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Talk Box

Tracking Porsche’s GTS range in Italy

ROME, ITALY. There’s a spring nip in the air as I deplane and head into the belly of the Aeroporto Internazionale di Roma-Fiumincino. The busiest airport in the country has also been known — pre-COVID-19 pandemic, at least — as one of the busiest airports in all of Europe. This is my first taste of airline travel since the outbreak, and I am equal parts nervous and excited.

Not even 20 minutes after traveling by van, I arrive at the QC Termeroma, a rustic-looking spa resort. This is where we rest our bones while waiting for the main purpose of our brief jaunt in Europe.

The agenda is GTS, or Gran Turismo Sport, three letters that stand for a lineup-wide trim for Porsche. But what, indeed, does GTS stand for? For starters, Porsche must have deliberately chosen Italy to acquaint us to its related offerings, as an homage to the term itself (gran turismo, of course, is Italian for “grand touring”). Grand touring has always been known for heightened performance (hence the video game Gran Turismo, by the way).

And when you talk performance, well, why shouldn’t Porsche come to mind? But some six decades removed from the release of the iconic three numbers (yes, 911), the brand says there’s still some specialization going on. “Within the portfolio, engineers and designers have developed a wide array of models. There’s a Porsche for virtually every situation,” says the firm in its GTS literature. “If you want a car that is packed with excitement, three letters are all you need: GTS models are especially dynamic and agile derivatives that still manage to impress in everyday use. They offer a balance of performance and everyday practicality.”

Adds Porsche Asia Pacific Head of PR and Communications Brendan Mok during our one-on-one talk: “For Porsche, GTS means the sweet spot between what you can use every day, and what can provide you with a little bit of entertainment and fun when you’re out on the track. It has special enhancements, a little bit more power and a little bit more performance while being to (fulfill) daily driving duties that you might want in a car. It’s really an all-arounder.”

Thankful that an imminent threat of rain doesn’t fall, we head off the next day for the track. How many times in your life will you be asked to choose the car you want to take? I’m willing to guess not very many, so I make a quick decision on a rather spicy-looking red Macan GTS. You might fault me for not jumping aboard a 911 or a 718 but, hey, I love an elevated driving position — particularly if the drive is long and winding. I’ll tell you how that went in a future article, but suffice it to say this GTS at least satisfies the “everyday” portion of the role most nicely.

But fast-forward after a two-hour meandering past the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Macan drops us at the doorstep of the Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi. First built as a 1.773-kilometer sand oval in 1959, the circuit hosted the Rome Grand Prix from 1963 onwards, and added a new loop in 1967 when the track became owned by the Automobile Club d’Italia. Significantly, half a mile was added to Vallelunga in 2004. In case you’re wondering, it is an FIA test circuit as well.

Lapping the Vallelunga aboard a snarling 911 is surely one for the bucket list, and it proves to be as raw as it sounds. With a zero-to-100kph time of 3.3 seconds, power of 480ps, and torque of 570Nm, the vehicle hugs the turns of the circuit with German precision. The bucket seat keeps me in place, but my innards seem to be on autopilot — rearranging themselves along with the heavy lunch I had just snarfed. Lead instructor Björn Leiss, who is pacing me, reacts to my willingness to speed up.

Next in line is the 718 GTS (a Cayman). Powered by a four-liter, six-cylinder, naturally aspirated mill, it outputs 400ps and 420Nm — surpassing its S counterpart by a hefty 50ps. Porsche says the powertrain of these models is “essentially the same as that of the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder. The Cayman GTS proves more playful on the course. When I say playful, it shows its limits more readily than the self-assured 911. And that means it is more unforgiving toward me when I fail to brake correctly or hit the apex the right way.

The Panamera GTS, on the other hand, simultaneously feels large, stately, and mad. It’s a sports car luxury saloon, if you ask Porsche, but that only means it’s going to pamper you then give you g-forces to remind you that it’s a Porsche and not an unhurried, starched brat. A four-liter V8 bi-turbo gives the car its numbers (zero-to-100kph in 3.9 ticks, 480ps, and 620Nm). The GTS gets a Sport Design package with lots of exterior accents in black as standard. It gets lots of Alcantara on the inside. It’s not as willing to change directions as its smaller brethren because, well, that’s physics for you, but the Panamera is also its own “best of both worlds” paradigm.

As for the Taycan GTS, where do I begin? Having driven a base version of it in our local roads, I wasn’t exactly surprised by the massive amount of torque on demand, and an acceleration that will spill your coffee onto your rear passenger. But that all this drama unfolding within a whisper-quiet cabin is just, well, surreal. The GTS can sprint from a standstill to 100kph in 3.7 ticks — a result of its 598ps and 850Nm of output, and reaping a whole lot of “OMGs,” I suspect.

I just keep reminding myself to keep my lunch down else I look like the absolute newbie.

An interview should do the trick, paired with a cappuccino because, well, we’re in Italy.

“The GTS started with the 904 GTS in 1964. That was really a racecar, but for the sake of homologation it had to have some creature comforts and basically license plates,” says Mr. Mok. “That kind of philosophy has carried onto all future GTS models like the 924 GTS, 928 GTS — and eventually GTS versions of all our model lines… with the most recent addition being the Taycan.”

Generally speaking, how does someone distinguish a GTS from the lower S and higher Turbo variants?

“We’ve got some really cool exterior differentiators. For example, the headlights and taillights are dark-tinted. We see some very nice black contrast accents on the car and also very special aerodynamic changes on some of the models, especially in the 911,” he continues. There are lots of touches inside, for sure: black leather Race-Tex, Alcantara, and a tachometers colored red or green. “That’s an extra shot of raciness in the car,” Brendan adds with a grin.

What should one expect in the a GTS if he or she is going to track it? “You’re going to really have fun on track,” he stresses. “The suspension system is different, the brakes have been uprated so you can go hard on them, and expect to gun away from every corner.”

And, says a wise man, make sure that lunch is a light one before you head out onto the track.