2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS Road Test – If you’ve driven along the edge of Donner Lake in Truckee, California, anytime in the past 15 years, you’ve noticed that turbocharged, all-wheel-drive automobiles parked along the side of the road aren’t exactly an uncommon sight. The Euer Saddle, marked as Donner Summit on I-80, sits at an elevation of 7239 feet and the lake itself at 5936. To the south, Echo Summit on Highway 50 reaches 7382 feet, while the Carson Pass on State Route 88 hits 8574. Even Reno, just down the mountain—and the former home of Porsche’s North American arm—lies at a 4505-foot elevation, not a whole lot lower than Denver. Up there, forced induction is a must to maintain performance in the thin air.
Donner Pass also holds the distinction of being one of the snowiest places in the country, at least when California isn’t suffering from a drought. Until recently, the only Porsche 911 perfectly suited to the high-altitude sports-car mission was the extra-spendy 911 Turbo, which has featured four driven wheels since the end-of-the-aircooled-era 993 generation. Now, of course, every 911 except for the GT3 has a pair of charge-enhancing snails bolted to its flat-six engine. We predict a lot of 997 and 991.1 Carrera 4 models will find themselves listed on Reno/Tahoe’s Craigslist in short order, with a number of them, undoubtedly, replaced with a 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS.
Climb Every Mountain
Porsche says its Targa models appeal to alpine types, while beach dwellers tend to opt for the wide-open cabriolets. Despite its origin as an odd compromise in the 1960s—then-tiny Porsche was worried that regulations in the United States could kill convertibles—the Targa saw great success in the 1970s and 1980s. When the 993 bowed, Stuttgart did away with the simple, removable top panel and replaced it with a powered sliding-glass roof that rested over the rear window, which carried on through the 997 cars. The 997s began the tradition of the AWD-only Targa, available only with Carrera 4 and 4S powertrains. With the advent of the 991-generation Targa, Porsche ginned up a mechanically complex folding top that replicates the aesthetic of the early cars, while affording owners the effortless luxury in operation to which they’d become accustomed. The 991 also saw the advent of the GTS-badged Targa, which added 30 horsepower over the S model. This 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS from www.caranddriver.com
This second-generation 991.2 Targa 4 GTS that we’ve just driven gets 450 horsepower—once again, 30 horsepower more than the S—courtesy of extra turbo-oriented finagling. Porsche claims the car will run to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds with the manual transmission and 3.5 with the company’s dual-clutch PDK automatic. Given that we hoofed a 420-hp Targa C4S PDK to 60 in 3.3 seconds, we have no doubt that Porsche’s quoted numbers are seriously conservative. 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
What Comes With
The 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS GTS models have often been considered the best value of the lineup, packing in a host of features that, added to a Carrera or Targa 4S, would cost significantly more. Aside from the hotter engine and the signature dark trim, GTS buyers get the center-lock wheels from the 911 Turbo S in satin black, Porsche’s more aggressive SportDesign front fascia, the Sport Chrono package, and a Sport exhaust. While coupe buyers get Porsche’s PASM Sport active suspension, which lowers ride height by 0.4 inch over the Carrera S, Targa and cabriolet customers get the still plenty sporty standard PASM system. 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Compared with the lovely, playful rear-drive Carrera, the all-wheel-drive Targa 4 GTS carries a more serious mien, both in appearance and performance. The blacked-out trim treatment adds menace to the aesthetic, somewhat offsetting the nostalgic, elegant cheeriness of the classic Targa bar—now painted black, rather than silver as on the previous GTS (and normal Targas). Over the Monitor Pass, a high-speed climb from the west that hits 8314 feet and culminates in a series of downhill switchbacks, the Targa stayed stuck to the ground as if the Porsche’s center of gravity were buried deep inside the mountain. Some credit surely goes to the optional rear-axle steering. And even in Monitor’s thin air, the turbos mean the engine never lacks for torque. The GTS offers 405 lb-ft and operates at its torque peak between 2150 and 5000 rpm. 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Targa-topped cars offer an experience that some love—your author included. The Mazda MX-5 Miata RF, which cribs heavily from Porsche’s power-Targa playbook, offers an elemental experience closer to that of the original 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS and 914. Our gripe about the modern partially open Porsche is that it’s not Targa enough to justify the stated 143-pound weight penalty over an all-wheel-drive coupe. The steep rake of the 991’s windshield reduces the classic Targa effect to that of a large sunroof, and the coupe’s available sunroof already is quite large. True open-air aficionados will opt for the GTS cabriolet, which, unlike the Targa, is available with rear-wheel drive and starts at $134,050—$6900 less than the AWD Targa. Opt to drive the front wheels on the cab and the two 911s achieve price parity, perhaps making the choice harder for some. But for those mountain dwellers who’d prefer to differentiate themselves from the beachy types on the coast, the Targa remains the individualist’s Porsche. The GTS trim level just allows your well-heeled lumberjack to leave the crowd farther in his dust. 2018 Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS Road Test