was slow enough that I found myself disabling it when I was in heavy traffic and wanted quick response from stop lights.
Storage space is almost nonexistent. The rear-engine car's front trunk measures just 5.1 cubic feet, about the same as a Mazda MX-5 Miata's trunk. Space is so limited that Porsche amusingly volunteers that another 9.1 cubic feet are available in the back seat, since it's more likely to hold weekend bags that passengers.
Specifications as tested
Engine: 3.0L twin-turbo 24-valve flat-six
Power: 450 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 405 lb-ft of torque @ 2,150 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 96.5 inches
Length: 177.1 inches
Width: 77.9 inches
Height: 51.0 inches
Curb Weight: 3,241 lbs.
Where assembled: Zuffenhausen, Germany
Facts and figures
The 911 Carrera CTS's 3.0L bi-turbo flat-six engine produces 450 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
Porsche offered a GTS before, but the 2017 model was the first to offer turbochargers. The result is an extra 80 lb-ft of torque. The Corvette ZO6, F-type SVR and AMG GT S all have more power, but the GTS's performance is competitive: a top speed of 192 m.p.h. and 3.5-second 0-60 m.p.h. time.
The GTS is the lightest car in the group. That helps offset its power disadvantage, but its ace in the hole is the four-wheel steering system's responsiveness.
The GTS's EPA fuel economy rating of 20 m.p.g. in the city, 26 on the highway and 23 combined beats the competitors by a whopping 6-7 m.p.g. in the key combined figure.
Competitive EPA fuel economy ratings
(Automatic transmission, rear-wheel-drive models unless otherwise noted)
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS: 20 m.p.g. city/26 highway/23 combined. Premium gasoline.
Chevrolet Corvette ZO6: 13/23/16. Premium gasoline.
Jaguar F-type SVR AWD: 15/23/18. Premium gasoline.
Mercedes AMG GT S coupe: 16/22/18 Premium gasoline.
The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is a singularly elegant supercar. Its restrained approach to power and performance delivers all the fun and prestige most drivers will ever want without indulging in the mega-horsepower war that obsesses some automakers.
You can spend more on a 911, much more for exotic sports cars, but you're unlikely to find a car that's more delightful to drive. Every moment behind the wheel is a reminder that no matter how fast you go, you can always take the long way to savor more time with its nearly perfect combination of power, handling and comfort.
Key features on vehicle tested
Standard equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control; front seat side air bags; curtain air bags; four-way power front seats; power mirrors; manually adjustable steering column; daytime running lights; backup camera; Bluetooth compatible; dual-zone air conditioning; two cup holders;
leather seats; sport suspension; sport steering wheel; bi-xenon headlights; cruise control; parking sensor; Alcantara interior trim; 20-in black aluminum center locking wheels; Sport Chrono package; USB port; voice recognition; navigation; touch screen; Apple CarPlay; AM/FM/satellite radio.
Options: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; automatically dimming mirrors; heated front seats rear axle steering; front axle lift system.
Contact Mark Phelan: [email protected] or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.
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