First drive: 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS in the UAE
The Porsche 911 is probably the longest-running sports-car nameplate ever. It has retained some semblance of familiarity since its debut in 1963, improving with every generation, eventually reaching a point where they cannot further optimise the shape any more. There are thousands of 911s running around the world right now. And yet, very few people have actually been behind the wheel of these so-called “iconic” cars. Are they really iconic? Well, we finally got behind the wheel of the 911 Carrera GTS to find out, if only for a day.
The current 911 line-up apparently has a million variants, with a billion extra-cost options to tack onto those. The Carrera GTS model actually debuted for 2011, to satisfy those who want a little more power than the Carrera S, a little less cost than the Turbo, and the wide-body styling of the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S in rear-wheel-drive form. The basic GTS rings up the register at only Dhs 395,000, and our test car had Dhs 85,470 worth of options tacked on.
In all honesty, the only major bits on our car’s options list were the “PDK” automanual gearbox and the “Sport Chrono Package Plus” thing, with the rest simply dressing up the car to luxury level, such as parking sensors, navigation, painted grilles, carbon-fibre trim and, among numerous other things, leather on the rear-view mirror housing! Even the floor mats and rear seats were optional add-ons.
Still, with all the options, the 911 really gave off an exotic vibe, with literally every inch of the interior covered in stitched leather, carbon-fibre or alcantara. As for space, two people can sit in proper spacious comfort. The seats are very sporty, with tight side-bolsters, so wider butts will have issues. But really, the 911 is a car that can be driven every day, with its good all-round visibility and easy-to-park size.
Of course, it is not as practical as some may proclaim. The rear seats are useless except for teddy bears, while the luggage boot up front can only hold a couple of backpacks or maybe some groceries, though your ice-cream may melt in that hot compartment. The quirks don’t end there. The single-zone auto a/c takes a while to cool in 45-degree heat, the carbon-fibre on the door armrests and steering wheel are hard and slippery, one of the gimmicky pop-out cup-holders was stuck, and the key ignition is on the left of the wheel. However, we have to say, the touchscreen multimedia system is superb, with AUX/USB/iPod ports and amazing speakers.
The GTS gets a version of Porsche’s 3.8-litre straight-6 engine, crammed into the rear, making 408 hp at 7300 rpm and 420 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. The peaky performance shows, as the car feels fast, but never snaps your neck like a Turbo would. But flicking through the 7 gears is a joy using the button-like paddle shifters, very slightly delayed on responding to upshifts, and instant on the downshifts. Leave it in automatic, set “Sport Plus” mode and using launch control at 6000 rpm, the quickest 0-100 kph time we got was 5.3 seconds in this weather, though it is pretty hard to be consistent, with times as long as 6 seconds, depending on how the launch control responds. Still, it’s a very fast rev-happy car that can knock the socks off bystanders at full-throttle with its exhaust noise alone. We got 14.9 litres/100 km, not bad really.
On straight roads doing anywhere from 100 kph to 200 kph, it rides expectedly firm, but leaving the driving mode in “Normal” softens it up a bit. There is hardly any wind noise, but there is a buttload of tyre roar. Switching to “Sport” or “Sport Plus” modes actually does firm it up further, with noticeably better throttle response and jerkier shifts. That pop-up rear spoiler keeps the car superbly stable.
We had just driven the VW Golf R previously, and had proclaimed it a budget supercar. But then we drove this Carrera GTS. The 911 absolutely kills the best hot-hatch ever, around every possible curve and every possible hairpin. The car corners like an animal, with an unholy amount of grip. Flick it around a small roundabout as fast as you dare, and the thick tyres barely let out a squeal, with no understeer whatsoever. Instead it gives a mild sensation of the bulky rear swinging out just a fraction, but never really losing it. And reaching insane triple-digit speeds is possible on highway off-ramps, if you’re brave enough. Do not ever take this car on with your Ford Mustang GT. The 911 GTS operates on a whole other realm.
There are many facets of this car that we didn’t have time to cover. For one, we still don’t know how that lap-timer pimple on the dash-top is supposed to work. But if what we’d experienced is anything to go by, this is possibly among the handful of cars we’ve ever driven that deserves a lap-timer.