Fair warning: I regard the Porsche 911 as the world's best sports car. And since the GTS featured here is probably the last and arguably the best of the production 997-series Carrera line (there's an all-new 911 on the way for next year), I'm pretty much going to spend the next 500 words saying how fantastic it is. If that's going to embarrass you, turn the page now.
Note I said "best", rather than "ultimate". The GTS is a subtle evolution of the standard Carrera 2S (C2S), so it's not as focused as the 911 RS models and certainly not as rapid as the 911 Turbo.
But the GTS is still the best 911 for real people who really love driving.
The rear-drive models have always been the most engaging of the breed (the Turbo is all-wheel drive) and the GTS gives you some of the extra thrill of an RS with the ride, refinement and sheer practicality of a regular C2.
The important bits are as follows. The GTS carries the 3.8-litre flat-six engine with a 17kW power-upgrade kit (now 300kW) that would cost an inexplicable $29,200 if you added it to a standard model. But don't worry about that, because the GTS is only $12,000 more than a C2S. Torque remains the same but reaches its peak 200rpm earlier. Fuel economy is unchanged.
The GTS has the wide body styling of the C4S and therefore a 32mm wider rear track, to the benefit of both handling and styling (if not parking). Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and a sports exhaust kit are also standard.
Less useful, more status-conscious bits include black 19-inch RS Spyder wheels, a reshaped front apron, different steering wheel and instruments and special GTS-themed black detailing and decals.
The result is simply stunning. Driving a 911 allows you to reconnect with the important things about driving: steering that talks to you, a chassis that reacts to every input and a powerplant overflowing with aural character. Personally, I'd eschew the $8000 PDK double-clutch gearbox fitted to our car in favour of a proper manual, but the two-pedal transmission has advantages in speed, economy and convenience.
A 911 is never dull. It's one of those rare performance cars that is totally engaging at anything from 50km/h to 250km/h.
Extend the car/yourself and you are aware that there's a pendulous weight bobbing about at the back: that's part of the thrill - one of those conscious imperfections that makes the 911 so perfect as a driver's car.
There's a reason why no other performance car has its engine hanging out the back behind the rear axle: such a layout really shouldn't work as well as this.
In that context, after 48 years, the 911 remains a triumph of engineering over design. And the really remarkable thing is that each evolution is even more of a triumph. And so I give you the $257,000 Porsche 911 GTS: buy one now. Can't possibly think what would be stopping you.
Evolution of a winner
The basic layout has remained the same, but the Porsche 911 has changed a lot in 48 years. The original 911 boasted a flat-six air-cooled engine of just 2-litre capacity, with 96kW. It could accelerate to 100km/h in 9sec.
The latest 911 GTS still has a flat-six, but with nearly twice the capacity and more than three times the power.
It achieves the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint in half the time of the 1963 model: just 4.4sec in PDK double-clutch specification.
The bottom line:
Porsche has massaged the standard Carrera 2S in exactly the right places, enhancing the driving experience without going over the top. The 997-series is bowing out at the top of its game; just hope 2012's all-new model will be as engaging.
* Aston Martin Vantage V8 - $225,000
* BMW M3 - $180,900
* Jaguar XKR - $254,990
* Maserati GranTurismo - $275,000
* Nissan GT-R Black Edition - $189,900