Approaching a 200-yard-long tunnel, a semi-circle of steel tubing that cuts through an outcropping of the Angeles mountains, the driver — a fellow journalist, more expert than me at steering six-figure beasts built for speed — lets off the throttle. I pause to breathe. The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS ($115,195+) rips into a downshift. The driver lines up our car, a white cabriolet bullet with the top down, windows down, RPMs tuned up. The tunnel is a wide-mouthed barrel.

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Forty minutes prior, in a slow roll through the streets of Pasadena, our conversation centered around promise and delivery. An Alcantara steering wheel, sport-designed door mirrors, carbon fiber inlays and carmine red accent stitching, a shining siren-red tachometer, smoked Bi-Xenon headlights, 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque — will all that translate to drive? Will this thing handle in a stomach-churning, palm-sweating, full-body-adrenaline sort of way? For $120k, and with the badge of Gran Turismo Sport, it should.

At the tunnel’s maw, the driver presses the pedal to the floorboard. The GTS roars, the exhaust reverberating through every rib of steel. Testosterone ignites like petrol in the chamber. Out of the tunnel we take a curve and the car quickens around the bend. Pocks and divots on the pavement be damned: this wide-bodied beast is holding every line tight. The car whips out of the turn, back onto a straight. My heart rate’s at 160. Preliminary reports are in: that’s real. That’s visceral.

The GTS roars, the growl of the exhaust reverberating through every rib of steel. Testosterone ignites like petrol in the chamber.

Porsche’s 911 GTS is built around premium speed and ultimate control. It’s a performance car with the purity of naturally aspirated power, but without the harshness of a racer like the GT3. It’s luxury with grit, a toothsome beast with leather seats. The new 911 GTS additions — including four models, coupes and cabriolets available with rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive — give internal and aesthetic amplification to the 911 S, adding 30 horsepower to the engine, a Sport Chrono package with illustrious Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual-clutch automatic transmission (or a purist’s 7-speed manual), and the PASM active damper system, which lowers the ride height by 10 millimeters. It goes from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds; top speed is 189 mph with PDK.

And then there’s the GTS’s tasteful aesthetics: the 20-inch gloss black, center-locking wheels, smoked Bi-Xenon headlights, and black-chrome exhaust, all of which is far from after-market tacky. The contrast stitching (optional, but if you’re in the $120k range, then why not?) matches the interior styling to the car’s excessive quickness. Carbon fiber trim strips and aluminum sill plates with the GTS logo reinforce that this is a special subset of the 911 line.

Our GTS slingshots through the mountain passes and then descends on Willow Springs, a quick track with enough turns to tighten any gut. If a car’s spine is its steering, then Willow Springs is a worthy test. Out on the track the 911 is responsive, turning with a non-twitchy tightness that never leaves the driver angling the wheel too steeply. Suspension is stiff but not jarring. PDK shifts intuitively and the Sport Plus mode taps into the darker, more aggressive corners of your driving self. And then there’s the exhaust.

In tunnels, overpasses, crevasses of rock in the mountains, keep the windows down and listen. On the track with the windows up and the cockpit sealed, the beast will roar just behind your ear.

Broaching the subject of sound to a Porsche engineer is like inquiring on a family secret. Ask them: “You work a lot on the sound?” and you’ll get a smug German nod with lips closed tightly. You can feel the pride beaming all the way from the company’s Stuttgart lab. In tunnels and overpasses, and passing crevasses of rock in the mountains, keep the windows down and listen. On the track with the windows up and the cockpit sealed, the beast will roar just behind your ear. It’s a sound that never tires the eardrums, and it’s best complimented with the quick thwack of a bug hitting the windshield at 110 mph.

At the track I tag along with Michael Christensen, a Porsche Works driver, who notes casually, one hand on the wheel as we spring toward a downhill S turn in the high-80s, “These guys think they’re racers.” He’s referring to the other journalists, who have gotten comfortable by this point. He scoffs a little, knowing the speed’s a handful of rungs lower than his usual mph. But as the car heads into the next decreasing-radius turn in the low-100s, throbbing with momentum yet fully in control, you really can’t blame them.

911 Carrera GTS
911 Carrera 4 GTS