911 version caps rise of Porsche’s GTS sub-brand

on May30

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Why does Porsche race? To learn and to build the best cars —whether they’re meant for the road or the track. It’s a mantra for the brand’s executives and engineers alike.

The 2018 911 GTS embodies that racing heritage. The GTS designation was born on the famed 1964-65 Porsche 904 racecar. After intermittent use in the 1980s and 1990s, Porsche brought it back in 2011 for a new variant of the previous-generation 911.

What started as an impulse, a build-out initiative at the end of that generation 911’s lifecycle, has become a rousing success, said Joe Lawrence, COO of Porsche Cars North America Inc.

Lawrence: GTS means more power, styling

“It’s become a real important sub-brand for Porsche that we put across our model line,” Lawrence said. “It’s developed its own sort of identity and passion. Enthusiasts know instinctively when you say GTS what that means: Extra power, fantastic styling elements, this kind of blacked-out look.”

It is no longer an end-of-lifecycle measure but has become the enthusiast’s choice, Lawrence said. Porsche presents its GTS variants as a value story — at least as much of a value story as a 911 with a starting price of $121,750 can be. Still, the 911 GTS costs about 10 percent less than putting the same performance options on a 911 Carrera S.

On the current version of the 911, re-engineered for the 2017 model year, Porsche is offering five GTS derivatives in coupe, convertible and Targa body styles. They are available to order now.

During model years when the GTS variants are available, they take up about 20 percent of the 911 mix, Lawrence said. He expects similar results with the 2018 model update. Overall demand for the 911 increases in GTS years, a spokesman said. Since the GTS was reborn in 2011, Porsche has sold 15,334 911 GTS models globally. About one-third were sold in the U.S.

Established name

GTS buyers are generally aware of the moniker’s origin.

“The 904 GTS evokes some passion amongst those enthusiasts that are really in the know and follow the heritage and history of Porsche,” Lawrence said. “That’s certainly a great name association.”

But even for those unaware of the racing connection, GTS is now firmly established “in a modern sense as the great enthusiasts’ package for a given model line of Porsche,” he said. The GTS name has migrated to the brand’s other nameplates beyond the 911.

GTS buyers typically don’t race their cars, though. Those who want to take their 911 on the track on the weekend are more likely to buy the GT3 or GT3 RS versions of the nameplate, Porsche endurance racing legend Hurley Haywood said. That said, the 911 GTS “street performance is on a really high level.”

The 2018 model, powered by a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo flat-six engine, produces 450 hp and 405 pounds-feet of torque. That’s up by 30 hp compared with the current 911 Carrera S models and up 20 hp compared with the previous-generation 911 GTS with its naturally aspirated engine. The added turbochargers especially boost the torque characteristics, provide quicker acceleration and a higher top track speed than the previous 911 GTS.

Haywood, who now is chief driving instructor at the Porsche Sport Driving School, has a soft spot for the GTS. The 911 GTS was used as a base when Porsche produced a run of five special cars in 2011 to commemorate Haywood’s five wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

A Porsche 904 GTS on the track in 1964. Racing legend Hurley Haywood says the 904 in its day was very responsive and 
a lot of fun to drive.

Driving the original

Haywood also gets behind the wheel of an original 904 Carrera GTS from time to time. It’s in the collection of Brumos Racing, where Haywood is an executive and partner. The Brumos organization, which sold its vaunted Jacksonville, Fla., Porsche dealership last year, has kept the collection and will move it next year to a museum under construction.

In its day, the 904 was very responsive and a lot of fun to drive, Haywood said: “It’s a very sleek and very sculptured car.”

But advancing technology means that today’s Porsches are faster and easier to drive despite the added tech that makes then significantly heavier, he said.

“When I’m often asked what’s my favorite Porsche, I always say next year’s because next year’s is always going to be better than this year’s,” Haywood said. “My only caveat to Porsche was, you can put all this stuff in it, as long as it’s faster than the car it’s replacing. And they’ve always done that.”

With the 2018 911 GTS, if buyers want to take a spin on the track, they’ll have a new option. They can buy a set of ultra-high-performance racing tires that Porsche’s engineers have calibrated especially for the GTS, said Achim Lamparter, who handles chassis and driving dynamics for the Porsche 911 program.

There may not be a big call for the tires.

“But we want to show the performance the car can do, and all our competitors are using ultra-high-performance tires,” Lamparter said. “So we decided, even if we don’t sell much of these tires, we have to do this.”​ ​

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