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Speed Date

The best Porsche 911? The Carrera GTS, of course Add to ...

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that people confronted with a large number of choices (like those offered at a typical big box retailer) suffered from a unique brand of exhaustion that made them score low in psychological testing.

Lead author Kathleen D. Vohs concluded that making choices depletes a precious resource within the human brain. With this in mind, consider the plight of the Porsche 911 buyer, who must choose from 23 different models of the same car.

That’s right – 23. How can that be? The modern 911 is an exercise in consumer choice gone amok. You can get three different tops (coupe, convertible or Targa.) You can get rear wheel or all wheel drive, turbo, non-turbo, Black Edition, S or non-S, a Speedster version… the list goes on, and the headache grows.

When the 911 was introduced in 1964, there was only one choice – a coupe with a 130 horsepower engine. Now you can get multiple body styles and engines ranging from 345 horsepower all the way up to 620. So what should you get? I’ve driven a wide range of 911s, and like Goldilocks, I have found one that I think is just right for all-round driving – the Carrera GTS.

For starters, it’s a coupe – the only style that a 911 should be offered in. To me, all other 911 top options are sacrilegious, because they ruin the car’s perfect, bullet-like shape. Worst of all is the cabriolet – cutting off a 911’s beautiful roof is like demolishing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Then there is the delicate matter of bulges, wings and scoops, which can desecrate the car’s iconic silhouette. The GTS has the fat fenders of the turbo cars, but eschews their slats, scoops and spoilers. From every angle, the GTS looks like an improved version of the original Porsche 911 coupe.

Another key point – the GTS doesn’t have turbochargers. The 911 Turbo (available in several models, of course) may be an awesome car, but it’s not my favourite for street driving. On the street, I prefer the beautiful sound and linear power delivery of the non-turbo cars, and the motor in the GTS is perfect, with 408 horsepower – 23 more than the Carrera S.

Among car buffs, horsepower debates take on the aspect of religious dogma. Some contend that you can never have too much power. Others believe that power is only one part of a car’s performance, and that power must be matched to both the chassis the intended mission. I am an acolyte of this latter faith.

On the road, the GTS has more power than most drivers could ever use. I passed a line of 10 cars with a burst of instant acceleration, and the GTS rocketed me from corner to corner on one of my favourite back roads. I’ve driven 911s that have more than 500 horsepower, and I am here to tell you that 408 is enough (unless you’re on a racetrack, facing cars that have 500-plus.) Although it’s not a cheap car at $118,000, the GTS I drove is one of the least expensive 911 variants. (The lineup starts at $90,000, and goes all the way up to $279,500.) The GTS has more power and bigger wheels than a base 911, but eliminates a lot of expensive options: turbochargers, convertible top, all-wheel drive, and the costly PDK paddle-shift transmission. You can add the PDK if you want, but my GTS had a classic manual: six speeds and a clutch pedal. The stubby shift lever was accurate, and the pedals were perfectly positioned for heel and toe shifting (where you push on the brake pedal with your toes and blip the throttle with your heel to co-ordinate downshifts). After driving a lot of different 911s, I prefer the layout that has been around since 1964 – power delivered to the rear wheels only. Although four-wheel drive 911s can pull harder out of a corner, their steering doesn’t feel the same, because the front wheels have to do more work, since they’re transmitting power. In a rear-wheel drive 911 like the GTS, you can feel the contact patches through the wheel better.

I’ve had endless talks with car-nut buddies about which Porsche 911 is best, and the discussion often takes a theological bent. I have my own beliefs, and to me, the conventionally aspirated 911 coupe with manual transmission is an article of faith. The GTS embodies that faith, and it costs less than a turbo.

For Goldilocks and the 23 Porsches, this is the one that’s not too hard, not too soft, and not too expensive. Just right.

For more from Peter Cheney, go to facebook.com/cheneydrive (No login required!)

Twitter: Peter Cheney@cheneydrive

E-mail: pcheney@globeandmail.com

Globe and Mail Road Rush archive: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/car-life/cheney/

Follow on Twitter: @cheneydrive


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