Porsche 911 Targa 4S on test: crazy cool
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Porsche 911 Targa 4S
- Might be the best-looking 911
- All the mechanical prowess of a proper 911
- Goes well with 1970s sunglasses
- Heavier than a Carrera coupe
- Roof takes its time
- Can’t operate the top on the move
One of the many excellent things about the Porsche 911 is that’s it’s a very functional sports car. Every model has its purpose: a Carrera coupe is a great everyday machine, the Turbo is the ultimate in A-to-B real-world speed and the GT versions are absolutely primed for the track. There’s not a lot that’s extraneous in a 911.
Even the cabriolet has a real sense of authenticity about it. Soft-tops are frivolous by definition, but the cabriolet still gives you a proper 911 experience with the maximum amount of fresh air.
So in the world of 911, the Targa is the one that seems more about show than good sense. It has an extraordinarily complex folding roof mechanism that’s all about street theatre, but when it’s done you’re left with something akin to a glorified sunroof. You’re paying more, for a lot less wind in the hair, than the conventional convertible.
Then again, look at it. It’s sensational. The Targa wears an incredible piece of curved glass over the back, giving it that iconic 911 coupe shape while at the same time looking completely different to the Carrera.
The other thing about the 911 Targa is that it carries a lot of heritage. And heritage is a huge part of any 911’s appeal.
The Targa (still a trademark Porsche name, by the way) was launched in 1967 in response to US panic about a spate of convertible rollovers. It was thought the Department of Transportation might ban open-top cars altogether… and then what would wealthy Californian sun-worshippers drive?
The 911 Targa was the answer. It had a fixed roll-hoop over the cabin, but also a small removeable roof section. The name came from the Targa Florio road race, although “targa” also means plate or sheild in Italian. So that worked too.
So the look was a big roll hoop and a big curved glass rear section (although the very first 1967 version had a “soft” rear window). Template established, legend born.
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Porsche did go a bit off the style book with the 993-997 generations, which combined a power roof with fixed pillars and a hatch-style glass panel. Practical, but not a lot of visual fun there.
But in the 991 and new 992 generations it’s right back to referencing the roots of the original Targa, with that iconic silver hoop, the small, stowable roof section and curvaceous glass at the back.
The roof stows quite elaborately these days, of course: it’s all powered, with the rear section lifting clear of the body in one enormous piece. It takes 19 seconds and that matters because you can’t operate it on the move; presumably it’s all a bit top heavy and wobbly once extended on those spindly arms.
You also need to watch how close you’re parked to a solid object, because the raised roof actually extends behind the car. Smacking it on the wall at your local New World isn’t cool when everybody’s watching.
Despite the coupe profile, you still have to think of the Targa as an alternative to the convertible. That’s what it’s based on, pricing is similar and both models are just over 100kg heavier than the equivalent Carrera coupe. It’s an amount that matters if you’re after the last degree of involvement from your super-expensive Porsche.
Then again, it might not matter so much when you learn that the 4S tested here sprints to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds and does it complete with that characteristic boxer-six growl (albeit with some turbo-whistle these days). It still goes around corners with all the steering feel and chassis character you expect of a 911.
A Carrera coupe is cheaper and faster, yes, but not by much: the equivalent 4S is $275,900 and hits 100km/h in 3.6 seconds.
Tenths of second are are not really what the Targa is all about, so feel free to consider the $259,400 Targa 4: you drop 48kW but it’s still capable of 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds. It’s not a slow car and it’s still AWD (you haven’t been able to buy a RWD Targa since the 997 generation).
The Targa is undeniably the least sensible 911. But it’s also one of the coolest; a proper 911 in ability and quality, just a bit tongue in cheek in places and we really love that.
PORSCHE 911 TARGA 4S
ENGINE: 3.0-litre horizontally opposed twin-turbo six cylinder
GEARBOX: 8-speed automated dual-clutch transmission (PDK), AWD
0-100KM/H: 3.8 seconds
ECONOMY: 9.7l/100km, 222g/km