Saturday
Jan142012

Test Drive: Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet

Porsche has constantly improved their venerable 911 over decades of development and for many hardcore car enthusiasts; it’s the only sportscar that really matters. Porsche has also managed to offer a wide range of 911 models to their customers, from the base Carrera coupe to Cabriolet, Targa and all-wheel drive versions, which are all available with the flat-six engine in different states of tune. Porsche also mixes and matches these various iterations, with no less than 18 different 911 models currently available that range from around $82,000 to $172,000 in price and from 350 to 530 horsepower. This is not even considering the hardcore GT3 and GT2 models, which are in-between models and not officially available right now. There’s not a bad one in the bunch, but I grew particularly fond of the GTS version after driving it for a week.

 

The GTS version of the 911 sits right in the middle of the 911 model range when it comes to price and power, and is more aggressive in appearance than the base model 911. It borrows the wider fenders of the Carrera 4 all-wheel drive model and also has a wider track (by 1.26 inches) for greater stability. Engine modifications to the GTS models result in 408hp, with additional flavor added with a sport exhaust, RS Spyder center-lock wheels and Alcantara interior trim. Porsche found the extra power for the GTS models by redesigning the intake manifold, modifying the cylinder head and tuning the engine electronics. The engine tuning also resulted in the 310 lb-ft of peak torque arriving at a lower 4,200rpm for better drivability. 

The GTS is available in both coupe and cabriolet versions. Our test car was supposed to be a coupe, but I ended up with a cabriolet after some scheduling changes made the coupe unavailable. Honestly, I initially reacted with a bit of disappointment. I have always loved the 911, but am not really a fan of open cars, as I don’t like the feeling of being on display to everyone that’s nearby (especially in a car like this) and would rather have the added stiffness and body integrity of a coupe. When it comes to sportscars, I would also rather drive a car that could go on the track, and most track-day organizations don’t let cabriolets participate. Our test car was also fitted with the PDK dual-clutch transmission, the Sport Chrono Package Plus and some other options that brought the price to $127,565. The base price on the GTS Cabriolet is $112,900, and you can also get a Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet with all-wheel drive for $120,100.

Aside from my personal feelings about cabriolets, the 911 GTS is a beautiful car. The 911 design works well as an open car with the top up or down, and the wider fenders and motorsport-inspired wheels give it an aggressive appearance. Inside, the cockpit couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a Porsche 911, and I really liked the Alcantara-trimmed seats and steering wheel. One thing I didn’t like about the interior of our test car was the stopwatch that is mounted on top of the dash. It has a bit of a tacked-on appearance and we can’t think of too many serious drivers that would actually use it. It comes as part of the Sport Chrono Package Plus, which has other very useful features besides the stopwatch. The package also includes the “Sport” button on the dash, which sharpens throttle response, offers more aggressive shifting with the PDF transmission and raises the PSM (Porsche Stability Management) threshold.

You might think of this car as being a “softer” 911 since it’s a cabriolet, but you would be wrong in that assumption, as the 911 GTS Cabriolet delivers dynamic performance combined with a sensory experience that even the most serious drivers would approve of. First of all, it’s really fast, with the power coming on really strong at around 4,000rpm. This car can hit 60mph in 4.4 seconds with the PDK transmission (4.6 with manual) and can lower that time to 4.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package’s launch control, which I didn’t try because I have too much mechanical sympathy. The PDK transmission is fantastic, with fast and responsive shifts, and it’s easier to use now that Porsche has proper paddles on the steering wheel instead of the thumb tabs they’ve used in the past. PDK also works very well in automatic mode for when you’re sitting in traffic or on the highway and don’t want to bother with shifting yourself. With the Sport Exhaust activated (which is turned on with a button on the center console), the GTS also sounds more race car than street car, giving a wail that grows in intensity as the revs climb and sounds really great with the top down.

The 911 GTS Cabriolet also has no problem putting all its power to the pavement. The fastest technique is still the “slow in, fast out” approach that particularly suits the rear-engine 911, as those wide rear tires really hook up when you get hard on the power when exiting a corner. Porsche has developed this car so much over the years that you can also go fast into corners if you want to, but it still feels better if you set yourself up for a fast exit rather than a fast entry. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) allows for two different suspension settings, “Normal” and “Sport.” The car handles great in either mode, but I usually left it in Sport mode on secondary roads that were in decent shape, and put it in Normal mode for driving around town and on the highway.

There wasn’t too much about the 911 GTS Cabriolet that I didn’t like. The RS Spyder center-lock wheels look great and I like the motorsport connection, but they could end up being a real pain if you get a flat. Porsche provides a socket to fit over the nut, but overall they may end up being more trouble than they’re worth. If you end up buying a 911 GTS used with these wheels, make sure the car has the hardware for getting them off. The back seat is even more unusable in the GTS Cabriolet than it is in 911 coupes, as accommodation for the folding top makes the rear seatbacks actually tilt forward a little. Also, the cupholders that are mounted in the dash are really flimsy and one was already broken on our test car. Yeah, we know – if you have this type of car you shouldn’t be taking a drink with you, but even the most hardcore drivers among us need a place to put their coffee when leaving on a long trip at 6:00am.

Overall, the 911 GTS Cabriolet is a fantastic car. I would still choose the 911 GTS coupe over the Cabriolet (which also saves $9,800), but this car has to be one of the best at combining an open top with the dynamics of a true sportscar. It’s also pretty impressive that this car has the performance it does and can still get 19mpg in the city and up to 27mpg on the highway. The GTS model is also nicely positioned between the base model 911 and the more expensive turbo and GT3 models, as it delivers some of the performance of the top-end models but still has more of the practicality of the lower-end models. Speaking of that, Porsche has just introduced the latest and greatest 911. It’s available in 911 Carrera and Carrera S models for now, but the other model iterations will soon follow, so it may be a perfect time to go out and pick up a GTS coupe or cabriolet. 

Find out more information at http://www.porsche.com/usa/


MSRP

$112,900

Price as tested

$127,565

Engine

Rear-engine, 3.8-liter six-cylinder

Power

408 @ 7,300rpm

Torque

310 lb-ft @ 4,200rpm

0-60mph

4.4 seconds (with PDK)

Suspension

McPherson strut and anti-roll bar front

LSA multi-link rear axle with anti-roll bar rear

Brakes

Vented and cross-drilled rotors front/rear with 4-piston monobloc fixed aluminum calipers

Fuel economy

16mpg city, 27mpg highway

Curb weight

3,406 lbs (with PDK)

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