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Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

N59, County Galway, Ireland

We’ve previously looked at the Wild Atlantic Way, offering 2,500 kilometres of stunning blacktop traversing the entire west coast of the Emerald Isle. However, you and your Porsche need to get there first, and opting for the equally scenic N59 means the driving merriment can start early.

Set a little further inland than the fervently twisting and slower-paced Wild Atlantic Way, the N59 is no acolyte to its better-known neighbour.

Beginning in Galway as an unassuming dual carriageway, the road quickly leans northwest and reduces to one lane each way, while the urban mise-en-scéne is replaced by countryside.

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The N59 is a wonderfully flowing road with fast sections that continually coax you to keep a good pace. You’ve no need to break speeding laws to have fun either, as the limits are generously apportioned throughout.

Safely keep up to the set maximum pace and we guarantee your drive will be thrilling at the wheel, a feat almost unheard of for public roads in entertaining modern sports cars.

Take your eyes off the recurrently swivelling asphalt and you’ll be greeted by idyllic topography, with numerous lochs (there are at least 20 on the stretch from Galway to Clifden alone) sitting level with the road and quickly giving way to striking mountains reaching high into the clouds above.

You’re likely to want to stop and take in some of the scenery and there’s plenty of places for you to stop and do so.

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Back on the road, the route is very well sighted and there are little obstacles in the way of traffic – we came across only a handful of cyclists and bikers – though the surface itself can become heinously undulating at times (modern cars may choose to switch PASM off here).

On reaching Clifden, the road heads north and offers another 130 miles of spirited driving euphoria all the way up to Ballysadare, just outside the town of Sligo.

We said the Wild Atlantic Way is a hidden gem, and the N59 is purely an added treasure to the haul – the hardest decision we now face is choosing which car to unleash on the route next time…

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Porsche 991 Carrera GTS super test: Coupe, Cabriolet, Targa

GTS: three letters that, when siphoned together, evoke a strong yet wonderfully nostalgic sporting spirit in the Porsche world. As you’ll know, the legend started more than 50 years ago with the 904 Carrera GTS, a Targa Florio-winning car that gave rise to the infallible 917, and was reignited for the 911 production line in 2010 with the 997 Carrera GTS.

A run-out special with high quality options appointed as standard to the specification, a 997 GTS is an exquisite Carrera with genuine sporting intentions.

It’s a Total 911 favourite and, if that’s not reason enough for you to find similar endearment with it, just take a look at the classifieds to see its current value. Certainly, no other 997 outside of the GT2/3/RS line-up has enjoyed such refusal to significantly depreciate.

Porsche 991 Carrera GTS

Then came the 991 GTS, this time introduced for the first generation. Rolled out across Coupe and Cabriolet body styles in two and four wheel drive along with, for the first time, a Targa variant, worldwide Porsche marketing wasted little time in billing this new GTS line-up as ‘driving purity’.

And, in context with the rest of the first-generation 991 range, there’s a genuine case in favour of that PR slant emanating from Zuffenhausen: all are naturally aspirated and have a passive rear axle, with a manual gearbox offered as standard – a setup you’ll never see roll out of Werk II ever again.

However, such a blanket approach to the entire line-up would be naive. The rear-driven manual Coupe quickly found favour on our first drive back in issue 121 (culminating in a 4.5-star rating in our data file).

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Llanberis Pass

Yet Total 911’s writer extraordinaire, Kyle Fortune described the Cabriolet in all-wheel drive form with PDK as “evidence in spirit and reality that the GTS badge should be limited to a handful of models rather than the entire 911 line-up.”

There were similar musings too when the Targa was later unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show. Suddenly, Porsche had evolved the GTS moniker into an entire sub-brand within the 911 range, but has it proved the right thing to do?

It’s a question that Total 911 needed to investigate, and only a trip to our favourite blacktop in rural North Wales with every current GTS variant would suffice. That’s why I find myself sitting at the wheel of a Sapphire blue 991 GTS Cabriolet as I zip along the A55 past Anglesey.

To read our full Porsche 991 Carrera GTS super test, pick up Total 911 issue 133 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery or download it straight to your digital device now.

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS in car

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A4069, Black Mountains, Wales

Like a number of superb roads we’ve previously examined, the A4069 has all the high scorers in the Total 911 ‘I Spy’ book of great drives. The entire route is blessed with a good surface, plenty of bends, Armco-style barriers, good sightlines, oodles of open scenery, a hairpin, and even a range of changes in altitude.

Besides this, I’ll bet you recognise it when you get there. This is because it’s been the staple destination for many factions in the motoring media for road tests or group shoots for years.

The long uphill to the small car park by the quarry has been used again and again, but latterly the more performance-based media also love the hairpin, which is pretty much always branded with long black tyre marks from the apex thanks to its perfect angle and flattering uphill, low-speed character.

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We’re a little more cerebral on Total 911, so let’s forgo the bravado and break down the drive itself. It can be done either way, but to enjoy the hairpin uphill, we suggest going north to south.

Starting at Llangdadog, regular rural Wales blends into the Brecon Beacon National Park, and instantly the road alters. We weave hard along a narrow valley to our right, swing around a right-hander and steadily gain in altitude, still weaving up to the left-hand hairpin.

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Wide vistas on our right suddenly swap to the left as we rise further, up past the two photo location car parks en route to the summit. The glorious Carmarthenshire scenery opens up and the road levels off for a brief section, gracefully threading off into the distance.

We weave and bob down, then arc steadily through the moorland. Passing the large car park on the right, we then take a sharp right on the side of the valley and roll down into the end of our 12-mile drive into our destination of Brynamman.

This is a cracking drive, where the constant weaving and wiggling of the road is superb fodder for 911 driving. There’s always inputs to make and feedback coming from the car, all at totally legal, safe and responsible speeds. Set the alarm and get there for sunrise, to really appreciate the road and the landscape.

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Why the Porsche 911 GTS Targa isn’t a proper GTS

The new year has got off to a largely positive start in terms of motoring news, with the NAIAS in Detroit proving a prime platform for big-name manufacturers to unveil their latest coterie of exciting sports cars. Petrolheads witnessed the reveal of the Ford GT and long-awaited Honda NSX to get the 2015 automotive feast started, but when it came to the presentation from our favourite Zuffenhausen sports car builders, I was left less than impressed.

The plucky 991 Carrera GTS4 Targa unveiled in Detroit is the source of my cynicism. Put simply, the GTS is a revered ‘purist’ moniker for Porsche, so why is it being so readily diluted with non-purist metal?

Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board, unveils the 991 Targa GTS4 in Detroit this week.

Of course, Porsche’s GTS story goes far back to the 904 of 1964 (ironically the same year the 911 first graced our streets and circuits), but it wasn’t until 2010 that the three most famous numbers in motoring were melded to three equally famous letters in creating the first 911 GTS. Introduced in the twilight of the 997-era, the GTS brought motorsporting purity to the Carrera range, and the widebodied, Powerkitted, and generously-optioned GTS was hailed a showroom success in both all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive form.

We then waited eagerly for four years before we got our next instalment of 911 GTS, this time in 991 guise, and our first drive of the car (again in two and four-wheel drive) in issue 121 delighted in how the new GTS successfully bridges the gap between Carrera S and GT3 in the range. There was a caveat to our verdict, though, which centred around the canvas-roofed GTS specimens. In his review, Kyle Fortune wrote: “If there was any evidence that the GTS badge should be limited to a handful of models, the GTS4 Cabriolet is it,” before adding, “with four-wheel drive and the weight of the Cabriolet, it’s no longer in keeping with the GTS ethos – in spirit or reality.”

Lee argues there's little driving purity to a 1,555kg open-top GTS.

Kyle’s point of view hones in on my broader opinion, which is where concerns over the new 991 GTS reverberate from. The Targa GTS4 is even heavier than than the Cabriolet GTS4 (admittedly only by 15 kilograms) and when you think of ‘driving purity’ as the GTS sub-brand is so marketed by Porsche, you do not think of a lumpy open-topped 911 with awkward wind buffeting at any pace above 40mph. A Targa GTS4 is sure to be far from an ideal matrimony then, with that fundamental ingredient sure to be elusive (a doughnut without jam, anyone?).

What was once a special moniker for the real driver in us is fast becoming a severely diluted sub-brand devoid, in some cases, of the exclusive tradition in purity we’d come to expect from the GTS. The Targa GTS4 is not the start to 2015 us Porschephiles would have wanted – but at least we don’t have long to wait until the 991 GT3 RS

Do you agree? Comment below or tweet us @Total911 with your thoughts.

 

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Porsche 991 Carrera GTS: the first drive

The four years since Porsche launched its 997 GTS in Palm Springs, USA, have passed as quickly as the 3.8-litre flat six finds its redline in first. Since then, there’s barely been a week where I’ve not checked their prices, the first 911 GTS being one that I’d like to own.

This car’s not going to help that apparently, with Porsche’s people saying that it’s not unusual to see a spike in prices in predecessor cars when a new 911 arrives.

So the 991 GTS is upon us, Porsche choosing Pasadena rather than Palm Springs for its introduction. Useful, as around 90 miles north is Willow Springs Raceway: a challenging, undulating track hanging onto the side of a hill near Edwards Air Force base, alongside the desert where Chuck Yeager strapped himself into experimental planes in his quest to break the sound barrier.

991 GTS driving

It is likely that you know the GTS nomenclature and positioning by now, but if you need a recap, here it is. The GTS slots above the Carrera S in the range, Porsche seeing it as something of a steppingstone or halfway house model between the Carrera range and the stripped and focussed GT3.

Bridging that gap means a unique make-up, with elements of both – the GTS, for example, is the only 911 other than the GT3 (until a GT2 arrives at least) that’s offered as a pure two-seater.

In the GT3 you don’t have that choice admittedly, but the GTS buyer is given the option to bin off the rear pews in place of a carpeted area, saving some seven kilograms over a Carrera S in the process.

991 GTS in car

That’s in the Coupe only though. Yes, Porsche are muddying the GTS idea and focus slightly by offering the GTS not just on its Coupe, but on the Cabriolet, too.

The GTS is a model range then, in two- or four-wheel drive, manual or PDK auto and with or without a roof. We’re thinking that it’s best represented in rear-wheel drive, manual Coupe form, which is why we pinched the keys for the single example among the 12 cars on offer specified on the launch event.

To read our full first drive of the new Porsche 991 Carrera GTS, pick up Total 911 issue 121 in store now. Alternatively, you can order your copy online, or download it straight to your digital device and save up to 30%.

Porsche 991 GTS

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