Will Sabel Courtney
When it comes to the term targa, Porsche is the last brand to enter the automotive space. Oh, sure, there are other companies that technically make targa-topped cars; like the Chevy Corvette (both coupe and convertible), the Ferrari F8 Spider and any drop-top McLaren all technically qualify as targas, as they boast folding central roof panels and permanently erected structures behind them. But Porsche is the only one in America to keep the targa name alive – fittingly, because the automaker was also the first to use it, way back in 1965.
The term GTS is also specific to Porsche – or at least it was until Ferrari reused it with the 812 GTS. However, where Maranello uses it to designate open-top sports cars, Zuffenhausen uses it to specify cars with a Goldilocks mix of performance and practicality – more powerful and enjoyable than the regular models, more affordable than the turbo and GT versions with large bore.
For the current 911, the GTS specification goes a little further than before, adding extra power to the S models it’s based on, a specific sportier tuning for the active suspension, the firmer brakes of the 911 Turbo – and, of course, a host of smaller tweaks, such as dark trim. It’s also possible to opt for a seven-speed manual transmission or the standard eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, a choice that is sure to keep many buyers busy for nights to choose.
In the form of the 911 Targa 4 GTS with the manual, the 911 seems focused on covering as many bases as possible: brutally fast yet very livable, coupé but also droptop, old-school interaction mixed with 2022 technology. To find out how they all go together, I took the GTS for a ride from the urban jungle of New York to the verdant forests of Vermont.
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What’s good about the Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS?
The Targa is better than the convertible and is arguably the best 911 body style overall
I’ve talked about my appreciation for the 911 Targa before, but just to reiterate for the record, it’s vastly superior to the 911 Cabriolet, at least in my book. Porsche designers have managed to retain more of the coupe’s inimitable style with each passing generation droptop, but there’s no denying that the 911 is at least visually appealing when shaved off a roof. That’s a compromise many are willing to make to bask in both the fresh air and the envious glances of others – but it’s also an unnecessary one, as the Targa delivers much of the same experience while retaining the 911’s iconic silhouette.
The Targa also benefits, arguably, from the fact that the smaller diaphragm delivers less velocity air directly into your sight holes. Even at highway speeds, with the roof open, the wind and noise are more moderate than you’d feel in most true convertibles – without diluting the feeling of unadulterated sunshine on your face. In any case, it’s a win-win for me.
Yes, you might think, it’s a Porsche 911 – it’s fast, water is wet, what else is new? But as with virtually every 992-generation 911, it’s both how fast and accessible it makes it that speed that can be astounding.
Obviously the most entertaining way to drive it is to rip the flat-six all the way to the red line in any gear – and when you do you’re greeted with the kind of gear that keeps you clinging to seats, unsecured cells sends phones flying to the stern, causing whimpers from unsuspecting passengers. But the twin-turbo flat-six also delivers a surprising amount of torque even at low revs, making it possible to pass most slowpokes with only one downshift.
There is also, to say the least, an insane amount of grip. Every 911 now pulls over 1g on the skid pad, and between that, its AWD grip and the other suspension changes that now come with a 911 GTS, this Targa can go through corners with the utmost confidence at speeds you can imagine. will be arrested. You can certainly still have fun at normal speeds – thanks to the fantastically direct, responsive steering – but you’ll always want to push harder and harder to push the limits of the GTS. As I drove down some of my favorite roads, I almost felt disappointed with how easy the Porsche made it; tackling your average fun stretch of tarmac in the GTS is like tapping LeBron for your pickup basketball team.
You can buy it with a stick shift
Let’s face it: stick shifts probably aren’t long for this world, at least in new cars. Rates are generally low, even with the few cars left to offer them, and with ubiquitous electrification looming on the horizon, the days of new cars with multi-speed transmissions may well be numbered.
Still, a few companies are clearly willing to cling to the stick, and Porsche, bless them, ranks high in that group. The current batch of GTS models happens to be the second most powerful 911 you can currently buy with a manual transmission – rear only the 911 GT3. And they’re not much behind: At 473 horsepower, the GTS cars have just 29 ponies compared to the GT3, and their turbocharged flat-six delivers even 74 lb-ft more torque than their sibling’s screaming, naturally aspirated boxer. . Unless you regularly wring out your 911, the GTS may feel faster in the real world.
Getting the chance to blast your way through the gears in a car with this kind of power is always a joy; while it may not be able to accelerate as quickly as today’s prodigious automatics, it’s sliding from gear to gear and tearing through the tacho with both hands and feet in a kinetic way few things in life can match.
And while it may be a notch lower than the PDK, the manual doesn’t lack highway driving skills like some gear shift-set cars. At 2000 rpm in high seventh gear, the car hurtles along at about 77 mph. Based on my experience, 30 mpg on the highway seems very possible if you drive conservatively… but where’s the fun in that?
What’s less ideal about the 911 Targa 4 GTS?
Even for a 911 it’s pricey
At a base price of $164,150 (and even more at a tested price of $175,030, which doesn’t include many of the more outrageous options on the list), the 911 Targa 4 GTS rivals both the 911 GT3 and the 911 Turbo. (Anyone pointing out that a Corvette Stingray Z51 Convertible starts at nearly $100,000 less may be pocketing their regrets, because no real buyers actually compare Corvettes and 911s based on price issues.) Buyers looking for maximum attractiveness in instead of Maximum 911 for this kind of price range can also be tempted by the likes of the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster and Audi R8 Spyder.
Granted, many buyers probably aren’t cross-shopping optionless turbos and well-specified GTS cars, but having driven both, it’s hard not to feel a soft pull for the more powerful, bolder looking Turbo when the price rises high this year. .
The manual is nice, but the 911 is better in almost every way with the PDK
And while that 911 Turbo doesn’t offer a drive-your-own gearbox, that’s not the downside you might think it is.
The manual doesn’t like to drive slowly or be spoiled; it wants you to struggle a little bit with it. The shift and clutch pedals are both heavier than you’d expect from a 911. That handy seventh gear on the highway is a long, sometimes awkward throw; the stick seems to prefer to go to fifth unless you definitively slide it as far forward as possible. (I found myself in fifth rather than seventh in a short week with the car at least half a dozen times.) First gear is actually for starting; it’s gone in a flash, and if you’re not aware you’ll hit the rev limiter before you get second. Plus, there’s so much torque that you really don’t have to row through the gears that much. Only the third and fourth gears can take you from 30 mph to 130 mph in comfort.
Of course, all those features would be more than worth living with if the alternative were just average – but Porsche’s dual-clutch automatic is one of the best self-shifting transmissions you can find today. The PDK is almost as fun as the stick when you select your own gears; there is no slushiness, just snappineness.
Promised. there’s no clutch, so it’s not that satisfying – but it’s a gearbox that feels like it wants manual shifting, not just that it has the option. And if you’d rather rely on his wisdom when hauling a butt, you’ll probably find it better than you are at picking the right gear. On the other hand, you find yourself in the gnarly stop-and-go traffic that seems to define modern driving in so much of America, and the PDK lets you relax in a way the manual never could. Add to that its superior acceleration, remarkable durability and potential better fuel economy, and it’s hard not to feel that the manual is largely worth choosing for nostalgia reasons.
The Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS: The Verdict
The great thing about Porsche’s wild number of 911 versions and variants is that, like Ben & Jerry’s flavors, there’s something for everyone. If you don’t like Cherry Garcia, that’s fine; that’s why there’s Chunky Monkey. The Targa 4 GTS with the stick is a very distinct, rather complex 911 flavor – a unique blend of flavors that go very well together, even if it’s not everyone’s specific choice.
I count myself in that hodgepodge of undecided samplers, for what Even after 700 miles behind the wheel on every kind of road, I still hadn’t quite figured out if this 911’s particular flavor was right for me. Sometimes I craved the sheer madness of a Turbo or Turbo S; others I wished a little more stripped-down and pure with limits a little more accessible, like a Carrera S stick.
And still other times I found myself in love. Because one thing’s for sure: Whether it’s the one I’d pick, it’s damn tasty.
2022 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Base price / price as tested: $164,150 / $175,030
Drivetrain: 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic or seven-speed manual; four wheel drive
Couple: 420 lb-ft
EPA fuel consumption: A very conservative city of 16 mpg, highway of 23 mpg
chairs: Two and change
How to Talk Porsche: The Ultimate Guide to the 911
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