Porsche is partying like it’s 1969 with the Targa version of its latest 911. It mixes retro looks with a thoroughly modern sports-car driving experience.
Powertrain and performance: 3.8-litre petrol six, 294kW/440Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 9.2 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.5 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4491mm long, 1291mm high, luggage capacity 125 litres, fuel tank 68 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels on 245/35 front and 305/30 rear tyres.
We like: Striking retro look, performance and handling barely compromised by Targa shape.
We don’t like: Complex roof mechanism for the sake of styling, expensive even by 911 standards.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Porsche 911 has returned to its roots in the latest-generation model – at least in a styling sense.
The Targa was born in the 1960s as a response to widespread concerns in America about rollover safety in convertibles, and suggestions that open-top cars might even be banned.
Porsche’s response was a convertible 911 that incorporated a massive rollover bar as a prominent styling feature, with a removable “targa” top over the cabin. It’s not a shape that’s universally loved by 911 purists, but it did become a very famous look for Porsche’s classic sports car through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
From 1993 onwards (the 993, 996 and 996 generations) the Targa shifted into a new body configuration, with a sliding glass roof and rear hatch that added quite a bit of practicality but took away that iconic Targa styling detail.
The new 991-series has gone back to a classic look, with dramatic results. Or should we say a retro look, because it’s all about the styling and has necessitated quite a bit of complexity around the roof mechanism to achieve it.
Note that the Targa does not replace the 911 cabriolet, which continues as a (slightly) cheaper option.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Any 911 is magnificent to drive, but it’s fair to say that the Targa is aimed more at buyers who value ease-of-use than those who are hard-core driving enthusiasts. Hence, it’s only available in Carrera 4 form, with all-wheel drive.
Our test car was the flagship 4S, which brings a 3.8-litre engine in place of the standard model’s 3.4-litre. It’s a seriously fast car – 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, or 4.4sec with the $4800 Sport Chrono option – and that performance is delivered with all of the aural drama you expect of a 911.
There’s a little extra weight to carry (100kg) and of course the Targa is fractionally slower than the 4S coupe (0.3sec to 100km/h), but there are no issues around body rigidity. Porsche has been a master maker of convertibles for a long time (it still makes a conventional 911 cabriolet, by the way) and the 911 base car is immensely strong. The Targa is still a stirring drive, even by 911 standards.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The original Targa was notable for its simplicity, with a single roof panel that you could remove by hand. Circa-2014, the Targa’s roof panel is still fabric, but it stows by means of an electric mechanism: the entire rear window lifts on a network of metal arms, tiny latches pop up out of the roll-hoop over the cabin and the roof section powers away into a stowage area behind the cabin. It’s a mind-boggling amount of hardware that exists purely to create that classic Targa look around the new 991-series Porsche 911.
The 911 has long been one of the most useable super-sports cars around, with compact dimensions and excellent visibility to go with its searing performance and track-ready handling.
The Targa loses little of that, with the same functional (if fussy looking) dashboard layout and driving position. Naturally, access a little easier with the top down – no need to bend your neck to get into the low-slung cabin.
The roof itself might be complex, but raising or lowering it only requires a touch of a button, either in the cabin or on the keyfob. In fact, it can be operated from outside the car on the remote, so you can lower the roof if you’re walking towards the car for a quick getaway or raise it while you’re walking away.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? This is arguably the 911 that should be taken least seriously of all, because it carries a complex powered roof mechanism that’s been created for no other reason than to give the Targa that retro look.
But it does look cool and certainly makes people smile, so who can complain? Especially when it still offers most of the driving pleasure of a 911 Carrera 4S coupe.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 50/50
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
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