Porsche 911 Carrera S, 911 Carerra GTS, 911 GT3, Front view 46 Photos Zoom

Porsche 911 Carrera S, GTS and GT3 compared: A lively 911 shootout

Honestly: the Porsche 911 GT3, GTS and Carrera S still all had some profile on their tyres when we handed them back. Okay - it was at most the minimum legal profile depth. In dream weather conditions, in the abandoned wintry Hockenheim we simply gave in to our craving for lateral dynamics.

"We have to get our customers salivating." A typical Wiedeking saying from back in the day when they still celebrated ex-boss Wendelin in Zuffenhausen,as if she were Elvis. Just at this moment, as the modern-day Porsche trio sweep into the motordrome with the passionate sawing sound of their Boxer engines it was back – that Wiedeking-ian salivation.

Porsche 911 GT3, Carrera GTS and S run riot in Hockenheim

The Porsche 911 GT3 rampages out in front. The Porsche 911 GTS now aims to position itself in its slipstream and close the gap to the Carrera S. So which 911 should I go for? There is currently a firework of models, with 19 different 911 variants. Now including Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.

Historians will snort at the inflationary use of the three letters for 911, Cayman, Boxster, Panamera and Cayenne models, but ultimately the original lettering didn't used to be simply something that was emblazoned on equipment lines. Between 1963 and 1965, Porsche built 106 of the legendary 904 Carrera GTS – a 740-kilo two-seater with up to 178 HP, which for type approval purposes was developed for the GT class.

Back to the present day: "GTS: this means abundant purism – but without sacrifice" states the Porsche advertising slogan. Dear marketing strategists, this sounds as antithetic as the statement "I can also have fun without alcohol" when referring to a first semester at uni.

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS just a sales measure?

Initial fears: is the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS just a sales measure, before the 991gets a facelift in September? Is the alleged new top-of-the-range model within the 911 Carrera family simply just a refurbished Porsche 911 Carrera S?

Searching for traces. The bodywork, with wheel housings that are now 44 mm wider, originates from the Carrera 4. The standard 20-inch wheels with a central locking device are also found on the Porsche 911 (991) Turbo S. For the Porsche 911 GTS they have been painted in exclusive matte black. Are both features not available ex works for the rear-wheel drive S?

The Sport wing mirror design, the optional Bi-Xenon headlights with a black finish including a cornering light and the Sport front skirting are found on the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS as standard. Everything can be ordered as options for the Porsche 911 Carrera S. Only the wonderfully classic looking air grid on the back, which awakens in us the 911 era of the 1970s, cannot be ordered for the Carrera S.

Porsche 911 GTS with 424 HP

And how does it look inside? Even in the standard version, the GTS is an Alcantara fan. Nowhere near all of the Alcantara options found in the GTS interior are available for the S.

The GTS also seeks to entice with its additional HP. In comparison to the 395 HP Porsche 911 Carrera S , here the nominal power climbs to 424 HP thanks to a modified engine control system, cylinder heads with reworked and polished intake ducts, a valve stroke that has increased from 11.0 to 11.7 mm, a variable resonance intake manifold and a sports exhaust with lower counter-pressure.The GTS also features the Sport Chrono Package as standard, which is only available in the Carrera S as an option.

Anyone who believes that, with this, the GTS has come up with another unique selling point must have never heard of the X51. Behind the option code, and for the substantial extra cost of 13,804 Euros (PDK version: 1,232 Euros), lies the 424 HP kit for the Porsche 911 Carrera S.

Porsche 911 Carrera S steps forward

The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is certainly by no means a refurbished S Model, however, a GTS double, accurate down to the detail, can be configured based on the carrera S. That said, you would have to shell out around 130,000 Euros for the GTS copy – 12,000 Euros more than for an original Carrera GTS. Thouse who focus on appearance may find the GTS model worth the money.

Now the GTS must prove in the comparison test whether it can justify its elevated cost from a drive dynamics perspective. Its Porsche 911 Carrera S brother has previously already left a familiarly powerful footprint in Hockenheim: 0–100 km/h in 4.2 s; 200 km/h after 14.2 s; deceleration (when warm) from 100 km/h in 33.6 m; 18-metre slalom at 71.4 km/h; Hockenheim short circuit in 1:11.5 minutes.

Rarely have we, from a sports perspective, greeted a Porsche 911 configured with such restraint as the current Carrera S test car. Surprises in the equipment list: steel braking system in place of the optional ceramic brakes, no PASM sports chassis and no carbon sports bucket seats to save on weight. As drive dynamics promoting options, the Porsche 911 Carrera S only has the PDCC anti-roll stabilisation, the Sport Chrono Package and 20-inch Sport Techno wheels with wider rims and tyres at the rear axle (11.5-inch rather than the standard 11.0-inch with 305 wheels - instead of 295s).

The GTS clearly missed the factory specification

Is reserved Carrera S configuration intended to show the GTS newcomer in better light? It almost seems so, since the Carrera GTS test car not only has the optional sports bucket seats and the ceramic brakes, which are charged at extra cost, but also the optional sports chassis that has been lowered by 20 mm, firmer suspension and torsion-resistant stabilisers.

Attack - the 424 HP Boxer in the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS tears it up in the comparison test. As was to be expected, the thrust through the "sharper" camshafts provided by the additional 29 HP has become a little worse in the low rev range. The maximum torque and nominal power are reached a little later than in the 395 HP 911. For these reasons, we still measure the elasticity values, which can be easily compared in the S and GTS due to the identical transmission and axle ratio. When accelerating, the GTS only gains a slight advantage over the Carrera S. Two tenths of a second in the sprint to 200 km/h isn't much and doesn't match the value promised by Porsche (factory specification 0–200 km/h: 13.5 s).

GTS faster than the Carrera S when dancing around corners?

Thundering along on the straight is for table-top racers - we are interested in how the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS corners. Right from the first corner of the short circuit, it plays the role of the robust race track companion – firmer, harder and more precise. With the optional sports chassis, the Porsche 911 GTS produces noticeably fewer body movements than the Porsche 911 Carrera S with its really soft standard chassis. In direct comparison it is evident how big the difference between the two chassis' actually is.

While the Porsche 911 Carrera S does allow very slight understeer in the comparison test, the GTS corners with much greater agility. That said, both 911s behave in a similarly Porsche-like fashion, or to put it another way: direct steering, neutral handling, hardly any load change shenanigans, high and consistent deceleration values in the limit range, fantastic traction under load. It is always fascinating how the electronically controlled rear axle locking works with you in the limit range, undetected, by means of targeted braking interventions at the rear wheel on the inside of the corner.

More striking: the differing feedback of the optional Power Steering Plus in the Carrera S and GTS. While in the S-Model the holding forces are noticeably firmer, the steering wheel in the GTS, which is actually structurally identical, is subjectively smoother – too smooth for those with sporty tastes. Are we witnessing different development statuses here?

Also puzzling: the poorer standard braking values of the GTS ceramic brakes compared to the Carrera S steel brakes. Our experience shows that the ceramic variant offers advantages in terms of durability and low weight, but otherwise decelerate on the exact same lever as the steel brakes- but certainly not a great deal worse. Definitely a booboo.

Porsche 911 GT3 steps up

There is more praise for the lap time in Hockenheim. With a time of 1:10.9 minutes for the short circuit, the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is the second fastest Carrera model from the 991 series. Only the very well conditioned Carrera S from the supertest (sport auto12/2011) was half a second faster. Given the almost identical acceleration and elasticity values, detractors could almost question whether, by chance, the 424 HP power increase had been lost back then.

Conclusion: a Carrera S configured with the sports chassis is on a par with the GTS in Hockenheim. Froma drive dynamics perspective, the reasons in favour of purchasing the new 911 model are limited.

A change of scenery in the comparison test: heavy breathing, rattling, grinding, buzzing, sawing, scuffing – even on the stand, the start-up concert of engine and transmission noise from the Porsche 911 (991) GT3 tastes of motor sports. In so doing, the GT3 throws out blue exhaust gas with each cold start, as if seeking to awaken all smoke alarms from a deep slumber.

Porsche 911 GT3 only with PDK

Even if the 3.8-litre direct injector with 469 HP sounds suspiciously like a Porsche racer, it has nothing in common with one. The racing models all use a boxer without direct injection, which is still based on the Mezger engine with its two-part aluminium crankcase - much heralded by the fans. Its basic design is at work in all 911 GT models from the 996 and 997 ranges. With the 991 GT3 the era of the Mezger cult engine comes to an end, for cost and production reasons. The current GT3 engine is based on the six-cylinder with the internal designation 9A1, which is also installed in the current 911 Carrera generation.

It is not just the engine, but also the transmission that is enraging the souls of fans. The 991 version is actually the first Porsche 911 GT3 to line up with only the PDK transmission available. Porsche should have perhaps been clever like BMW in the M3/M4 series and continued to offer a purist manual transmission as an option – at least for the salvation of the fans who are not necessarily looking to knock that last tenth of a second off their lap time.

The resulting nonsense spoken in the relevant forums and around pub tables has been added to by misfortune on the part of the engineers. Topic: GT3 engine damage. A loose connecting rod screw resulted in loose connecting rods, which damaged the crankcase. Oil leaked out and caught fire upon coming into contact with hot components within the narrow-structured engine compartment, which then led to vehicle fires (officially: two fires).

Only 1,084 991 generation GT3s

Thereupon, within the scope of an extensive recall, Porsche replaced the entire engine in 785 vehicles. The Porsche 911 GT3s built after this point also feature the replacement drive system. Porsche compensated owners for the waiting time for the delayed delivery and the down time to the tune of 175 Euros net per day. And so there are now Porsche drivers out there who are driving a GT3 for the price of a Carrera S (from 105,173 Euros).

According to Porsche insiders, no further orders are currently being taken and 991 GT3 production ends in February 2015 after just 18 months. The stuff of legends – and the 991 GT3 will become a legend - would you bet on it?

With a total of just 1,084 vehicles built by February 2015, Porsche 991 GT3 has now achieved cult status. With the small number of units produced, it is the third most rare GT3 or GT3 RS model ever built, after the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 (600) and 996 GT3 RS (682).

PDK with a genuine manual mode

Full throttle, time for a passionate lap of honour on the short circuit. In the Porsche 911 (991) GT3 passion means a top engine speed of 9,000 rpm – a fantastic 1,200 rpm higher than in the 911 Carrera S and GTS. Shifting gears by ear? Not so simple in the GT3 – on the first lap you pull on the rocker switch at just 8,000 rpm, with your ear drum urging you to shift gears much too early.

Regarding gear changing – of course we are also fans of manual transmissions, but the PDK that has been modified for the Porsche 911 GT3 invites you to dance in the limit range in its own unique way. With faster switching times, gear changes with torque overshoot and shorter and lusher movements of the rocker switch, in this regard the GT3 is again almost like a racing car.

Unlike in all other PDK models, the PDK in the Porsche 911 GT3 features a genuine manual mode. An annoying kick-down function, which even in manual mode gears up and down automatically on the race track is not to be found here. Please install the GT3 PDK with the 991 facelift in all 911s. And please finally get rid of the kick-down base at the end of the pedal travel, as you have done in the GT3 – it always feels so unsporty, like a Mercedes automatic from the 1980s. And while we are on the topic: the shorter ratios and the design of the seventh gear as a travel gear in which the top speed is reached are something that we would also like as options in all other 911s.

Porsche 911 GT3 with an extremely precise front axle

Screaming, roaring and screeching – added to the GT3 concert at top speed comes a front axle, the precision of which is almost race car-like in character. After climbing out of the Porsche 911 Carrera S and GTS,in the Porsche 911 GT3 you brake too early in the first few metres and steer too early throughout the course. Thanks to the well-metered ceramic brakes with perfect ABS tuning and the high grip level of the Michelin Cup 2 tyres, braking points can be determined here with an even greater level of precision. Understeer when cornering? Not at all, as the Porsche 911 GT3 separates corners from straights, cutting as sharp as a sushi knife.

Up until this point we have only been talking about the front axle and the first part of the cornering process. Applying 95% effort, the GT3 races by and large neutrally into the corners during the comparison test, everything beyond this requires a skilful hand on the steering wheel. Pub experts who mock the 991 GT3 as a housewives' sports car, should try experiencing it when pushed to the absolute limit. The winged 911 then responds to load change with a rear that pushes briskly inwards. Even with the most intentional load application when accelerating out, rear of the GT3 pushes. Unlike in the 991 turbo models, gain at the rear axle is not evident in the limit range. For a faster performance, the rear axle steering must be fine tuned, just like the adjustable chassis.

991 GT3 RS - four-litre engine with 493 HP

Forget about it - the Turbo S flails itself almost boringly neutrally around the corners in Hockenheim. There is more work to be done on the Porsche 911 GT3. With a lap time of 1:09.5 minutes, upon its farewell the 991 GT3 not only smashed the supertest lap time by one tenth of a second, but also reached the mark set by the legendary 997 GT3 RS 4.0.

Key word: four-litre – the 991 GT3 RS replaces the retiring GT3 and will be presented in March at the Geneva Motor Show. Rumour has it that a return to the Mezger engine was considered, but this is not the case. According to reliable sources, the 991 GT3 RS will have a four-litre boxer engine based on the 9A1, with direct injection and 493 HP, likewise with a top engine speed of 9,000 rpm. If that doesn't once again trigger the Wiedeking-ian salivation mentioned at the start in GT3 customers...

Christian Gebhardt

Photo

Hans-Dieter Seufert

Date

14 May 2015
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