Reason and passion. Porsche has been producing cars with a huge dollop of both for decades and that's why the German company makes so much money ($525-million U.S. operating profit in the first quarter) and has so many loyal and devoted followers.
Porsche also knows how to milk a good thing. And the good thing is the basic 911 Carrera, from which all sorts of good and interesting cars spring forth. The latest: the 2011 GTS ($124,600 for the Coupe and $136,100 for the Cabriolet). The GTS ostensibly fills a gap between the 385-horsepower Carrera S ($109,300) and the 435-hp GT3 ($142,400).
Now you Porschephiles will know it's tough to find a gap in the 911 lineup. There are, what, 19 or 20 variations? I've lost count and don't feel like taking off my shoes to add them all up with certainty.
The 408-hp GTS is yet another variation on the 911 theme. This one is identified by GTS script on the doors and trunk lid, while the panel between the dual exhaust pipes is painted black in a way reminiscent of the old mid-engine Carrera GT.
In summary, what Porsche has done is pretty straightforward - rob the parts bin. The GTS starts with wonderful under-the-hood upgrades. You guessed it; the 23-hp power pack (normally $23,000) with its modified cylinder heads, special intake manifold with six vacuum-controlled tuning flaps and a sport exhaust system. The power pack also includes a carbon-fibre air-filter casing.
All of this is enough to put a gear head on Cloud 9. Consider: The GTS's 3.8-litre six-cylinder revs to a very high 7,300 rpm in squeezing out the extra horsepower gain. Meanwhile, peak torque at 310 lb-ft has gone down 200 rpm to 4,200 rpm. Everyone with gasoline coursing through their veins can appreciate more torque at a lower engine speed and more horsepower up there at the end of the rev range.
There's more to the part-bin-robbery story, too. The front grille is part of the SportDesign package. The side sills? From the GT2. The centre lock wheels are from the Turbo S and a $5,000 option on the regular Turbo. The wide rear fenders and wider track are Turbo-sourced, too. The Alcantara-covered SportDesign steering wheel is a regular 911 option and ... - well, Porsche types say if you were to buy all the extras on the GTS one by one, you'd spend something like $148,000. At least that's how I understand it.
Even the village idiot can understand what Porsche is doing here as it winds down the current 911 in anticipation of a reinvented 911 due next year. When your parts warehouse is a vast and as well-stocked as Porsche, why not do a kind of Lego job on your best sports car, tart it up with a mix of performance and design add-ons, and slap on an endearing price? Voila - the GTS.
I'm not undermining the smarts at work here. That 408-horsepower boxer engine is capable of launching the car from nothing to 100 km/h in four seconds or so and top speed is 306 km/h, according to the spec sheet. The wide, sticky rubber - 235/3 ZR19 Bridgestone Potenzas up front, P305/30ZR19 in the rear - and a track made wider by 32 mm combine to deliver cornering performance almost as impressive as the straight-line stuff.
You Porschephiles are again going to point out that the GTS is not a big performance improvement on the Carrera S and you'd be right. The GTS is a tad quicker and top speed is a teensy bit higher, but really, the two cars are very close.
Frankly, the GTS is a more serious-looking car than the run-of-the-mill Carrera S. That's point one. Point two is that you get a snarly GTS upgrade with absolutely no fuel economy penalty. The numbers for both the S and GTS are identical: 10.2 litres/100 kilometres combined.
To drive this Porsche is to enjoy a roaring good time. Put your right foot into the throttle and that familiar song bursts from behind you. The rush of power comes fast, if that's what you want. Yet with all those decades of engineering expertise at Porsche, there is nothing jittery or unrefined or brutish about how the GTS goes about its very fast work.
When Porsche unveiled the GTS at the Paris auto show in the fall, the floor buzz amounted to something like this: this latest 911 variant is aimed at customers who race a GT3 on the weekend, but want something a tad less brutal for the Monday to Friday commute. Mission accomplished.
During a run from Palm Springs to Borrego Springs and back, the GTS was right at home carving up some very nice mountain bends. Few cars hold a line better, the delicious steering communicates non-stop with the outstanding sensitivity and feel. Push hard in a corner and the lack of body roll is astonishing. Of course, the engine is smooth and immediately responsive and the PDK manual automatic transmission is slick, able to take very good advantage of the power. (A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox, by the way.)
Here's the deal: Porsche robbed the parts bin and I like it.
2011 Porsche GTS Coupe
Type: High-performance sports car
Price: $124,600 ($1,085 freight)
Engine: 3.8-litre six-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 408 hp/310 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed manual automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.2 combined; premium gas
Alternatives: Audi R8 5.2 FSI V-10, Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari F430