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31 August 2017

2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS First Test Review

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In the world of Porsche, the letters GTS mean Gran Turismo Sport, and they first made their debut in 1964 on the 904 Carrera GTS—one of the brand’s most iconic street-homologated race cars. In 1966, the word Targa entered Porsche’s lexicon, in a dainty lowercase script affixed to the base of the 911’s B-pillar. Targa means “plate” in Italian but is also related to “shield” in Old High German and Old Norse. It is associated with Porsche because of how often its racers won the Targa Florio—one of the oldest, most prestigious endurance races in world—but all of those meanings have largely been forgotten since Porsche trademarked the term for this removable-roof but not fully convertible body type of the 911.

The Targa body style has been a fixture of the 911 line since 1966, but it took until 2015 for Targa and GTS to appear together. Consider GTS to be a sort of high-performance value package, built for speed as well as comfort (unlike the pricier, race-hardened GT3, which loses its rear seats and various creature comforts in pursuit of pure performance). GTS is available on rear- and all-wheel-drive coupes and cabriolets and Targa models (all-wheel drive only), and it represents a savings of about 10 percent over an identically specced S models. Thanks to upgraded turbochargers, GTS models make 450 horsepower and 405-lb-ft of torque; that’s 30 more horsepower than current S models and 20 more than the previous-generation GTS.

The 2017 Targa 4 GTS we had in for testing was a beauty of a boulevard bruiser, resplendent in a Night Blue Metallic paint job ($710) with matching dark blue Targa top (a no-cost option) and an interior trimmed in black leather and Alcantara ($3,850). Black exterior accents come standard with GTS and include murdered-out exhaust tips, Turbo S alloy wheels, and—for the first time in Porsche history—the Targa roof pillar. (Returning to standard silver accents is free, but if you want to black out the pillar on your non-GTS Targa, expect to pay $700.)

About that roof—dropping it is a show-stopping party trick. The entire rear glass cants back on spindly mechanical arms as the cloth top ducks and hides. Just make sure you time the magic right, or you will indeed cause a traffic jam. Unlike 911 Cabriolets, whose soft tops can be raised and lowered in 13 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, Targas need to be at a complete stop for the 20-second changing act.

With a base price of $138,200, the Targa 4 GTS is certainly not cheap; our loaded loaner hit $161,515. But when you consider its performance relative to the competition, the Targa 4 GTS presents a significant value proposition. Just look at our test notes.

After cracking off 3.0 seconds flat to 60 mph and a 10.4-second, 120.8-mph quarter-mile pass in our PDK-equipped Targa 4 GTS, road test editor Chris Walton scribbled, “Typical easy-peasy launch control, and I tried a few variations of it. The best was traction control off, shocks at the softest setting, and don’t stay on both pedals very long. As soon as the tach reaches 6,000, release the brake pedal. Very smooth upshifts even in max attack mode.” Walton also noted the Targa GTS is faster than an Audi R8 V10 Spyder, but more on that later.

Braking performance from 60 mph was also excellent. The Targa GTS averaged 100 feet on the nose through four stops, with a best stop of 98 feet. “Fairly long travel brake pedal but very easy to modulate,” Walton noted. “Dead straight, very consistent, as all Porsche 911s are.”

Around our figure-eight handling track in the hands of testing director Kim Reynolds, our Targa GTS cracked off a quick 23.6-second lap at 0.87 g average lateral acceleration. It also hit a peak lateral acceleration of 0.98 g. “It’s pretty easy to drive,” Reynolds said. “It does understeer mid-corner, but if you enter, turn in, and wait long enough, then the tail does rotate around in proper 911 fashion. After, you can jump on the gas again and hold it. Exiting is crazy fun because the car can be drifted out at any angle you like and never did it worry about losing control (it almost invites too much confidence). But as Chris said earlier, its brakes are fantastic. Not only because they’re extremely powerful but also because there’s enough pitch (slight—but there) such that you can judge things. Plus there’s feedback in the pedal’s motion and effort change, too, that all add up to brakes you can predict and judge and depend on.”

To give some context to this performance, Porsche’s all-wheel-drive, four-passenger drop-top sports coupe needs only a six turbocharged cylinders to whip the V-10-powered, all-wheel-drive, two-passenger, mid-engine drop-top known as the Audi R8 V10 Spyder. To 60 mph, the Targa beat the V10 Spyder by 0.3 second. Through the quarter mile, the Porsche nips the Audi by 0.1 second, though the R8 does have a higher trap speed. In braking from 60 mph, Targa undercuts Spyder by 13 feet, or roughly a car length. Sure, mid-engine beats rear-engine in our handling test right? Nope, the Targa is a tenth quicker around our figure-eight course. But the biggest surprise is not when you tally up the seconds, mpg, or g’s, but the price. Base to base, the V10 Spyder is $38,400 more than the Targa GTS. In as tested price, the gap drops to $31,085.

Want a semi-drop-top Porsche that will blow doors off any other 911-badged Carrera S or 4S? Want to embarrass Audi R8 Spyder owners and maybe give the odd Huracán a run for its money? Well then step right up. But if you need additional power and performance, in an even wider drop-top 911, head right over here.

2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
BASE PRICE $139,250
PRICE AS TESTED $160,465
VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 3.0L/450-hp/405-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,642 lb (38/62%)
WHEELBASE 96.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 178.3 x 72.9 x 50.8 in
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 11.4 sec @ 120.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 98 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.98 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.6 sec @ 0.87 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 20/26/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.87 lb/mile

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