Seismic events have shaped the hills around Los Angeles into a topographic torture chamber. The LA Crest Highway is carved into the folded and fractured landscape and our Porsche 911 Carrera GTS doing its best to engineer a fracture in that surface too. The bi-modal exhaust is set to intimidate and the Sports button has been depressed to deploy sharper throttle, steering and transmission response.

The road is largely devoid of traffic — a bonus considering 20 million people are wheeling and dealing on the plains below. This is the quickest naturally aspirated 911 this side of a GT3 and the one you want if you can't afford the ferocious 911 Turbo. 

More importantly, it combines the best bits of both variants, with an upgraded version of the regular Carrera's 3.8-litre boxer six-cylinder engine and added stability from the wider rear track borrowed from the Turbo.

That stability is put to the test at the Big Willow track at Willow Springs, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it venue that is one of the most adrenalin-inducing tracks I've driven. Think of it as Phillip Island with cambered corners. Sweeping right hand turns that load the suspension until it bottoms out are its signature: this is a track that tolerates fools only behind the wheel of exceptional machines, those whose balance and behaviour are generally inert but activate on need to save fools from themselves. 

This is where the GTS pulls lengths on a regular 911, under the onslaught of torque from the naturally aspirated engine, but the car is poised enough to deal with the impost with little more than a wiggle of the rear end. You can feel the driver aids pulling the car around the turn despite your best efforts to spear off into the sand traps.

This is the quickest naturally aspirated 911 this side of a GT3 and the one you want if you can't afford the ferocious 911 Turbo.

There is little difference on the road for the run back in to LA. Beyond the cabin noise that comes from having 305mm wide rear tyres just behind your head, there is little to fault. Purists will revel in the fact this is the most powerful 911 to retain a manual transmission. It's factually correct and emotionally engaging — but not the fastest way to travel.

The seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission adds $7390. It is still a no-brainer — the smart choice for a stress-free daily commute and scintillatingly quick gearchanges on the track. Even infuriatingly good race drivers can't shift as quickly as the PDK, no matter whether the auto is left to its own devices or being paddled manually.

There are four GTS models to choose from — coupe and soft-top cabriolet in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Body flex isn't an issue on the roofless versions, so the only consideration is whether buyers want to add $21,000 to
the cost of an equivalent coupe. 

Standard gear on the GTS includes active suspension management, limited-slip differential and Sport Chrono Pack that adds active engine mounts and sharpens the car's responses via the Sport Plus button mounted below the transmission. The alcantara and leather interior are luxury polish on a precision tool.