The same but different. That’s what I expected to find when my friend Tom Gaunt and I met to line up my first generation 991 Carrera C2S next to his GTS under the lights of the Lava Studios detailing bay in Buckinghamshire.
We’re both still in the honeymoon period, having bought our respective cars just weeks apart last autumn, but I admit to being slightly nervous of coming away disappointed after comparing my car with the highly desirable and universally praised GTS.
Our respective journeys to this point are quite different. Tom’s background in rallying with Mitsubishi, and in Rallycross, led him and business partner Chris to establish AT Performance Cars in Aylesbury and develop a reputation in the Mitsubishi Evo and Nissan GTR space. The sales side of the business allows Tom to explore his interest in other marques, including Porsche and, in 2017, he bought and sold a 991.1 C2S which captivated him with its character, balance and the view forward down the bonnet and over the haunches in the mirror.
That same car returned last autumn, around the same time I picked up my car and brought it in for detailing. The 991 temptation simply became too much for Tom. The GTS model stood out to him by virtue of its stunning looks, universal praise and firm residuals and the specification of this particular car made it too good to miss. The purchase has given Tom the opportunity to indulge his passion for Porsche and also, as a business tool, to raise the profile of ATP and Lava Studios in the Porsche community.
I am a lifelong Porsche obsessive, an affliction inherited from my father and cemented watching Condorman, reading car magazines and visiting Le Mans in 1987, where we witnessed a famous Porsche victory. Porsche ownership would begin when I was 36, with a 997 Carrera 2 bought to fulfil the roles of daily driver, weekend enjoyment, European tourer and the realisation of a dream.
But Porsche dreaming never stops and some eight years later, in 2020, I hatched a plan to replace our Golf with a 991 in the important second family car role – I want to do as much of my motoring as I can by Porsche. The 997 has been retained, not least for sentimental reasons and fear of instant seller’s remorse, but also because it’s fantastic.
When I began to look seriously at the classifieds, the pool of cars I might actually want to buy suddenly looked rather small. My desire for something specific – DAB radio – had to be matched equally by a need to compromise or be extremely patient. Certainly, the 991 I bought is not the one I set out to buy but what I have ended up with is unusual and really interesting.
The 991 platform is a truly modern 911 and, on top of the standard C2S specification, my car’s original owner added PDK, Anthracite Brown Metallic paint, a two-tone interior with ventilated and heated 14-way adjustable seats, Sport Chrono with PADM and the sports exhaust. Before viewing the car at local marque specialist RPM Technik, I wondered if it might be a bit too ‘Continental GT’ for my tastes, but it’s actually rather wonderful.
Side by side at Lava Studios (thanks go to Lava’s Ryan Tasker for preparing both cars and the dry location), the added appeal of the GTS is immediately obvious. It adopts the wider Carrera 4 body with flared rear arches and a wider front track, carrying stunning black forged aluminium centre-lock wheels. Sport Design trim at the front and a black strip between the tail lights complete the visual drama which gives the GTS real presence over and above the Carrera S, especially in the stunning black of Tom’s car. Alcantara details abound inside the GTS, but the touchpoints are very similar; the steering wheels are both Sport Design. Less obvious, but equally significant, are the addition of the Powerkit engine and an intake unique to the GTS. Tom’s car also has the optional PDCC active chassis.
Opportunities to drive are limited at the moment, but one thing you notice immediately is how aggressive and exciting the GTS sounds - a step on from the S. On the road, the engines feel little different in normal driving, with the benefits of the Powerkit only really being felt at the top end of the rev range where both cars are dizzyingly quick and intoxicating. How the chassis differences manifest themselves on the road is difficult to quantify at the time of writing due to the prevailing weather.
Tom’s car also has optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, which mine doesn’t, and new Michelin PS4-S tyres while mine rides on ageing Pirelli P Zeros. What the GTS does seem to possess is a poise and athleticism that would allow it to perform at a higher level than the S in the right conditions. Today, they feel very similar, equally enjoyable, and brilliant.
As a package of options, the GTS represented real value as a new 911 in 2015 compared to the S. This is reflected in the used market today, where it appears from the cars advertised that, once the GTS became available, it’s what everyone bought. It follows then, perhaps, that the choice between the two is an easy one – if one can afford a GTS, why wouldn’t you choose one over an S?
What I found, though, comparing these cars side by side, is that the S has a slim-hipped elegance and purity of design reminiscent of, dare I say, the iconic early ’70s 911 S. Credit to the original owners for so deftly navigating the configurator and specifying such fine examples of each model. I left with pride and no sense of disappointment at being the owner of the S.