‘Gran Turismo Sport’ is more than just three letters on the deck lid, it’s a mindset. GTS is a way of thinking about a car, a way of eking out every inch of performance that a Porsche can produce. The original GTS, the 904, truly embodied the phrase “racecar for the street” as it was Porsche’s entry into the 1964 World Sportscar Championship, but could equally take a license plate and be driven on the road.
With every new GTS model introduced, it seems that Porsche has gradually softened the definition of “GTS”, applying the term to increasingly more powerful and comfortable cruisers. Have the new Cayman and Boxster variants reversed that? It seems like they might share an ethos with the 904, perhaps some of that same DNA has trickled down for the last 50 years, reemerging in full with the 981 GTS.
So, where do the new GTS twins fall in the spectrum of Porsche’s GTS history? We rank every GTS model based on their conformity to the original GTS mindset, which began back in 1964.
1. Porsche 904 Carrera GTS – 1964
The first GTS, the 904, is unequivocally the most beautiful design Porsche has ever produced. The beauty, as they say, is more than skin deep, as the first 904s were equipped with the visually and aurally pleasing Fuhrmann 4-cam “carrera” engines. The chassis, a steel tube frame bonded to a fiberglass body.
The first GTS, setting the stage, sounding the first tone, striking the first blow, must then be the benchmark against which all other GTS are measured. The 904 GTS is ‘the most GTS’ of the bunch.
2. Porsche 924 Carrera GTS
In a similar vein, the 924 GTS was a homologation special, created to appease racing’s rulemakers. It is truly a racecar for the street, much more hardcore than many Porsche owners can handle. It is stiff, it is raucous, and it is exceedingly quick both in a straight line and in the twisty bits.
Only 59 of these rare beasts were produced, each one of them identical. They were only available in left hand drive, only in Guards Red. The “standard” 924 Carrera GTS had its boost cranked up to 14.5 psi, weighed only 2471 pounds, and sprinted to sixty in 6.2 seconds (a mighty quick time for the early 1980s). The 924 Carrera GTS Clubsport, however, was lightened by 135 pounds, and cranked up the forced induction to 15.9 psi, dropping the 0-60 time by a full second.
3. Porsche 981 Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS – 2014
With the Cayman, and likewise its Boxster sibling, the GTS moniker is little more than a marketing gimmick. Or is it?
The 981 Chassis is already righteously capable, and the additional 15 horsepower and 7 lb-ft of torque found in the GTS certainly won’t go amiss. While the GTS package, in this case, is less about track-capability and more about some extra interior and exterior trimmings. Don’t get me wrong, it is an appealing package, as it adds standard PASM, bespoke 20″ wheels, black exhaust tips, and black-trimmed exterior lighting. The interior is copiously kitted out with Alcantara, including the Sport Design steering wheel we love so very much.
This new GTS will certainly be an excellent car, and it is certainly more ‘GTS’ than some that came before it, but I’m skeptical of its deserving the moniker. Personally, I think the 987 Cayman R and Boxster Spyder were more fitting for the GTS badge. I’d love for Porsche to prove me wrong on this.
5. Porsche 928 GTS – 1993 – 1995
As the final iteration of the 928, the GTS is hands down the best 928 ever made. With a 345 horsepower 5.4 liter 32 valve V8, the 928 GTS was a very capable, long-distance comfort cruiser that could still tackle the best mountain switchbacks with aplomb.
As with the 997 mentioned below, I don’t think the 928 GTS was particularly deserving of the name, but it certainly was an excellent car. Developing the car for nearly two decades, Porsche got the 928 ‘right’ with the GTS, more power, wider wheels, comparatively attractive smooth bumpers, larger fender flares, and aerodynamically superior “cup” side mirrors.
In the end, the 928 GTS was a great car, but more “Grand Touring” and less “Sport”.
6. Porsche 997 911 Carrera GTS – 2011-2012
The 997 Carrera GTS was an intermediate model between the Carrera S and the GT3, endowed with 402 horsepower 3.8 liter engine (shared with the Speedster and Sport Classic models), as compared with 380 horses found in the S, and the GT3’s 435. The car was certainly sporty, but not really ‘GT Sporty’.
Not much more than a warmed over Carrera S, the 997 GTS has never really captured my interest. In fact, the GTS was only capable of shaving a tenth of a second from the Carrera S 0-60 time. It was an odd package for the 997, and came about toward the end of the car’s life-cycle. Personally, I would have preferred that the GTS were simply a new S model, instead of diluting the vaunted GTS nameplate.
7. Porsche Cayenne GTS – 2008-present
I really hate to place this car so low on the list, because the Cayenne GTS is an absurdly fun one to drive. The stiffer and lower suspension on this truck makes it feel almost sporty, and the stickier tires on 21″ wheels certainly don’t deter from the feeling. Like the Panamera GTS, the V8 exhaust soundtrack just sounds so good, possibly one of the best sounds Porsche has ever made.
The fact that the first generation GTS was available with a manual transmission almost pushes this car into GTS-ness, but it falls just short by virtue of its plush and comfortable long-haul interior appointments. Sure, there is Alcantara everywhere, and the seat belts can be ordered in red or yellow, but that doesn’t make it a street-bound racecar worthy of ‘GTS’.
8. Porsche Panamera GTS – 2011-present
The Panamera GTS is, to me, a reincarnation of the 928 GTS that came before it. A wildly capable car that is just gobs of fun to drive, not to mention the aurally divine exhaust note of its 4.8 liter V8. A raucous 440 horsepower directed to the rear wheels doesn’t hurt either.
Like the 928 GTS, I think the Panamera GTS is a bit too much Grand Touring, and not quite enough Sport. It certainly drives like a proper Porsche, especially with its excellent PDK paddles, but it just isn’t racy enough to be a GTS. If Porsche had offered the car with a manual gearbox, it certainly would have been placed much higher on this list.
The GTS badge has always been about ultimate performance, both on track and on the street. A Porsche GTS is a perfectly tuned performance car that is at home around the Nurburgring as it is on your commute to work. It hasn’t ever been about outright horsepower numbers, but rather striking a balance between power and poised handling. The meaning of those three letters seems to have been diluted a little in recent years, but we sure hope the new 981 GTS twins can return some of that 904 spirit to Porsche’s road car lineup. Once we get our hands on the steering wheel, we’ll be sure to let you know how they fare.
Other Porsche Blog Posts You’ll Enjoy
Pricing And Pictures Of The Porsche Boxster GTS And Cayman GTS
1994 Porsche 928 GTS Sells for $92,500
Video Review Of The 2014 Porsche Panamera GTS
Photos: 928 GTS – willhoitenterprises.com, Panamera GTS – Bradley Brownell, all others provided by Porsche.