Porsche GTS: Hitting the sweet sport

Leow Ju-Len

Pondering a new Porsche but vexed by the variety? The GTS label could solve that problem for you. Here’s how…

Porsche GTS family

CAMPAGNANO DI ROMA — If there’s a string of three characters synonymous with Porsche, it’s surely “911”. The iconic everyday sportscar has pretty much supplied the brand with its DNA for six decades, though it no longer pays a huge part in its maker’s commercial success. Last year, its best ever in terms of sales volume, Porsche actually sold more of its all-electric Taycan than the legendary 911.

But in the modern day era of Porsche, there are three other characters that have come to sum up what, in many ways, is best about the brand: GTS.

The letters stand for Gran Turismo Sport. You’ll find the label on every car in the current line-up, meaning not just the sporty two-doors but the Sport Utility Vehicles, the Panamera limousine and even the Taycan.

You can usually identify a GTS model from its black trim and black wheels, a signature colour chosen not merely because black is the new black, but also for its understated raciness. Even the head and taillights have a dark, smoky tint.

The GTS cars are for customers who want something extra, or in some ways, want it all. “I guess what’s the most important thing about the GTS models is their all-day usability, combined with a lot of emotion and performance,” says Simon Lohre, the product manager for the 911. “It’s a combination of both of those worlds.” Make’em fast, but keep’em sweet, in other words.

That’s not as straightforward as it sounds. Improving the performance of a car is done in two ways: adding power and/or subtracting weight. But turn up the horsepower too much and you set off a chain reaction of other upgrades needed to make all that oomph usable, such as beefing up the suspension, brakes and tyres, or even strengthening the bodyshell. Removing weight sharpens a car and improves its acceleration and braking, but it usually entails getting rid of the things that make it comfortable, such as noise insulation or thickly padded, power-adjustable seats. The GTS treatment is about walking a fine line between adding performance to a Porsche without bloating it, and making it worse to live with.

Simon Lohre, product manager for the Porsche 911

Nor is it a matter of bundling a few options from Porsche’s mind-bogglingly extensive catalogue and calling it good. Mr Lohre (above) says the starting point is to look at the flavour of the underlying car. “The most important thing is the spirit of the car,” he says. “If you have a luxury car it’s not that important to have a sport exhaust system, but when we have a sporty car, you need the performance ingredients.”

The 911 GTS is a good example of how it all works. The GTS trimline includes a sport exhaust with black tips, the option to have classic-looking RS Spyder wheels at no extra cost, Porsche’s active suspension system, the Sport Chrono Package that adds different driving modes, an interior slathered in Alcantara and Race-Tex (two lightweight, durable materials that racing cars use) and lightly redesigned bumpers from the Sport Design Package.

If we’ve done our sums right, raiding the parts catalogue and adding all that to a 911 Carrera S would cost S$64,894. In comparison, upgrading to the GTS trim costs S$69,500 — slightly more, but then it also includes other parts that can’t be added to a regular 911, plus a bit of extra spice in the performance and handling departments in the form of brakes, wheels and rear suspension from the mighty 911 Turbo S, plus 30 horsepower more than a 911 Carrera S. How’s that for value for money?

Porsche itself has a clear business case for the GTS range, although not at the very start. Like so many things with Porsche, the GTS idea has its roots in racing. The first car to bear the label was 1964’s 904 Carrera GTS (above), a slender, lightweight competition coupe that spawned a handful of road-going versions so it could meet minimum quantity rules for production car racing.

The same racing origin story created a 924 Carrera GTS model limited to just 50 road-legal units. It was the most expensive Porsche money could buy at the time.

But the GTS badge eventually became a way for Porsche to add a rung to its model ladders, usually above S and below Turbo. “Some people are not quite sure whether an S or a Turbo model is the right decision,” says Mr Lohre.

He acknowledges another reason to give a Porsche a GTS makeover: to keep buyers interested in a given model as it ages. Porsche’s rollout of five GTS versions of the 911 came more than two years after the base car was born, for example, in time to help boost the model’s sales to a record 38,464 last year.

The newest GTS cars signal that there’s life in the label even if the combustion engine itself seems doomed. Porsche unveiled GTS versions of the Taycan in November, all with the same promise of serving up better performance with curated cosmetic upgrades both inside and out.

The sportscar maker’s bet on GTS is a crystal clear one: even if combustion power has a doubtful future, there will always be drivers who want something faster than the usual Porsche models, but without giving up everyday comfort.

NEXT: DRIVING THE GTS RANGE — We hit the Autodromo Vallelunga in Porsche’s GTS range. Do they live up to the hype?

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