Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS

There simply isn't any other automobile on the market that caters to more specific niches than the Porsche 911. With 25 models of 911 available on the Canadian market alone, Porsche has done a commendable job packaging engine upgrades, visual cues, body styles, and high performance options to create a level of product diversity unmatched by rivals from Jaguar (the F-Type), Chevrolet (the Corvette), or Mercedes-Benz (the AMG GT S).

The 911 Targa 4 GTS' mechanical sideshow is a spectacle of the highest order.

The latest specification to be added to the German brand's online configurator is the 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS. You'll notice that as with other 911s, this model is less a fresh creation and more the result of combining existing ingredients from the Porsche pantry. Specifically, you get the fussy, open-air run of the Targa, the all-wheel drive system outfitted to all 4-spec cars, and the substantial performance and features upgrades associated with the GTS trim level.

The end result? Far from too many cooks, it would seem, as the Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS represents the best of the breed for drivers who want to stand out from a crowd and have fun in the process.

Roof Goes Down, Fun Goes Up

The fundamental disadvantage of any convertible sports car is that most of the time, its chassis isn't nearly as rigid as that of a comparable coupe. Although exceptions to this rule do exist (particularly those models whose platforms were penned from the start to deal with the lack of a roof), the 911 isn't one of them, with the full-convertible Cabriolet demonstrating a noticeable, although far from crippling willingness to bend when hustled through a corner.

The 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS mitigates much of this noodly nature by way of its removable roof panel, whose fabric is locked into place by a stiffening roll hoop that's there as much for structural rigidity as it is passenger safety. The silver-painted arch's heritage theme is really the only aspect of the modern car linking the 911 to the original Targa model, as the lift-out panel of old has been replaced by an exceptionally complex automated roof mechanism that dangles the entire rear hatch out over the back bumper as it stores the canvas lid on top of the Porsche's engine bay.

There's no doubt that the 911 Targa 4 GTS' mechanical sideshow is a spectacle of the highest order, and it attracts at least as much attention to the car as the eye-catching profile provided by the Targa's hoop and missing roof section. Every time I pulled the button back to set the Porsche's Rube Goldberg machine in action, however, I couldn't help but remember that old chestnut about NASA scientists spending millions to develop a pen that would write in zero gravity, as opposed to Russian cosmonauts simply using a pencil while in orbit.

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Clearly Superior to the Targa 4S

Porsche has elected to make every Targa model imported to North America a Targa 4 model, which means not only is the car dealing with the extra weight of its retractable roof system, but also the additional mass associated with motivating all four wheels. Fortunately for those who choose the 911 Targa 4 GTS over the 'base' Targa 4S, there's a power boost - and a few other features - intended to help you forget about the 150 kilos of supplementary tonnage.

First up are the contents of the Carrera S Power Kit, which is standard with all GTS models. A revised intake combined with a re-tuned ECU and additional engine cooling provide 30 extra ponies for the car's 3.8L flat-six engine. With 430 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque on tap, the Targa 4 GTS I drove was able to leverage its optional PDK automated manual transmission to hit 100 km/h from a standing start in roughly 4.3 seconds. Shout-outs are due to a few more of the GTS model's included bits of kit like the Sport Chrono system and its launch control feature (for PDK models - seven-speed manual editions are almost a half-second slower to the century mark), as well as the rambunctious sport exhaust system.

The latter may in fact have been my favorite aspect of the Targa 4 GTS, as the combination of the screaming, yet somehow non-abrasive tailpipe explosions emanating from the back of the 911 were that much easier to hear – especially when enjoying an auto-blipped paddle-downshift – with the retractable roof open.

The Porsche for Non-Track Day Nuts

Not everything about the GTS formula is designed to improve performance, of course. The car's blacked-out trim, revised front and rear fascia, and 20-inch centre-lock rims combine with the extended leather of the passenger compartment (and jaunty sport seats) to create a unique visual package for the car that exudes casual, but approachable.

In fact, I don’t think it's a stretch to say that performance specs really aren't the point of this particular member of the 911 family. Yes, the GTS trim represents the most powerful edition of the car still available with a manual transmission, but although balanced out by the extra power of the massaged six-cylinder engine, the Targa 4 GTS' extra weight and less-focused suspension gives it more of a grand touring feel as compared to the coupe model.

In this way, the 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS embraces the reality that there any many 911 customers out there who have zero interest in flogging the best possible lap times out of their P-car. The Targa 4 GTS makes a sweet reward for anyone shopping in its $151,000 price bracket, a luxurious cruiser with road presence to spare and just enough of a nod to Porsche's past to coax a smile from even the staunchest air-cooled purists.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Base Price $151,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,085
Price as Tested $172,825
Optional Equipment
Agate Grey Metallic paint $820, Black Leather Interior - $4,400, Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) gearbox - $5,530, ParkAssist front and rear with back-up camera - $1,190, Adaptive Sport Seats Plus (18-way) - $3,460, Premium Package Plus - $2,320, Bose Audio Package - $2,420