On the first day of driving the Porsche 911 GTS with the PDK transmission -- an automated manual -- my left leg kept reaching for the clutch pedal, and my right hand would reach for the shifter.
It was my mindset and muscle memory that "all good Porsches have manual transmissions." By Day 2, I was liking the smoothness of the seven-speed gearbox -- with the tongue-twisting name of Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. And by Day 3, I was engaged, flipping off manual shifts and grinning. 408 horsepower can be fun.
I was familiar with the previous Tiptronic automatic. I'd learned to use its levels of manual shifting on a racetrack. I knew what it could do, but it wasn't "fun." It was a substitute that was good enough for city driving. Even Porsche's manual transmission has gotten smoother, but midrange rpm shifts can be clumsy to smoothly knit the gears -- for me.
The PDK rolls smoothly up and down through the gears. Jab the switch for sport or sport-plus modes -- where most owners will keep the personality -- and enjoy the on-point performance statement. It is unhesitating, where in normal mode, there can be that split-second gasp in a gear change that can cause elevated blood pressure.
The GTS is not the fastest, nor the most expensive, 911. It's another flavor of Porsche on a shelf of 27 versions of the 911 Carrera. The lineup spans hardtops and convertibles; rear- and all-wheel drive; Speedster; Targa; Turbos; GT2 and GT3; and more. Starting prices begin at almost $80,000 and range to $245,960 for the 911 GT2 RS, which is essentially a racecar with a license plate.
The Carrera GTS is in the middle, starting at $104,060 for the coupe and $113,860 for the cabriolet. A re-engineered 2012 911 will go on sale in February, but the GTS will continue as is. The new 911 is not a revolution in design, but it has a longer wheelbase and is lower and lighter than the current car. The base 911 Carrera will have a 350-hp, 3.4-liter, "boxer" six-cylinder engine. The Carrera S is fitted with a 400-hp, 3.8-liter, boxer six-cylinder, both available with the optional PDK.
The rear-wheel-drive GTS is based on the Carrera S, but it's visually enhanced with the wide body of the current Carrera 4 (all-wheel drive). Its 3.8-liter flat-six engine is rated for 408 horsepower -- a 23-hp boost over the 2011 Carrera S ($92,860). Peak torque of 310 foot-pounds remains unchanged, but it comes on 200 rpm earlier, at 4,200 rpm, which is more satisfying around town.Fuel economy is 18/25 mpg manual, 19/26 PDK -- the same as the Carrera S.
Other distinguishing details include 19-inch center-mount RS Spyder wheels, painted black; a SportDesign front apron with black spoiler edge; and special side skirts.
Inside, there is much black Alcantara (a suede-like material) contrasting with the paint color, which was Guards Red on the test car. There's also Alcantara on the three-spoke SportDesign steering wheel and on the gear and handbrake levers.
The GTS will do 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, which is a tenth of a second quicker than the 385-hp Carrera S. Top speed is 190 mph, a whole 4 mph faster than the S. Is it worth it?
Can you monetize sex appeal?
Porsche-o-philes can recite the 911 variants by code and content. The rest of us look at the wide body GTS and just know that we want it.
Specs Box: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Coupe
-- Body style: compact, rear-drive, two-plus-two coupe
-- Engine: 408-hp, DOHC, 3.8-liter, horizontally opposed, direct-injection 6-cylinder with variable valve timing and lift
-- Transmission: 7-speed Porsche (SET ITAL) Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (END ITAL) (PDK)
-- Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 hwy; premium fuel required
-- 0-60 mph: 4 seconds (manual transmission with optional Sport Chronos Package)
-- Top track speed: 190 mph (manual transmission with optional Sport Chronos Package)
-- Safety features include: six air bags, stability management with ABS
-- Standard equipment includes: remote locking; speed-activated rear spoiler; power tilt-sliding sunroof; bi-xenon (auto-leveling) headlights; nine-speaker CD-audio system with iPod connection and Bluetooth; 13-in. vented disc brakes with four-piston calipers; RS Spyder wheels and 305/30-R 19-inch tires; Bluetooth phone connection; sports seats with power seatback adjustment
-- Base price: $104,060, including $960 freight charge; price as tested: $120,735
-- Options on test car: PDK transmission ($4,320); limited slip rear differential lock ($950); self-dimming mirrors ($420); heated front seats ($525); dynamic cornering light ($690); Sport Chrono Package Plus ($2,110); Bose surround-sound audio ($1,440); satellite radio ($750)
-- Where assembled: Stuttgart, Germany
-- Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at [email protected] Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage.
COPYRIGHT 2011 THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE