Right now, there are some 23 variations of the Porsche 911 in the company's Canadian lineup. Everything from the "basic" (although nothing Porsche manufactures is ever basic) Carrera to the race-ready GT2 RS.
While they range in power output from 345 hp to 620 hp and can be had with or without 4WD, and in coupe or cabriolet configurations, all of them go like the wind, handle like they're on rails, stop on a dime and have a fun-to-drive factor that's off the charts.
There isn't a dog among 'em and, if I had the money, I'd own one. Until that day, I guess I'll have to content myself with the odd week or two behind the wheel and keep buying those lottery tickets.
Anyway, somewhere in the middle of the 911 pack is the GTS, which comes as a coupe or cabriolet and can be had with or without 4WD. My tester was the soft-top model, with 2WD and Porsche's seven-speed Doppelkupplung (PDK) sequential automatic transmission.
I'm not usually a fan of automatic gearboxes in a sports car of this calibre, but this one is a joy, with prompt acceleration, nearly-perfect shift points and an ease of operation that almost gives the car another driving dimension. It's accessed via steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Two negatives here though. First up, the autobox adds almost $5,000 to the price tag and, second, it balks when you back up. If this was a manual transmission, you'd put it in reverse, let out the clutch and Hans is your uncle. But the automatic takes a moment to think about it and then lurches backward. Not a deal-breaker, but annoying when you're trying to parallel park in traffic.
But back to the drivetrain. In this configuration, Porsche's legendary, horizontally opposed, "flat-six" develops 408 horsepower and, with the PDK, gives the GTS Cabriolet a 0-100 km time in the mid-four-second range.
Yes, there are other cars that are quicker, but how fast do you need to go? Think about it. From a standing start to freeway speed in about the time it takes you to sneeze.
And the engine itself, located just a couple of feet behind you, is beautifully responsive, making all kinds of lovely noises under throttle. Not intrusive, but to those of us who appreciate a well-tuned engine, it's a symphony.
And if you really must have that extra bit of snap, you can get the Sport Chrono package, which includes a fascinating Launch Control setting for race-type starts, and changes the transmission's shift points while providing quicker and harder shifts between gears. The Chrono package adds $1,690 to the price tag.
Elsewhere, the GTS Cabriolet has a canvas-type soft top that deploys in 15-20 seconds, with a heated glass rear window, and it tucks away neatly once it's lowered.
You can also get heated seats for an additional $600, which I think is chintzy. Come on, Porsche; you're telling me that for this car's $129,000 base price you can't throw in a couple of heated seats?
Other standard equipment includes climate control, the usual one-touch-up/down power windows, remote locking and arguably the most comprehensive instrumentation on the market. Options on my car also included a navi system ($2,410) and XM Radio ($860), among other things. Most of these kinds of items should be standard equipment on a car with this kind of sticker price, in my opinion.
Aside from the obvious - blinding acceleration and a glittering road presence - the thing that strikes me about this and most of the other 911 models that I've driven over the years is its use-ability. Yes, it's a road-ripping, corner-devouring super-car that can keep up with just about anything in the world, yet it's also a decent everyday commuter-mobile, if a little on the pricey side.
Whenever I drive one of these cars, I never feel like I'm behind the wheel of a temperamental super-car that could go out of tune when the weather changes or turn around and bite me if I miss a shift. Get in, turn the key, and off you go. No need to warm the car up or fuss with various computer gadgets (although you can if you want to). Like the saying goes, you can drive it like you stole it.
It needs premium gas, but if you can afford a new Porsche in the first place, the price of fuel is probably the last thing you're concerned about.
And let's not forget Porsche's heritage. There aren't many other manufacturers that can claim this kind of lineage. The 911, in one form or another, has been with us since 1963, has been a staple on racetracks around the world and is still instantly recognizable, with the same basic design as the original. It's faster now and liquid-cooled, of course, but there is no mistaking this car for anything else.
I get asked this question by a lot by people: If money was no object, and I could buy whatever I like, what would I drive?
Here it is, folks.
2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet
Type: High-performance, four-seater convertible
Base Price: $128,800; as tested, $144,855
Engine: 3.8-litre, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 408 hp/310 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift feature
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.2 city/7.5 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Audi R8 Spyder, Audi TTS Roadster, BMW M3 Cabriolet, Chevrolet Corvette, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Mercedes SL 65 AMG