Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review

Published:01 February 2016

Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

► New 3.0-litre turbo engine
► Extra torque works wonders
► Accompanied by minor price rise

What’s the big news?

Porsche’s 911 Carrera 2 coupes switched to turbo power last year, and now the all-wheel-drive models get the same treatment.

You can read CAR's review of the new, turbocharged 911 Carrera 2 coupe here.

But isn’t all-wheel-drive a bit pointless when an ordinary rear-wheel drive 911 has better traction than a Landie on caterpillar tracks?

That’s one viewpoint. But one in three 911 buyers thinks not and chooses a all-wheel-drive model. Now that may well be because they equate ‘more expensive’ with ‘better’, but since the introduction of the 991 C4 in 2014, AWD cars do at least look visually different.

How so?

Taking their lead off the old 996 C4S from the late 1990s, they get the supercar-swatting Turbo model’s 44mm wider rear arches and a natty bit of plastic that connects the two rear light units together. The Targa, with its very trick electric top, is only available with all-wheel drive.

For almost 20 years, from the 993 Targa until the death of the 997 version, 911 Targas looked terrible thanks to the weird side window line that was as offensive as Porsche’s psychedelic 1970’s Pasha seat trim. But in 2014 the 991 Targa introduced a retro look based on the style used from the early 1970s when you had to manually lift out the centre roof panel. The difference was the entire upper rear half of the bodywork now lifted up and back at the touch of a button to allow the roof panel to be stored beneath the back window.

The key visual differences for the facelift car are 3D-look tail lamps, and a new engine lid grille featuring vertical bars, but if you peer more closely you’ll see neater door handles and a new headlight design too. Inside, there’s Porsche’s excellent new infotainment system, featuring pinch-to-zoom for the maps and Apple CarPlay, plus a new steering wheel. Order the Sport Chrono package (denoted by the little analogue stopwatch on the top of the dash) and you also get Porsche’s take on Ferrari’s steering wheel manettino, which we first saw on the 918 Spyder.

Any mechanical changes over the two-wheel-drive Carreras?

The engine and transmission options are carried over directly. That means you choose from a pair of turbocharged 3.0 engines, a base version with 365bhp, and the S, which has 414bhp. Both still sound like proper Porsche motors but neither hits the high notes like its predecessor.

Inevitably, there’s some turbo lag too, but very little, and the compensation comes in the form of a wide, flat torque curve. That doesn’t mean there’s no reason to wring it out to the redline, because the engine seems to get a second wind past 5000rpm, but it does make this new 911 feel far faster, and far more relaxing to drive than the old one.

And it’s the basic non-S Targa that’s the biggest winner in the facelift range’s turbo transformation. Why? Because the Targa is the heaviest body style of 911, 10kg porkier even than the cabrio, making life hard work for the old 3.4-litre engine.

Now, with 3.0-litres augmented by a pair of turbochargers, it feels impressively rapid through the gears – but, more importantly, far gutsier when you summon some in-gear go. Zero to 62mph takes 4.7sec in a non-S Targa with the manual gearbox (4.3ec with PDK), compared to 5.2sec for the old naturally aspirated equivalent.

And for the first time since the C4 joined the 911 range over 25 years ago, the all-wheel-drive 911s are actually quicker off the line than their rear-drive siblings. A basic C2 hits 62mph in 4.6sec and 100mph in 9.8sec, while a C4 shaves a tenth off both times.

So it’s exclusively an understeery mess with the structural rigidity of a bag of feathers?

It’s heavier and bendier than a two-wheel-drive coupe, but these days the gap is so narrow it comes down to personal taste. You either like the idea of a Targa or you don’t, and the all-wheel-drive system - which now features a quicker acting electro-hydraulic clutch - doesn’t dull the handling.

It still feels like a proper 911, just one that’s impossible to upset, with rear-drive-biased handling and steering that seems markedly more entertaining than it was when the 991 gave us the first taste of electrical assistance on 911s three years ago. If you’re looking for a pure driving experience though, we’d stick with a C2 coupe. 

Any real downsides?

Slight dilution of engine character aside (consider the sports exhaust a pretty essential purchase), the only demerit is a price rise from £87,025 to £90,240, although the extra performance more than makes amends.

If you like the idea of an open Porsche though, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Carrera Cabriolet with the same engine as this Targa, but available with rear-wheel drive, is £4987 cheaper, though it can’t match the Targa’s coupe-snug, top-raised ability to isolate you from the elements.

Verdict

Years ago the least desirable 911 you could conceive would have probably been an all-wheel-drive Tiptronic Targa. Now, with its clever top, the newfound engine torque offsetting the weight that has added, and a style all its own, the Targa is arguably one of the most desirable.

Specs

Price when new: £90,240
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2981cc 24v flat six, 365bhp@6500rpm, 332lb ft@1700-5000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.3sec 0-62mph, 178mph, 35.8mpg, 182g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1570kg/aluminium, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4499/1852/1288mm

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  • Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4 (2016) review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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