We jump in the new Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS to see what has changed for the 992 generation.
Of the endless 992-generation Porsche 911 variants, the 307km/h Targa 4 GTS is the one you’re least likely to see.
For one thing, it’s expensive: $366,900 before on-road costs compared with $314,800 for the RWD Carrera GTS coupe and $314,100 for the regular Targa 4S. At only three grand less than the 911 GT3, the Targa plus GTS combo doesn’t come cheap. In any event, it’s also hard to get your hands on one in Australia which is why we’ve driven this example in the UK.
And for another, GTS-grade or not, most people pining for an open-air 911 experience will gravitate towards the Carrera Cabriolet, the current iteration of which suffers no notable drawbacks stemming from the loss of the coupé’s solid roof panel and doesn’t require coming to a standstill to lower or raise the roof (part of the Targa’s artful deck extends beyond the car’s footprint mid-action, so necessitates stopping).
Most of all, though, you might question the wisdom of giving the heaviest, most touring-flavoured model in the 911 line-up a GTS makeover that adds – among other tricks – shorter, 911 Turbo-derived suspension intended for very hard driving. So hard that helper springs, which are designed to ensure the main springs remain seated after instances of maximum extension, are included for the rear axle.
Elsewhere, the 3.0-litre flat six’s uplift in power, from 331kW to 353kW, is of course welcome as part of the GTS overhaul, as are the staggered, smart (21-inch at the back, 20-inch at the front, Turbo S design) centre-lock wheels, plus the Turbo-grade cast-iron brakes.
No doubt, the Targa 4 GTS is an immensely desirable car, and any criticism as regards the concept of pairing the Targa with GTS running gear is going to come down to splitting hairs.
It also succeeds as an object. The curved pane above the rear axle and the punnet-handle hoop (dark for GTS, rather than the regular silver) are an attractive pair, and the predatory stance is just so. This example, in GT Silver and with the 18-way adaptive sports seats, isn’t exactly cheap, but in fairness feels at least as special as any Aston Martin Vantage Roadster or Audi R8 Spyder. To these eyes, silver-painted wheels, rather than black, would really set it off.
The extra-vocal GTS exhaust is welcome, too, and the difference is appreciable whether you’ve got daylight shining directly into the cabin or not. The temptation to unleash the engine and get up to the 7500rpm redline is that much greater in the GTS not only because of this more aggressive edge to the exhaust note but because the revs seem to build more quickly and freely during the final 1000rpm or so compared with the less powerful but mostly identical units in the regular Targa 4 and Targa 4S.
Overall, this is also clearly as capable as the Targa gets, with unbreakable traction, nigh-unbreakable grip, plenty of accuracy (and subtly crisper turn-in with the GTS suspension) and pretty outrageous reserves of composure even on more inhospitable British B-roads. Able to hit 100km/h in 3.5sec, with commensurately rapid in-gear performance, it’s also faster than anybody needs, with a deliciously crisp dual-clutch gearbox playing its part. It is a stunning powertrain with a chassis to match, but is also happy enough bumbling along at 1600rpm.
The committed stuff, however, is done through ever so slightly gritted teeth. The regular Carrera GTS coupé weighs 140kg less than the Targa 4 GTS, and you can feel the benefit of that in every direction change and compression. It earns the GTS hardware, revelling in it, and puts the added control to better, more discernible use. The heavier Targa is always working harder, and enjoying itself less, and in general becomes less natural and joyful as you push on. What this car really wants to do is sit back, enjoy the weather and cover good ground in speed and style but without overexerting itself.
Which is exactly what you should let it do. I’d save the $50k it costs to have the Targa 4S ‘upgraded’ to GTS specification (accepting that the GTS package includes many usually optional elements of equipment as standard, and this some ways represents good value) and instead spend the money on indulging the regular Targa’s debonair soul with the perfect colour and trim options.
Because while in the past the GTS package was something of a parts-bin special, for the 992 generation it exists as something more individal – something, say, 35 per cent of the way between a Carrera S or 4S and the full-blown 911 GT3. This state of affairs doesn’t suit the Targa so well because Targa and GT3 sit at opposite ends of the 911 spectrum, related in DNA but very different beasts.