Back where I belong (911 GTS)
After the M3 episode, I considered my replacement very carefully. The immediate and obvious choice was just to buy a replacement. But then, was the M3 an itch that had just been scratched?
That’s actually doing the M3 a disservice. It’s a brilliant, brilliant car – and the example I had was immaculate. A real good looker and I loved looking in shop windows as I drove past. That aftermarket exhaust was out of this world.
In a moment of utter weakness, I went to Porsche Hatfield just to meet a friend there for a chat. That place is an Aladdin’s Cave of goodies. It’s also professionally manned, being one of the official Porsche Group owned showrooms (of which there are 4 or 5). To add, turns out Guy who sold me my 118d is now working there, so we were given the usual VIP treatment.
I have been looking at the new 981 Boxster / Cayman S models. They look utterly stunning and I’ve always said that they’re the only sportscar anyone would ever need. They have received nothing but incredible reviews and are built in a way to make any rival manufacturer weep in envy. Quality interiors and plush leather seats provide an unmatched ownership experience.
However, I was told that I may find the cars a little underpowered. Just at that point, a Guards Red 997 GTS rolled back into the showroom space from a test drive. It looked amazing. I asked if it was sold to the customer yet and if I could get a cheeky drive. Within 10 minutes we were out on the dual carriageway. By the end of that day, I had a deposit down on one.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Hatfield car I bought but a Porsche Tonbridge car instead. It was the same price and spec, but with half the mileage.
So having collected it, what’s the big deal?
It’s been nearly 4 year since I sold my last 911, the 997 RS. Getting back into one is like greeting an absent family member after many years of separation – it’s almost religious.
From the very moment you sit in the alcantara sports seats and grip the absurdly perfectly shaped steering wheel which is thin and delicate to the touch, there’s an immediate sense of cohesion and connection. Everything is perfectly situated and with my choice of manual gearbox, the level of involvement you’re engaging in is quite unlike any other car.
This is as close as you can get to a GT3. It has advantages over a GT3, such as the rear seats which have already proven their worth. It has a much more supple ride without compromise to performance and the tyres are universally competent across all weather. Don’t let me fool you, I’ll still give a right arm for a GT3, but small steps…
It’s essentially a Carrera 2S with the optional powerpack which takes the GTS from the standard 385bhp to 408bhp (435bhp on the comparable 997 GT3). Added to this are the centre lock RS Spyder wheels, wider Carrera 4 body, GTS front skirt and a bathing of alcantara interior bits. It looks very special and in my chosen Guards Red, is as cute a perfect little 911 sports car as you’d want.
What makes most of the 911s unique attributes so attainable is its weight. at 1420kg it’s amongst the lightest in its class. This gives it the feeling of being hardwired into your neural network. This level of delicious feeling is rarely experienced in any car and this particular model really does combine the three input mechanisms, steering, gearshift and accelerator, with an envious deftness. I absolutely love it.
That gearbox in manual format is very similar in feel to what I’ve experienced in my GT3s and it’s a perfect match to the 3.8 engine, which is a very punchy motor. It doesn’t have the zing or the frantic urgency of the metzger engine that occupies the GT3s, nor does it have the top end 1000 RPM madness that turns any GT3 owner into a psychotic, but it does share every other characteristic, right up to that intoxicating engine wail characteristic of the modern 911. Hit 6,000 RPM and hold it all the way up to the 7,500 rpm red line and I guarantee you, with the loud button depressed, you’ll feel those goosebumps every time.
Only criticism of the gearbox is the gears appear to be very long and I’d have loved some shorter ratios. But then this gives it its relentless urge which isn’t natural for a 3.8 engine with 408 BHP. It feels much, much faster than these figures suggest but all you need is to recognise it has a 190mph top speed to realise this is a very fast car.
I’ve done about 300 miles in the car now in a couple of days, half dry, half wet. It’s an astonishingly good car, providing confidence inspiring levels of feedback and stability in both wet and dry conditions. It’s much more prone to letting the rear go than the GT3, but that’s because it has slightly narrower tyres and doesn’t have the Michelin Pilot Cup Sports that grace the GT3s.
So far, it’s been a delightful ownership experience and this car gives you everything you’d ever need from a sportscar. It’s agile, practical and offers a drivers experience that is so pure, I recommend anybody in the market to get a test drive.
One negative though. Having remembered what it’s like owning a 911 again, I’ve been naughtily looking at GT3 classifieds again.
I’m home again.