2022 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Road Test: Just shy of perfect

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Sometimes, it’s tricky to pin down what I enjoy about a car. The 2022 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is little more than an enthusiast-oriented popular equipment package for the iconic sporting GT. While Porsche’s designers put in the time to give the GTS a subtly distinct aesthetic, there’s really nothing here you can’t get on a “standard” 911, provided you’re willing to pay for it. And yet …

The 911 is a difficult car to describe without shared context. Like the Mazda Miata, Toyota Camry or Jeep Wrangler, it’s one of those cars with a reputation so well-established that people feel confident forming an opinion about it even if they’ve never experienced one for themselves. In other words, perfect magazine racing fodder. Yet, no amount of time spent learning about the 911 is an adequate substitute for the experience. I’ve driven more 911s than most and fewer than many, and even I've been guilty of making up my mind before actually turning the key for the first time. My pre-existing notions were accurate as often as they weren’t.

Like “911” itself, “GTS” sets a certain level of expectations. Those letters say “this is the one you’ll want to keep driving," even if that may seem a bit redundant for a 911. They tells us that we should expect a package that includes a chef's menu of performance upgrades that make 911s more fun to drive, mated to a correspondingly sufficient quantity of creature comforts, and nothing more. Also, since it’s a Porsche, you pay more to get "less." In the company's defense, the GTS actually has a decent value proposition.

Our evaluation car was a rear-wheel-drive model with the seven-speed stick (Hallelujah!) and a blessedly succinct window sticker: just 15 items — six of which merely enumerated the options in the GTS Premium package. If it had been blank apart from standard equipment, our tester would have stickered for $138,050. In this market, a meaningless figure, but it’s what the piece of paper said.

Ours rang the till at $152,700. Among the $14,650 in options were Porsche’s rear-wheel steering and front axle lift systems, ventilated leather seats and the aforementioned upgrade package (surround-view camera, upgraded Bose audio, additional storage, ambient lighting and lane-change assist). Not barebones, strictly speaking, but remarkably restrained for a 911 build list. That’s also much cheaper than it would be to option up a 911 Carrera S with the same equipment, since the GTS bakes in a sportier tune for Porsche’s Active Suspension Management, and adds sport exhaust, the Sport Chrono package and beefier brakes. For more on the nitty-gritty, check out our First Drive of the Targa GTS.

On paper, the bump from Carrera S to GTS is not dramatic. The extra 30 horsepower (for a total of 473) and 15 pound-feet of torque (420) Porsche extracted from the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six result in performance increases that read like rounding errors. The official 0-60 time drops by 3/10ths of a second (to 3.2 seconds) and the top speed increases from 191 mph to 193.   This was my first time behind the wheel of a 911 GTS, so I did my best to hit the reset button on my expectations and go in blind.

Normally, a road test in a 911 would command a clear schedule and a meticulously planned route in the boonies, but life doesn’t always conform to even the noblest of plans. Instead, the 911 ended up taking me to a viewing and the ensuing funeral. Fun fact: those little processional flags are magnetic. The Porsche’s lightweight roof? Nonferrous. The solution was simple: Put the bone-white 911 up front and let the procession follow. Conspicuity has its occasional upsides.

As well-rounded as it may seem, subtle really isn’t in the GTS’ playbook. With the sport exhaust turned off and the drive mode dialed back, it’s a pleasant-enough conveyance, but not outright luxurious. Admittedly, this is more of a general 911 shortcoming (harsh word, maybe) than one exclusive to the GTS. 911s are a bit rough around the edges on purpose; it’s part of what makes them feel so lively. Sure, you can put tens of thousands into the 911’s interior and it’ll look every bit the part, but it’s still a performance car first and foremost.  After the service, I tossed my dress shoes and drove home in socks.

A suit and no shoes – that’s the 911 in a nutshell. There’s a reason all the best 911s are offered in straight-up tacky color combinations. Yes, there are many tastefully-optioned silver 911s out there that will spend their entire useful lives ferrying retired doctors from A to B, but buying one as a substitute for a proper luxury sedan (yeah, yeah, or SUV) is silly. 911s are burbly, stiff and raw. We like them for that, not in spite of it. They’re not rolling bank vaults that also happen to be fast. If that’s what you seek, buy an Audi or Mercedes-Benz with at least four doors; even the Panamera probably won't sate you.

The GTS is very good, especially if you’re looking for the distilled essence of a standard 911 without any extraneous bits. It’s an excellent car for the restrained enthusiast who still wants to make a bit of a statement. If you can’t afford, can’t find, or simply don’t want to spring for a GT3 (especially right now because, man, good luck), the GTS is a worthwhile way to settle — and anything short of a GT3 is settling. The GTS may be worthy, but the GT3 orbits perfection in a way few road cars can match.

Don’t worry; I can’t afford one either. Right now, any new Porsche is expensive. When it comes to the GTS, the real question is whether it’s a no-contest pick over a lightly-optioned Carrera S. Given the market’s current volatility, it’s difficult to say whether that’s the case. I’m inclined to think not, personally, especially if the GTS name itself commands a premium. But to an enthusiast, it’s a good car with the right badge. If the perfect one comes along, don’t let me stand in your way. You won’t be disappointed.

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