I’ll admit up-front that I am car mad. My friends would probably go further and say I am a car bore, and they’re probably right.
My obsession has led me to own at least 22 cars over the past 18 years, ranging from a Triumph Herald and a very rusty 1960s Fiat 500 to a Porsche 356 Speedster and a (frankly terrifying) TVR Cerbera 4.5. It’s also led me to embark on some unusual “road trips”, including a memorable recreation of the late, great automotive writer Phil Llewellyn’s famous Road to Muckle Flugga. I even get excited by the prospect of a “hire car” as it’s an opportunity to drive something new.
So, when Bryan Hoare at publishers room501 phoned to ask me if I’d be interested in reviewing a car for BQ, I jumped at the chance.
I’d have been delighted if it was going to be a Kia Picanto, but the jump quickly turned into a somersault when he said it was going to be the new Porsche 911 GTS. Arriving at JCT600’s Silverlink dealership, the very knowledgeable Graham Ross showed me round this latest and very special iteration of the 997.
Visually, first impressions of this latest in a long line of 911s are helped by the return to round headlamps. The GTS has the 44mm wider body found on the Turbo, giving it a superb planted stance. In my humble opinion, it makes the GTS the perfect model sitting between the lairy GT3 and almost-too-discrete standard 911. Jump into the driver’s seat and you are given an object lesson in the use of soft-touch switchgear and tasteful finishes.
The seating position and visibility are fantastic, giving you an instant feel for the edges of the car. The £90,296 GTS has the 3.8 litre normallyaspirated flat six engine but with 408bhp, an extra 28bhp over the Carrera S model. It helps to launch the car to 62mph in 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 190mph. This particular car has the excellent seven-speed PDK paddle shift gearbox and the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system.
Selecting the first of the two active damper settings – Normal – I find the ride surprisingly compliant given the 19 inch wheels, which are the very sexy, centre-locking RS Spyder rims. Onto the dual carriageway and I get my first opportunity to open the taps.
The acceleration is so strong, and I love the way the nose lifts a little as the car squats on its haunches and flings itself up the road. Huge overtaking ability is but a brush of the accelerator away. As the revs climb, the cabin is instantly filled with that unmistakeable Porsche flat-six sound. It’s wonderful and there’s just enough of it filtering into the cabin to put a smile on your face without it becoming weary on motorway stints.
However, this car is fitted with the optional sports exhaust system which has a button on the dash that opens a butterfly valve in the backbox.
Now the engine really sings and if you push on above 6000rpm it takes on a much more purposeful and menacing howl – it’s a real spine-tingler and begs you to go looking for tunnels.
Onto sweeping A roads, I select the Sport PASM setting and start to press a little harder. Everything firms up and the car becomes more immediate in its responses. The steering is very good – jink into a turn and there’s no hint of hesitation before the nose tucks. Yes, the steering feels a little lighter than expected but you soon learn that the 911 is about delicate inputs, not brute force. The rear of the car moves about much more than I was expecting, but once you get used to this and gain the confidence to keep your foot planted, the back-end settles and then grips. Out here, the gearbox ratios allow you to easily stay in the power band and exploit the sweetspot between peak torque and peak power. Weighing just 1420kg, it’s little wonder this thing shifts. Reining all this power in is a feelsome set of four pot-drilled and vented brakes. Once I have had my fill of adrenaline I spend the evening just cruising around, marvelling at just how good this car is at playing both Jekyll and Hyde.
By the end of my time with the Porsche I’ve added one (albeit very second-hand) to my mental shopping list for future cars.
It’s a stunning machine and if you’re in the market for a fast, useable and characterful sports car then this should definitely make it onto your shortlist.
But as the GTS will likely be one of the last 997 models before a brand-new 998 version of the iconic 911 comes out later in the year, you’ll have to be quick. Talk about saving the best till last.
Martin E Hunt is Head of strategic marketing at Piramal Healthcare, one of the world’s leading contract development and manufacturing pharmaceutical organisations.
The Porsche 911 GTS is priced at £90,296 and was provided by JCT600 Porsche Centre Newcastle, Silverlink Park, Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE28 9ND. Tel: 0191 295 1234. www.porsche.co.uk/newcastle