Review: Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS

The German carmaker ups its safety options and adds an eco-friendly engine, but has it taken away the excitement Porsche is best known for?
Review: Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
The Targa is neither a coupe nor a convertible, but both
By Luca Cima
Thu 12 Oct 2017 03:39 PM

Every time I test a new Porsche, I wonder if it is possible to build a better one, and every time, the new model surpasses its predecessor.

The Targa is particularly special, because it’s neither a coupe nor a convertible – only the top of the rooftop disappears at the touch of a button. Indeed, the 911 looks terrific both when “open” and when “closed.”

When I tested one of the latest 911 Targa 4 GTS, I could feel the millions of hours of development spent on its modern interiors, its intelligent commands and its highly advanced options.

Some of its commands, such as the start key, are in their original position on the left side, which made it easier and faster for drivers in the old endurance races to turn on the car.

I also appreciated that there were no electronics commands on the steering wheel, apart from the German version of the Ferrari “manettino” –  the quick switch from “normal” to “sport” to “sport plus.” There is also a button that will give an extra turbo boost for 20 seconds.

It goes without saying that the Targa’s performance is very impressive, but the new model is also easier to manage. The mix of suspensions, four wheel drive, tires, chassis and electronics have made the previously so-called “widow maker” a tamed beast. Pretty much anyone can drive it very fast, very quickly and relatively safely.

At the end of the day, Porsche is selling to a vaster market than before, meaning it has to accommodate as many tastes and driving skills as possible.

The car’s steering has remained excellent, as always, despite being filtered by the electronic servo assistance. It’s precise, direct and gives feedback, always communicating the level of available grip.

Four-wheel drive and smaller turbo engine update this model

This four-wheel drive Targa, unfortunately not available in two wheel drive, enters corners very quickly. The front end bites and it only translates into under-steer when you exaggerate. This results in added safety to the highly enjoyable driving experience.

I wished the back end was more alive but I can only assume that it would get better when the stability management (PSM) is disconnected. Some say the 911s have the engine in the wrong place and I respond that even if the principles of the dynamics are wrong, the experience is one of a kind.

The new version of the gearbox, the PDK, is perfect; even for an old purist like myself.

I would still buy a manual version, but this PDK is as sharp as a brain can be. I doubt a human could change gear that quickly with a traditional clutch-gear lever system.

This model is pushed by a 3-litre turbocharged boxer engine, capable of 450 bhp at 6,500 Rpm. It replaces the previous naturally aspirated engine of 3.8 litres. Most of the market has directed to these new, highly efficient, smaller turbo engines. I understand that pollution, efficiency, driveability, masses, maintenance, weight, fuel consumption and regular torque distribution are extremely important factors in a modern car, but in the last 25 years, every time I drove a Porsche, I always wait for the moment the rpm needle reaches 5,000 rpm to enter the Porsche boxer engine world, where the noise, the push and the excitement commence till the red zone.

With these incredible new engines, this excitement has gone. The delivery of power is so progressive, tamed and regular that it leaves me with less emotion than with the naturally aspirated engines. These units are better from an engineering point of view, but it doesn’t quite make my heart beat as fast as it did before.

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