Before you buy a new Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS, you need to know a few things: 1) Drive it on a freeway in Los Angeles, and every dweeb in a lowered Honda Civic will want to race you; 2) The guy on the Pacific Coast Highway in his new black Ferrari F12tdf won’t even acknowledge your presence; 3) Porsche lies about the car’s performance. The company says the all-wheel-drive Targa 4 GTS can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with the PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission (a $3720 option). Hogwash. Our test car did it in 3.1.
The list of available Porsche 911 variations is now somewhere in the zillions, and the Targa 4 GTS falls into the upper third of the range. With a base price of $139,250 and packing 450 horsepower, it’s the most expensive and powerful 911 available short of the Turbo models and the manic GT3, GT3 RS, and GT2 RS. It’s also one of the quickest and best-performing Porsches we have ever tested, quicker even than the lighter and more powerful 2004 Carrera GT and the legendary 1987 Porsche 959, which it also outhandles.
GTS Adds Speed and Style
The Targa’s signature features are its removable roof panel (now automated) and its wraparound rear glass, and all modern Targas are all-wheel drive. In Porsche-speak, GTS means hot rod, as in more power and performance. GTS models get the broader bodywork and wider tracks of all-wheel-drive 911s, although the wider stance already is standard on the regular Targa 4. There are larger air intakes in the front bumper for additional cooling, and every GTS gets satin-black center-lock wheels from the 911 Turbo as well as gloss-black tailpipes; the Targa 4 GTS also features a black targa bar for easy spotting. It’s a compelling combination, one that blends the additional speed of the GTS with the Targa’s unique take on open-air driving. The example we tested was a 2018 model still hanging around in Porsche’s fleet, but the Targa 4 GTS is unchanged for 2018 save for a $1700 price hike.
With 450 horsepower, the GTS is 30 ponies stronger than a regular Targa 4S. The increase in power is the work of new turbochargers with turbines that are three millimeters larger and a compressor that is increased in size by four millimeters. Boost is up from 16.0 psi on Carrera S models to 18.1 psi here, while the power peak remains at 6500 rpm; the 7500-rpm fuel cutoff also is unchanged.
Twist the Key
With an as-tested price of $154,045, you’d think our Targa 4 GTS would have keyless ignition, but it doesn’t. Just as Ferdinand, Ferry, and Butzi asked of their customers, you slide the key in—to the left of the steering wheel, of course—and twist. The direct-injected six snarls to life, jumps to 2200 rpm, and then quickly settles into a steady idle with a pleasant burble.
In Comfort mode, the engine is quieter than you might expect. You can hear it, but Porsche is not pumping artificial engine sounds inside the cabin like other manufacturers. All GTS models come with the sport exhaust system as standard, which opens valves in the muffler at higher engine loads to increase the sound; the first cracks open at 1800 rpm and the second at 3300 rpm. In Sport or Sport+ modes both valves are constantly activated, and the flat-six howls like Steve McQueen’s 917. It also pops, bangs, and crackles on overrun, which can be a bit much on Main Street.
It will push mildly in tighter bends if you overcook the entry—but just for a moment. Then the stability control will fix your mistake. The all-wheel-drive system and the electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential work in harmony with Porsche’s brake-based torque vectoring, which will selectively brake an inside rear wheel to tighten your radius. Grip is quickly restored, no speed is lost, and the 911 is charging toward the next bend. Even boneheaded moves like a midcorner lift are shrugged off.
But the best part is that you don’t feel the car doing any of it for you. These systems all work in the background. You simply feel like a driving god with the car control of Parnelli, the focus of Senna, and the smooth inputs of Sir Jackie.
The Best All-Around 911?
Flaws in the 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS are hard to find, but there are a few. With the Targa’s roof panel stowed, rough roads send a minor shimmy through the body. And with the top up, there’s the occasional creak and groan. The flex is extremely minor, but this is the first current-generation 911 we’ve driven that didn’t feel like a bank vault. Wind control with the top retracted also is imperfect, with some buffeting behind the driver’s head. The 911’s lack of equipment at its price point also can surprise. Our test car’s lack of keyless ignition and proximity entry were disappointing at this price point; some may even balk at the steering wheel’s audio-control-free layout.