By Shari Prymak
2016 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS - Porsche is about to close a long 50 year chapter on the naturally aspirated engine in their iconic 911 range. Yes, not even a sports car manufacturer like Porsche is immune to the relentless takeover of turbocharging. Before the entry-level 911 models adopt their new turbocharged powerplants, however, Porsche has a few more applications for their beloved free-breathing engines, and one of them is the new Targa 4 GTS.
The Targa combines classic 911 design themes with a highly complex folding roof mechanism to create a sort of semi-convertible, which fits somewhere between the Carrera hardtop and cabriolet. The GTS trim bundles several desirable features, both cosmetic and performance enhancing, that would otherwise cost significantly more as individual options on a Carrera.
The Targa is a fairly handsome design with fine details and excellent build quality throughout, not to mention ridiculously good rearward visibility. And despite the slightly softened chassis and substantial weight penalty that it carries over the Carrera models, it's still a fine sports car by any measure.
The 911 offers a level of poise, balance, and sharpness that's comparatively fuzzy feeling in competing so-called sports cars. The controls have a certain heft, precision, and level of feedback that's refreshing to find in a modern automobile. The large, grippy tires and all-wheel drive system insure that there's no loss of composure as the upper limits are explored. The suspension too feels properly sorted, though the 20 inch tires do produce a noticeable amount of road noise.
Six horizontally opposed cylinders, free of any form of forced induction, combine to produce an impressive 430 horsepower and 324lb-ft of torque. What's even more impressive than the numbers though is the responsiveness and flexibility of the power. There isn't loads of low-end power, but beyond 4000 revs, it relentlessly builds towards a fairly lofty 7800rpm redline, producing an intoxicating noise along the way.
My tester came equipped with the optional PDK paddle-shift gearbox, which is the logical choice for anyone looking for rapid gear changes, combined with the ease of use of a conventional automatic. Still, the purity and engagement offered by the standard 7-speed manual would make it my choice of gearbox. The GTS is the most powerful 911 model that still offers a manual, which gives it a certain enthusiast appeal even over the pricier, PDK-only, models, like the Turbo and GT3 RS.
The Targa 4 GTS has a starting MSRP of $151,500, which puts it at a higher price point than the Carrera models, but still below that of the top dog 911 Turbo. That kind of money opens one up to many compelling alternatives, including the striking BMW i8, thrilling Jaguar F-Type R, or even the gorgeous Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
If it were my money on a 911, I'd spec the brilliant GTS package, but on a Carrera model, equipped with the standard manual gearbox, and few, if any, options. Such a configuration would provide one of the purest driving experiences in the 911 range, yet will still retain the discreetness and daily usability for which this model is coveted. Being one of the last to have a naturally aspirated engine, the GTS may also prove to be a future collectable, much like how the last of the old air-cooled 911s are highly prized today. Don't let that potential collectability spoil the fun though. The driving experience of the GTS is one that should be enjoyed at every opportunity.