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The List

 

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.





 
 

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