Porsche 928 GTS
Starting with a clean sheet of paper, it is unlikely that
many automotive designers would sling a large, heavy engine
out behind the rear axle, giving a high polar moment of
inertia to the vehicle, and, consequently, ‘interesting’
handling. But, then, not many designers can lay claim to
having sketched out a blueprint for a sports car that would
not only remain fundamentally unchanged for three decades,
but that would outlive and outsell the very car that many
believed was designed to replace it. We are, of course,
talking about the Porsche 911, and its younger front-engined
sibling, the 928.
Conceived in the early 1970s, when sales of the 911 were
slowly waning, the 928’s raison d’etre in the Porsche
line-up was, perhaps, never clearly defined enough. Was it
complementary to the 911; a grand tourer for those who
required something that could travel greater distances in
comfort than it rear-engined brother? Or, conversely, was it
simply a replacement for the 911?
In hindsight, whether it was Porsche’s intentions or not,
it appeared to be the former. Most 928s were sold with
automatic gearboxes, and the suspension was set up more for
long distance cruising than blasting round Brands Hatch.
But in the twilight years of production, Porsche finally
made the 928 into the car that it should have been from the
beginning – the GTS, which has earned its place on The List
by offering something that few manufactuers have achieved: a
large GT that shrinks to fit on the right stretch of road or track.
With its swollen wheel arches and lowered suspension, the
GTS looks much more modern than earlier versions of the 928.
It has a purposeful air, almost as if it is an homologation
special. Even the oft-criticised heavy rear end works in
this context – it provides the rear of the car with a sense
of power and exaggerates the width of the tyres.
Inside there is the usual luxury, in a 1980s bachelor pad
kind of way. Seats are adjustable in a myriad of ways,
there’s air conditioning and even sufficient space in the
back seats for a couple of small adults, albeit ones who
will not wish to repeat the experience too often. The only
thing that slightly spoils the experience is the overly
large four spoke steering wheel, which looks more suitable
for use in the manoeuvring of a large cruise ship than a 170
MPH grand tourer.
Start up the engine and you are rewarded with a V8 burble
that has more in common with classic muscle cars than the
high reving eight cylinder engines of Ferrari and others.
It’s surprisingly un-German in fact, and provides the GTS
with a characterful soul that is often lacking in modern GTs.
Once on the move it becomes more apparent that this car
is a true Porsche; brakes are clinically efficient, and the
whole vehicle conveys a feeling of strength and rigidity to
the driver. There is no sloppiness in the primary controls,
and despite weighing significantly more than a contemporary
911, the GTS never feels like a machine that is too big to
be thrown around.
In fact, in many ways it is a far better car than the
993 model 911 that was its stablemate, despite what popular
911 fan-constructed mythology may have you believe. It may
be heavier than the 993, but this is more than offset by the
greater torque and horsepower of the larger capacity engine,
giving the GTS a superior power to weight ratio than its
sibling. And although it does not quite have the depth of
character of the 911, it is much less liable to punish the
driver with tail led forays into the scenery the first time
he or she performs any mid-corner dithering.
Understeer is the predominant characteristic in most
cornering situations, but this is only really evident on the
track, such is the grip of the large (for their time) tyres.
A jab of throttle will neutralise this, but it does not feel
the correct way to drive such a big car; despite shrinking
around you as the speed increases, it’s not a car to really
throw around, being too big and heavy to get away with this
for long at most UK circuits. It’s better to be smooth and
measured with your inputs, balancing the car at the limits
of adhesion, but not exceeding them. Driven like this, the
928 will run away from most other machinery, although the
sheer weight of the GTS will eventually take its toll on the brakes.
It may be over ten years old, and its origins may date
back to the 1970s, but the GTS still attracts admiring
glances and, with its flared wheelarches and lowered ride
height, disguise its age exceptionally well. In rather more
utilitarian terms it also has small but useable rear seats,
and a decent-sized boot which makes it a family-friendly
supercar that, incredibly, costs less to buy than a pair of
ceramic disc brakes for a 997. And that’s a deal that is
extremely hard to ignore.