Hit the Road With the Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS

Photo courtesy of Porsche

Lunching at a favorite spot on a recent midwinter day, I glance outside at the overcast sky, a shimmering pale gray not unlike the GT Silver Metallic coat of the Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS parked nearby. The food is smashing, but I’ve ordered light, finish up and pay the tab. The Porsche, and the road, are calling.

My heartbeat quickens at the sight of it, this little spaceship from Stuttgart, Germany, with its iconic, frog-like face and tapered teardrop tail, its rakish rear spoiler extended in eager anticipation. The cockpit is snug and so is the 18-way Adaptive Sport seat, all clad in satin-smooth and deliciously aromatic Truffle Brown club leather. Strapping in, I take a moment to collect myself before depressing the clutch and reaching for the ignition starter switch, positioned not to the right of the steering wheel, but to the left, a design that allowed race drivers to start their engines while they were still climbing into their cars from the pit lane at Le Mans.

The rear-mounted flat-six engine jumps to life, the cabin hums with its energy, and with the flip of a switch in the console, the roof pivots swiftly upward and back, stowing itself neatly beneath the rear glass. For maximum performance, I twist the knurled driving mode selector into SPORT + and, with a flick of the short-throw shifter, put the transmission into first. And whatever the evangelists might say about the life-enhancing qualities of “connected cars” in constant communion with a vast, insensate cloud, none of it will ever come remotely close to the thrill of gripping a Truffle Brown leather-wrapped knob connected to a 7-speed manual gearbox connected to a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged power plant capable of twisting out 420 pound-feet of torque from a mere 2,300 rpm.

After loafing around town just long enough to bring all systems up to proper operating temperature, I cut a route to the freeway. Traffic is light, my right foot is heavy, and as I wind the Porsche to its 7,500 rpm redline, the harmonic howl of the engine is utterly, ferociously erotic. Yet, in spite of its mind-bendingly massive thrust, the 911 Targa 4 GTS remains preternaturally composed as its super-sophisticated all-wheel drive metes out power to a quartet of massive Michelin winter sport tires as tenacious on the byways of Marin as they are in the snowy wilds of the Sierra Nevada.

Would I like to experience the 190 mph maximum speed? Natürlich. Perhaps on the autobahn on my next jaunt to Baden-Württemberg. But even stateside, I can make use of the preposterously tall seventh gear, maintaining an athletic pace while the engine lounges along at a shade over 1,000 rpm, barely sipping high-octane fuel as it goes. Green as my aspirations might be, though, the low-rev reverie doesn’t last long. That stout little gearshift is a standing invitation, and once again I’m snick-snicking through the lower reaches of the H, where the bellow from the pipes sings a song with the wind, and the needle on the tach points the way to a place somewhere between ecstasy and nirvana.