The nomenclature consists of three simple letters: G, T and S. During the past few decades, many sports car manufacturers have employed the GTS designation in naming selected models, so much so that the abbreviation has become synonymous with “sportiness”, but the value of the respective distinctions can vary dramatically. Even Porsche is guilty of applying the GTS badge randomly; those letters have been used on race cars (the 904 Carrera GTS), as well as road cars other than the 911 (the 928 GTS and latterly, the Cayenne GTS, for example). As expected, when Porsche returned this particular badge to the 911 range in late 2010, a lot was expected of this new model.
It was quite clear that Porsche aimed to bridge the gap between the sportier Carrera S and more track oriented GT3. The model is based on the Carrera S with the optional Powerkit, which, fortunately, also included the Sports exhaust system and, although this specific GTS has the classic rear-wheel drive configuration, it was clad in the wider body of the all-wheel-drive version. Besides, who could ignore the allure of those motorsport-inspired centre-lock RS Spyder wheels? Six years ago the GTS received much praise from the motoring press, but since then the Porsche marketplace has changed significantly. At the time of writing, one popular UK-based automotive trading website listed only seven 997 Carrera GTS Coupes, but no fewer than 16 Gen1 997 GT3s for sale.
We would frankly have expected it to be the other way around. Although there might be a price gap between these two models, at only £10,000 to £20,000 difference in the £70,000 to £90,000 price range, it makes sense to weigh up the pros and cons of each model.
Is it as straightforward as simply discarding the GTS and opting for the track-inspired GT3? As I arrive at our rendezvous for the morning’s proceedings, the sight of two 997s is more than enough to justify that pre-sunrise alarm clock disturbance of around two hours ago. The cars’ owners are utter petrol heads, but their respective car collections are very different. However, parts of their car history and recent purchases do show some interesting similarities. The owner of the GTS bought the car earlier this year, as incidentally, did the owner of the GT3. Other 911s in the former’s garage include a 1973 911T, as well as a meticulously maintained (and totally original) 1983 911 SC. The GT3 owner also owns a perfectly kept 911 SC, while he added a Tiptronic 996 Turbo to his collection around two years ago, exactly when those cars’ values had bottomed out. Despite this, their approaches to their (featured) cars are totally different.
The GTS was bought as a daily driver – the owner can even transport his two young kids in the car when required. It is a PDK-equipped model, which makes sitting in traffic, executing parking manoeuvres and driving short distances a breeze. The GT3’s owner doesn’t beat around the bush: he bought the car as an investment, but also to enjoy it on the occasional breakfast run. Needless to say, neither of these cars have lost any value since they were bought earlier this year. Which model is the one to consider though, even if you factor in the slight discount of the GTS compared with the GT3?
I happened to have had a great run with a GTS press car on this very mountain pass, and getting behind the wheel again six years later brings back very exhilarating memories. Today, the interior of the first-generation GTS still feels rather modern. Given the dark Aqua blue metallic exterior finish, the lighter Sand beige full leather interior is a welcoming contrast and lifts the interior – especially on this crisp autumn morning – even more so compared to the usual dark interiors that seem to be most Porsche buyers’ preference.
There are only a few buttons above the gearlever that will be of consequence for this test. These include one for the Sports exhaust, which allows for a fruitier engine sound at the mere push of a button, followed by those to engage the Sport Plus driving mode and toggle the suspension settings respectively.
As expected, I select Sport Plus first… I have a mountain pass in front of me, after all. I pull away and immediately the car feels ready to be driven hard and to its limit. The PDK transmission keeps to its gear selection programme, but I override the electronic system by duly calling the steering wheelmounted paddles into action. There is (what feels like) very little inertia in the engine. As I feed in the power through the throttle pedal, the rev needle rises towards 3,000rpm, then faster towards 5,000rpm, but it is from here to the 7,400rpm redline that the engine gives it best. Now the Sports exhaust really makes its voice heard as the hollow metallic sound permeates throughout the GTS’s cabin. The noise only further encourages you to pull on the right paddle and push the accelerator to make the rev counter needle swing past 6,000rpm all over again.