The Best Everyday 911 You Can Buy, Today

2011 Porsche 911 GTS

Twenty-two. That's how many Porsche 911 variants are available right now. And by this time next year, they'll all be obsolete. But this one – the 2011 Porsche 911 GTS – is the pick of the litter. It's the definition of the daily-driver's supercar and comes equipped with everything you need in a Type 997. It's perfect. You want it. And you want it now.

Just please forget about the Type 991 peering out from behind the curtain...

The GTS is the 997's swan song. It's everything Porsche has learned over the course of the current 911's tenure distilled into a package that's aimed at street drivers, not weekend racers. The specs aren't particularly mind-blowing and the acceleration doesn't warp the space/time continuum like some other 911s, but that's not the point. It's the best 911 today because it flatters and inspires. It revels in its parts-binifcation like few things we've driven. It's pure, but not unhinged. It's balanced, but not comprised. It's a rolling love letter to anyone smart enough to choose it among the scads of other 911 variants (a few million if you do the math).

It's also the favorite 911 of a certain Porsche mechanic we met at a Shell station outside of Monterey. And that says... something.

Oh, and one other thing: The GTS is something of a bargain when you look at what it takes to bring a 997 Carrera S, the 911 variant one rung below it on the ladder, up to same level.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS side view2011 Porsche 911 GTS front view2011 Porsche 911 GTS rear view

Let's start with output. The standard Carrera S (again, the 997) comes equipped with 385 horsepower from its 3.8-liter flat-six. The GTS ups the game to 408 horsepower at 7,300 rpm thanks to the standard fitment of the $16,900 Powerkit option (tweaks to the intake and exhaust tracts) on the outgoing 997 S. But surprisingly, it's the torque that impresses from behind the wheel. Twist is up to 310 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm, but with 238 lb-ft available practically from idle, it's the linearity of its delivery that shines through and helps achieve a 4.4-second run to 60 miles per hour.

You've got over 3,000 revs worth of shove at your command, which means fiddling with the glorious – and standard – six-speed manual is kept to a minimum when hustling through the bends. An optional PDK dual-clutch automatic commands an extra $4,320, but only the seriously tri-pedal-allergic would be advised to nix the stick thanks to its precise throws and light-but-engaged clutch pedal. You enjoy this setup around town, not endure it.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS engine

Other features? The 19-inch, center-lock black wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s (235/35 R19 up front and 305/30 R19 in the rear) would run you well over $6K at the dealer, while the Sport Design front end and steering wheel, Alcantra-coated interior and other assorted baubles would bring the price of your faux-GTS into near-GT3 range. So what's the price of the GTS? $103,100. To start, natch.

Our tester stickered for just north of $110,000 and came equipped with the bits that mattered, specifically the Sport Chrono pack ($960), Alcantara/leather buckets ($2,990) and Sport Suspension, which drops the GTS an extra 20mm and includes a limited slip differential ($950). All of which is a pittance compared to what's already on your American Express Black – assuming you don't option up for the $8,150 ceramic brake option, but even then...

On the topic of the suspension, it's the lone demerit with the GTS – at least, around town. Bumps, heaves and all manner of tarmac imperfections are directly routed through the 30-series rubber before assaulting your posterior like a dominatrix intent on a big tip. It's not brutal, but it's far from comfortable until you get up to speed. And then, it's magic.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS interior2011 Porsche 911 GTS front seats2011 Porsche 911 GTS chrono2011 Porsche 911 GTS shifter

The damper/spring combination works best over 40 mph, so most freeway trips are easy to handle. To test that assertion, I took a friend out to Laguna Seca at the crack of dawn to take in a race.

Despite Porsche's "School Bus" TV spot, this isn't something designed to haul two parents and a pair of kids. However, it is enough to shoehorn a couple of bags and a 270-pound, 6-foot 8-inch ex-bouncer into the passenger seat. With ease. The rear seats continue to be a joke, and we'll continue laughing about them until we get seat-time in the longer-wheelbase 991.

Any concerns about the GTS' livability flew out the sports exhaust over the course of our two-hour drive to the coast, and as much as I enjoy wheel-to-wheel racing at Laguna, as soon as the checkered flag dropped, we made a B-line to the parking lot in search of the best roads back to the Bay.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS headlight2011 Porsche 911 GTS wheel detail2011 Porsche 911 GTS taillight2011 Porsche 911 GTS exhaust pipes

I'll be the first to admit that I'm jaded. And when it comes to this price bracket, it takes the world on a platter with a side of Scarlett Johansson to impress. So when we finally arrived at the first run road, I decided to start slow and build the tension.

To start, let's blow this tired trope out of the water: There's absolutely nothing dynamically faulty with the Porsche's rear-engine architecture. At least, not anymore. The ability to play with the 911's balance – and particularly this GTS – at any time, in any state simply comes down to driver sanity. Don't do something stupid, and you're fine. Nail the throttle coming out of a low speed bend with all the nannies cackling away, and you're met with benign understeer all the way through. Jump off the throttle mid-corner and yes, the back-end will come around with the TC set to Sport+, but you want it that way and it's remarkably easy to both anticipate and catch. The 911 just feels natural sliding beneath you and with the 3.8-liter six-cylinder putting its shoulder into the chassis, it feels best when abused.

2011 Porsche 911 GTS rear 3/4 view

And that almost unbearable suspension? It melts away as soon as the speed piles on. Combined with the hydraulically assisted and speed-proportional rack-and-pinion steering, the GTS' setup makes for one of the greatest driving experiences in the planet. Hyperbole, you say? Drive one and then tell me I'm wrong. I'll put $20 on it... not that I need to.

What about that 800-pound gorilla rapping on the door? It goes by the chassis code 991 and it's sure to receive accolades and stirring reviews when Porsche finally lets us hacks behind the wheel. But for today, the GTS reigns supreme. The ultimate 911 for the above-average-Joe more concerned about enjoying the space between A and B then posing next to his GT3. And judging by how the 996 is doing on the used market, you'll be able to pick up a GTS for a song when another 20 991 variants inevitably arrive. Mark your calendars and start stashing your pennies now. I am...