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Suffers a little for its added weight and broadness-of-remit. A fine sports car - but not such a fine example of the modern 911 breed

Our Verdict

Porsche 911 Targa

A poseur's boulevardier it may be, but with a turbocharged engine does that change the recipe?

  • First Drive

    2016 Porsche 911 Targa 4S review

    Slick looks, open-top fun and 911 handling sound brilliant, but the Targa has historically trailed the Coupé. How does the new model fare on UK roads?
  • First Drive

    2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS UK review

    Suffers a little for its added weight and broadness-of-remit. A fine sports car - but not such a fine example of the modern 911 breed

What is it?

The Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS is the new full-house version of the now-fifty-year-old 911 Targa. It’s trying to be the sports car that can do it all, packing the dynamism of a sporting great with the good manners of cruiser.

The sure-footedness of four-wheel drive combined with the security, style and refinement of coupe – and the option of convertible-type open-air motoring on-demand. Better usability than any other 911: which is, in any form, a two-plus-two rightly revered for its usability. It is, in theory, the best sports car that Zuffenhausen makes. But how far will theoretical brilliance take it?

The current-gen Targa, introduced only last year, returned to the roots of a concept originally designed in the 1960s – when US safety legislators looked likely to ban simpler cloth-top convertibles in response to increasing numbers of rollover-related fatalities. They never did, as it turned out – and so the Porsche 911 Cabriolet survives, making the Targa work all the harder to justify its existence.

And it currently does that with an ever-so-slightly softened chassis than the normal 911, standard four-wheel drive; and a body design that includes a fixed rollover hoop, a retractable cloth roof, and a glass rear screen that looks a bit prettier than a furled-up hood, and frees up some storage space underneath.

Also last year, Porsche set the template for the way it’ll apply the ‘GTS’ badge in the future: as an upper trim level, rather than to distinguish lower order ‘GT’-series models or special driver-focussed editions. A Carrera 4 GTS, for example, is no different from a generously and judiciously equipped Carrera 4 S, sold at a more appealing price.

The Targa 4 GTS follows the same theme. Getting as standard the Powerkit engine upgrade and Sport Chrono pack, as well as leather/alcantara interior, Sport Design exterior body upgrades, 20in ‘centrelock’ alloy wheels and various other bits of kit, it is ostensibly a £112,000, optioned-up Targa 4 S on offer for an £8000 discount.

It gets some tasty-looking GTS badges thrown in as well, of course. And our test car had an optional PDK twin-clutch gearbox.

What's it like?

A fine sports car by any reasonable estimation – but perhaps not a great 911. And that matters because the Targa 4 GTS isn’t a cheap 911; because it sits in a model range full of other cars with clearer selling points; and because Targa owners are likely to be returning 911 customers with first-hand experience of those other models.

Those who aren’t will, conversely, fall head-over-heels for the car in fairly short order. The Targa 4 GTS offers at least 95% of the performance, handling deftness, excitement and interactivity that makes most of its rangemates great. But it’s almost 200kg heavier than 3.4-litre, rear-driven, manual Carrera coupe, and it’s more softly sprung. And it doesn’t have the accessible torque of forced induction with which to shrug off those extra kilos, either.

And so, until you get at least 5000rpm wound onto the tacho, the Targa 4 GTS doesn’t feel that fast. It’s less noticable with Porsche’s quick-shifting PDK gearbox fitted than it might be in a manual, and hardly an imposition in any case. But, more than any other 911, the Targa needs revs to bare its teeth.

When it does, the scope and fizzing style of the power delivery is wonderful: ample, still building even beyond 6000, smooth all the way to the 7800rpm redline, and a joy to listen to.

With PASM adaptive damping and the ‘Sport Plus’ mode of the Sport Chrono Pack both available to it, the Targa 4 GTS’ suspension operates with plenty of bandwidth. It never quite matches the well-judged ride control or the fluent handling of a Carrera, though.

Leave it in soft and you get an absorbent low-speed ride, and the compliance to deal easily with medium-sized bumps at speed. But you also get a mobile, slightly unsettled motorway ride, as the 911 heaves and oscillates gently over its rear wheels. The majority of the aforementioned extra 200kg are concentrated around the rear axle, after all - and you can feel as much in the way the Targa 4 GTS reacts to uneven surfaces.

A prod of the PASM button addresses the problem. The long-wave movements of the body are instantly checked, and the car’s motorway and backroad composure is much better. But the flowing delicacy of the Carrera’s body control is lost somewhere between the cracks.

On 20in wheels, the Targa 4 GTS has no shortage of grip at either axle, and has better lateral body control than vertical. That’s the better news. You can attack bends with the same carefree abandon you’d allow yourself in almost any 911, and when you do you’ll find the steering beautifully weighted and feelsome, superbly progressive and precise. Porsche’s widebody and four-wheel drive system, meanwhile, add more stability and mid-corner composure than you’ll ever plumb anywhere other than on a circuit.

So, true to Porsche’s word, this is a slightly softened-up 911. It does what it says on the tin, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. Because the Targa’s softness would really only be worth the trade if the car was in others respects a better cruiser and a more refined customer than a Carrera.

The GTS’ problem is that those 20in wheels create a lot of road noise, even by 911 standards – and the Targa’s particular body design gives that ruckus ready-made resonance chambers immediately above the rear axle. The car’s cloth hood also fails to isolate the cabin from wind noise as well as folding or fixed metal would – so the car’s noisy with the roof up, and blowy with it down.

Should I buy one?

You probably shouldn’t. I wouldn’t. I’d buy a convertible if an open-air experience was what I really wanted; a Carrera coupe if not. And I used to like the Targa, back when it was a simpler, lighter thing: a 911 coupe with an extended sunroof, a handy glass hatchback rear-end that you could reach into from the kerbside, and a bigger front luggage compartment thanks to its rear-wheel drive.

Conjuring up natural rivals for the car is hard because of the uniqueness of the Targa’s brief and position. A Mercedes SL500 is richer, more suave and refined – but not a spot on the Porsche as a driver’s car; an Aston Martin V8 Roadster closer, but still no cigar.

A Corvette Stingray comes with removable ‘targa’ roof panels, but that’s more or less where its similarity to the 911 abruptly ends. So judged against its competitors, the 911’s case holds water.

But not when judged against its rangemates: not for this tester. In the year of its golden anniversary, the new Targa’s being asked to do too much, I fear, to really do anything as well as it might.

Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS PDK

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £107,202 Engine 6cyls horizontally opposed, 3800cc, normally aspirated petrol; Power 424bhp at 7500rpm; Torque 325lb ft at 5750rpm; Gearbox 7-spd twin-clutch; Kerb weight 1635kg; Top speed 187mph; Economy 30.7mpg (combined); 0-62mph 4.3sec; CO2 emissions/BIK tax band 214g/km/37%

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Comments
7

18 May 2015
'...the good manners of cruiser.'
'...style and refinement of coupe...'

Are you waging a one-man war against the indefinite article, boy?

18 May 2015
Hi you really gave a great deep review about Porsche 911. I enjoyed it.

18 May 2015
Quote:

A Corvette Stingray comes with removable ‘targa’ roof panels, but that’s more or less where its similarity to the 911 abruptly ends.

Why?

The Corvette might not be regarded as being sophisticated as the 911, but it is a very capable sports car in it's own right.

18 May 2015
Overdrive wrote:
Quote:

A Corvette Stingray comes with removable ‘targa’ roof panels, but that’s more or less where its similarity to the 911 abruptly ends.

Why?

The Corvette might not be regarded as being sophisticated as the 911, but it is a very capable sports car in it's own right.

Yeah,so capable that they won't make it a global Car,a Car for Europe,a Car for the UK especially,if it's that good,why not?

Peter Cavellini.

18 May 2015
Peter Cavellini wrote:
Overdrive wrote:
Quote:

A Corvette Stingray comes with removable ‘targa’ roof panels, but that’s more or less where its similarity to the 911 abruptly ends.

Why?

The Corvette might not be regarded as being sophisticated as the 911, but it is a very capable sports car in it's own right.

Yeah,so capable that they won't make it a global Car,a Car for Europe,a Car for the UK especially,if it's that good,why not?

Not sure you mean by not global. The Corvette is on sale in many countries and has been for decades. In any case, a car being offered in only a few select markets (which is not the case with the Corvette anyway) shouldn't necessarily mean it's good or not. Should it?

20 May 2015
Now, I liked Top Trumps as much as any one as a kid. And I think Porsche does well in general as a result of people who have grown up with the fantasy but now find them obtainable. However I suspect this neither fish nor fowl example just misses the spot, a niche too far. How about buy a lesser 911 (or a Caymen) and a classic 70's Targa, because that's the one you really want.

21 May 2015
Where did all that extra weight come from? A fixed rear screen, hand-removable plastic roof panel and RWD would have made this car a lot lighter and closer to the 70's original. Shame they turned it into a cabrio with half a roof.

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