A sports car is not an easy thing to sell these days. Just look at the Mercedes-AMG GT, as compelling a 911 alternative as there ever was, yet a car that finds relatively few buyers. Porsche realized back with the 997-generation 2004-2012 that the best way of justifying the 911 was to offer a car for every conceivable sports-car buyer. You can't make something only for purists and enthusiasts and expect enough sales; you've got to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. It's a strategy that's worked well for Porsche, and as a result, it's seen the 911 lineup balloon into a 23-car behemoth, each with a very long options list. It's also led to some odd creations, like the Targa 4 GTS.
The GTS is the enthusiast-focused version of the 911 Carrera, with more power—473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque vs 443 hp and 390 lb-ft—and a number of other performance-related tweaks. The Targa is the "lifestyle" 911, heavier even than the Cabriolet, equipped with all-wheel drive, and undeniably gorgeous. The 911 Targa 4 GTS is, thus, an oddball, especially when optioned with a manual transmission. Cognitive dissonance, the car. It's also one of the most compelling 911s you can buy today.
I'm a little bored writing yet another positive review of a Porsche, yet the company continues to set the benchmark in so many ways. The Targa 4 GTS is one of the most complete sports-GTs on sale today, a car that just does everything so well.
There's a real effervescent quality to a Targa. It invites you to take things a little less seriously, to slow down and revel in the sensations. It's a nice change of pace from most modern high-performance cars, whose limits are so high they often feel aloof on the road. The Targa 4 GTS is very fast and very grippy, yet it doesn't need to be driven at absurd speeds to engage.
All other 911 GTS models get a stiffer "Sport" suspension that shares much with the 911 Turbo. Porsche doesn't offer a similar setup on any Targa model, and the Targa 4 GTS is all the better for it. I've always felt that 992 Carrera models with the Sport chassis were too aggressive, harsh over impacts and lacking wheel travel. This was my first opportunity to spend time with a 992 on its standard suspension, and it was a revelation. It's far better suited to the pockmarked roads we have up here in the Northeast, and I suspect the Targa 4 GTS will be similarly good throughout the country. The car floats with the road surface, rather than trying in vain to beat it into place.
Handling doesn't seem to suffer, either. Maybe on track, there's a difference, but who's buying a Targa for track work? Compared to most cars on sale today, the Targa 4 GTS has excellent, communicative steering, though all-wheel drive 911s lose some of the nuance found in their two-wheel drive counterparts. It feels a little less traditional 911, a little less rear-engined, for better or worse. All-wheel drive does provide a ton of confidence, though.
A peculiar, yet welcome, inclusion with this Targa 4 GTS is the optional manual transmission, something no other luxury sports-GT car offers. It adds to the sense of carefree fun here, involving the driver in the process far more than Porsche's (admittedly excellent) PDK ever could. The fact that it's a 7-speed remains a frustration, as the strong self-centering action of this shifter means it's entirely too easy to go from seventh to fourth when you really want 6th. Putting reverse, first, third, fifth, and seventh in a row results in narrow gates, and oftentimes you'll get third when you want fifth, and vice versa. Seven gears is simply too many to stick in one gearbox. Still, it's a nice shift overall, and it's easy to forgive its narrow gates on principle, and for the fact that it exists at all. A light clutch and shift action, plus driver-selectable automatic rev matching make it hardly more difficult to live with than PDK.
This particular car was luxuriously equipped with a full Truffle Brown leather interior, which paired beautifully with the Aventurine Green exterior. It served as a reminder of how good a luxury car the 911 has become. The interior and general build quality is world class, and entirely befitting of the $175,000 MSRP of this particular tester. Yes, it's a lot of money, though you won't find any other sports car that's so nice to live with. Plus, if you want a fast, drop-top, all-wheel drive 911, this is just what it costs.
Time with this 911 Targa 4 GTS revealed a few interesting things. For one, it highlights the versatility of today's 911 platform, which encompasses everything from a fun, stylish, daily-drivable sports car, to the wild and uncompromising GT cars. It also reveals the futility in reviewing a 911.
Now, I don't say this to garner sympathy, but the problem with reviewing a 911—or any modern Porsche, for that matter—is that you're only reviewing one specific car, as optioned. With endless permutations, it's hard to say anything definitive about a new 911 when you only drive one, and it's almost impossible to experience the 911 in all seemingly infinite guises. You can, however, say that if you buy a new 911, any new 911, it will be an excellent car. It's just a matter of parsing out the options list.
This 911, strange as it may seem, is a very appealing car. Less hardcore than many of its siblings, yet still far more engaging than any other luxury-sports-GT car. It's easy to see why the 911 is a modern success story.
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