ATLANTA—When it comes to cars that car nerds can obsess about, few cars get close to the Porsche 911. And with good reason: from that first show car in 1963 until today, Porsche has refined and evolved the 911 into a bewildering array of variants and versions. For example, only one turbocharged 911 is called the 911 Turbo, even though today, almost all 911s use turbocharged engines. I find it almost mystifying how well the company is able to tweak the same recipe to make cars that, to the outsider, look identical but drive completely differently and are bought by different customers.
Nothing exemplifies this (or confuses me more) than today’s car in question, the 2022 911 GTS. Those three letters usually appear in combination on the back of a 911 in the run-up to the car’s midlife refresh, or the change from one generation to another. But the 911 GTS isn’t a single variant; it’s really a range within a range, with five different 911 GTSes, each with the choice of two transmissions to pick from. See what I mean about confusion?
One engine, two transmissions, three body styles
All 911 GTSes use the same 3.0L turbocharged flat-six engine, mounted behind the rear axle, as is the tradition with the 911. In the GTS it has received a modest increase of 30 hp (22 kW) and 30 lb-ft (41 Nm) over the Carrera S and now outputs 473 hp (353 kW) and 420 lb-ft (570 Nm). The increase is thanks to an increase in boost pressure—18.6 psi (1.3 bar) versus 16 psi (1.1 bar) in lesser 911s—but Porsche has also fitted a new dual-mass flywheel to cope with the added torque.
The effect of the increase in boost on fuel consumption will presumably be somewhat deleterious versus the Carrera S’ combined 20 mpg (11.8 L/100 km), but an actual EPA fuel efficiency rating won’t be issued until closer to when the GTSes arrive in the US early in 2022.
Porsche’s eight-speed dual clutch PDK transmission is standard, but the GTS can also be had with a seven-speed manual transmission at no cost. (This, like the PDK transmission, uses the same gear ratios as in the Carrera S.) The manual has a short-throw shifter and active rev matching on downshifts—this can be turned off if you are a heel-and-toe meister. If you tick the option for the manual gearbox, you also get a locking mechanical limited-slip differential instead of the computer controlled torque-vectoring electronic differential that goes hand in hand with PDK.
In fact, there are five different GTSes offered for model-year 2022. For coupé lovers, there’s the $136,700 911 Carrera GTS—it’s the red car in the gallery and the one we drove. But if a RWD 911 sounds too sketchy for your winters, there’s also a 911 Carrera 4 GTS (MSRP: $144,000) that features all-wheel drive.
A flat tire ruins our plan for a back-to-back comparison
Similarly, sun-lovers can decide from a 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet (MSRP: $149,500), or a 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet (starting at $156,800); again the difference being rear- or all-wheel drive. And if you like the sun, but not quite so much, there’s the 911 Targa 4 GTS (MSRP: $158,800). That’s the white car in the photos, and the one we were supposed to drive, but the other journalist attending that day got a flat tire in the morning, and so I spent the afternoon riding back to Porsche HQ in the passenger seat of the PR rep’s car instead as the Targa made its way home on a flatbed trailer.
Which is a shame, because by all accounts it drove very differently from the red car. The Targa makes do with the normal 911 adaptive suspension, plus some larger (408 mm front, 380 mm rear) brakes. But the other GTSes, in addition to those bigger brakes, also feature lowered sport suspension borrowed from the 911 Turbo, which includes helper springs on the rear axle.
The red GTS took things a little further. It was specced with the lightweight kit, which adds single-piece carbon-fiber bucket seats in the front, deletes the rear seats (and some sound deadening) entirely, as well as swapping in thinner side and rear windows to save a total of 110 lbs (55 kg). In essence, it’s as focused a 911 as it’s possible to get without stepping up in terms of power, price, plus cornering ability to the 911 GT3.
I think that only the one-piece carbon seats would be a dealbreaker in terms of daily driving a 911 GTS, for they can be unyielding and definitely favor smaller, thinner drivers, particularly when it comes time to extricate oneself from the cockpit.
But otherwise, I think it would cope just fine. To get to the curvaceous roads of north Georgia from Porsche HQ in Atlanta meant plodding our way through Atlantan gridlock, but the three-pedal car was a champ as I inched it along. The clutch is not heavy, and the bite point was easy to find (and there’s an anti-stall feature that also doubles as a hill start mode, now that no one fits actual handbrakes anymore).
Once on those twisty mountain roads, the 911 GTS was quite the tonic. You could leave it in third the whole time, for the torque plateaus from 2,300-5,000 rpm. Or you can keep the revs up, making use of second gear and the fact that peak power doesn’t happen until 6,500 rpm. This lets you better appreciate the sports exhaust as an added bonus. And if you didn’t want to play with the gears yourself, you wouldn’t bother picking the manual transmission option…
That being said, a few weeks ago I committed what some might consider heresy, proclaiming that I’d rather have an all-electric Porsche Taycan over a 911. Fun though the 911 GTS was to work through the gears, I stand by that statement: unless you planned to exercise the car regularly at track days, for general road driving I reckon most of our audience would prefer the plug-in.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin