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.