► Porsche's latest Targa driven in the UK
► Over 100kg heavier than a regular 4S
► Still manages a 3.6sec 0-62mph sprint...
Porsche's Targa variant recently turned 55 and, now more than ever, it seems to make no sense. On paper, it combines all the drawbacks of a Cabriolet and a Coupe, yet the Targa –– named after the world-renowned Targa Florio race – is arguably the most desirable non-GT 911 you can buy.
So, what gives?
What's it for?
Originally designed to be a safer version of the Cabriolet, the first Targa featured a manually removable roof and a roll-hoop to protect occupants in the event of a crash. It was cutting-edge for 1965 and provided real benefits over a traditional open-top.
Now Cabriolets are much safer, and the 992-based Targa's iconic roll-hoop is now a skeuomorphic flourish, there in part for chassis stiffness – but mainly for looks. Still, the roof disappears in 19 seconds, and the engineering required to make it happen is impressive.
Porsche acknowledges the history of the Targa, too, with an overly-trimmed Heritage Design Edition specification, which we've tested in right-hand drive. While this is sold out (Porsche only built 992 of this version), with its properly retro burgundy colour scheme, decals and eye-popping colour combo, you can still trim your Targa 4S with a Heritage Design Pack that includes some pretty sweet leather and velour chairs.
How fast is it?
Like the standard 4S, the Targa 4S produces 443bhp from a six-cylinder, 3.0-litre boxer engine with twin turbochargers, and puts it to the road via an eight-speed PDK and Stuttgart's refined all-wheel-drive system.
The weight of that optional viewing deck means the Targa 4S is a touch slower: it hits 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds though, which is only 0.2 slower than the standard 4S, and its top speed of 189mph is 1mph behind than the standard version. When you're reaching tenths of a second in outright sprint times, the performance 'loss' is marginal. This is still a stupendously fast car.
And the way the power is deployed will still feel alien to those used to naturally-aspirated Porsches. This is very much a sports car where you can lean on the mid-range torque for quick progress, rather than rev out. In fact, while the Targa's flat six sounds good, it's a touch too whooshy at full chat to really enjoy. Still, though, for a car with turbocharged engine, the 911's throttle response is intensely crisp at any speed.
How does it handle?
We say the 911 is supreme in this department for a reason.
Let's start with the all-wheel drive system. While we had the Heritage Edition, it was rather rainy (sod's law with a convertible, right?), and yet grip was more than plentiful. Even in less-than-ideal conditions, the 4S instils confidence in you to push harder – 'don't worry, I've got this.' And yet, it also seems to think I don't 'got this,' flagging up that it's wet and suggesting I calm down using the car's in-built Wet Mode. Hmm.
Still, the ride is truly impressive. Our test car was on large wheels, making for a little bit of intrusive tyre noise but, if you specify the PDCC adaptive dampers, the rolling comfort can be properly smooth when you're cruising or taut enough to set a new B-road lap record. It's ever-so-slightly softer than the standard 4S, with a hint of roll and a smidge less poise – but that's the price you pay for adding a 110kg greenhouse to an already refined sports car.
Porsche 911 Targa 4S: verdict
Yet none of this really matters when you're driving – this particular Porsche isn't built for ultimate speed, moreso for the overall experience. The Targa's wraparound rear screen and roll-hoop envelop driver and passenger in a glass cocoon, along with all the tech of the new 911's interior – yet keep you just as connected to the road as any other 911.
Unlike the more driver-focused (i.e. manual, rear-driven) GT models, the Targa's PDK system and all-wheel-drive do the intensive bits for you, nailing gear changes and searching for grip for you. And yes, while it's not the fastest 911 per se, the Targa 4S is still relentlessly quick.
But you don't buy a Targa for outright pace or handling. This isn't the sharpest 911 you can buy, but the metrics we use to gauge that are measured in tenths, milimetres or single-digit percentages. It's still a thrilling sports car through and through, with the added theatre of that gorgeous roof – we'd just say that this is much more the grand tourer of the 911 range, rather than a balls-to-the-wall sports car. That still makes it tremendously desirable.
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