Road Tests

Review: Porsche 911 Targa GTS has conflicted brief

Ah, the Porsche 911 Targa. Lots of buffeting wind noise, right?

That’s the reputation. An undeserved one, I think. We’ll dive into what the facelifted, turbocharged Targa GTS is like to drive in a second.

But first, let’s take a moment to dispel the myth that driving a Targa fast is as comfortable as having a dentist’s drill plugged directly into your ear canal. The most exciting component on this R2 039 000 331kW Porsche is the pop-up plastic aerofoil fitted to the windscreen top. Nerdy? Us?

When the airflow creates a din at 70-90kph, you reach over to the passenger side (obviously it’s been set up for left-hand drive, but it’s no stretch), squeeze the spring-loaded wing and release it to send the turbulence hurricane barreling past the cabin and leaving your eardrums unruptured. Talk about simple solutions being the best. It also looks less ungainly than the similar Mercedes ‘aircap’ system. Because style is everything in a drop top, right?

With possibly the cheapest component in the entire car, Porsche has sorted the Targa’s blustery faux pas. It’s anyone’s guess why this has been overlooked so much before, giving the Targa an unfairly rough ride in life. Anyway, now we can get on with seeing if the ultimate GTS version is any good.

A Porsche 911 Targa GTS, then. Sounds like a fairly literal name…

It is. Porsche could delete the ‘4’ badge, actually. All 911s kitted out with the fabulously intricate folding targa roof (and the gigantic bubble rear window) are four-wheel drive. This means they all wear the buxom hips of widebody panels. Phwoar, basically. The Targa’s a beautiful modern 911, and the GTS is even more gorgeous.

How much more?

A token 22kW, plus a 50Nm increase in torque from the 3.0-litre flat-six, which is of course twin-turbocharged these days, with roll-on punch totally alien to the more charismatic and soulful old naturally aspirated powerplant.

Just as well. Quite heavy aren’t they, these Targas?

Taking a 911 Cabrio’s strengthened chassis and adding widebody proportions, four-wheel drive and that spectacle of a roof mechanism doesn’t come lightly. Porsche claims a 1,660kg kerbweight. This is the 911 arriving in obese Jaguar F-Type territory.

Astounding then, that it’ll disappear up a road so rapidly. The Targa GTS version of the least focused 911 will, PDK allowing, crack 100kph in 4.1 seconds Acceleration-wise, that’s three tenths faster than a Targa 4S, and the top speed is actually quite outrageous.

But still, a GTS… Targa. Seems a bit incongruous…

A Porsche engineer did once tell me, under his breath, that the only ‘true’ GTS was a hard-top 911 with rear-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, and that marketing demands mean the four-wheel drive, paddleshift, soft-top cars get the same workover. In fairness, if you’ve got the components, bolting them to as many bodystyles as possible is chapter one, page one of ‘Boosting Profit Margins For Dummies’ by A. Capitalist.

Sure enough, you’ve come to the wrong place if you’re seeking the quintessential, distilled modern 911 experience. The structure flexes as it tries to juggle all the heavy bits (engine, gearbox, roof mechanism) at the back, with a front end that basically has to carry the glovebox. So the rear view mirror is on vibrate as a result. But you don’t come to the Targa GTS expecting it to be scalpel-sharp. . So does a body shimmy matter? For the target market, surely not. They just want the most expensive Targa.

Is it a fast 911 you’d never want to drive fast?

It’s not an ultra-exciting 911, but it’s still a fast, clinically useful one. Or you can drop the pace right down and just coax the car along. It’s a delightful moocher, scuttle shake aside. But in that case you might as well save yourself R400,000 and have a slower Targa 4…

That’s the niggle with the Targa GTS. It’s a faster, more focused version of the least focused Porsche this side of a Cayenne. It’s a deliberately mixed bag, but because it’s so damn handsome, and so effective at blasting down a road, it’s our 911 guilty pleasure. Don’t tell anyone.

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