A 911 Targa? It’s just a Carrera with a super-size sunroof isn’t it?
Pretty much. But it’s been a staple of the 911 range since the first appeared in the mid sixties. Back then it was a solution to the problem of offering a convertible at a time when it looked like roll-over conscious America might ban traditional soft tops. Porsche finally produced a full convertible in 1983 but the Targa lived on and while Targa sales aren’t huge – Porsche sold 5000 of the 996 version – there are enough buyers out there to keep the car alive. This is the first Targa based on the 997.
So what’s different this time?
Not much in engineering terms. The large glass roof panel still slides back beneath the rear window in 7sec as it did on the previous (996) model and that window, now 1.9kg lighter, still opens outwards like a hatchback making it easier to drop luggage (and children?) into the rear seats. But this time a new chrome strip running along the cant rail on the side of the car at least makes it easier to tell it apart from the coupe. Which isn’t so great: the coupe’s curvier profile is much more attractive.
So how much is it?
You’ll need at least £70,320 to climb into a Targa: that money buys the basic 3.6-litre, 315bhp Targa 4, the mechanical equivalent of the Carrera 4 coupe although Porsche doesn’t use the Carrera badge on the Targa cars. Top your fund up to £77,370 and you can have the Targa 4 S which brings bigger wheels, electronic dampers as standard and 355bhp from an engine 200cc larger. So it costs a steep £5390 more than a a coupe and you can have a proper cabrio for just £1660 more. A conventional sunroof on a 911 coupe is £864.
No two-wheel drive version?
That’s right. Last time there was no Targa 4 but this time that’s all you can have. Porsche reckons that the bigger rear wheelarches (all four-wheel drive 911s are 44mm fatter across the back) better suit the Targa’s lines but admits that Targa buyers tend to be a less gung ho bunch and would gladly trade a few kilos of weight for the extra security of four-wheel drive.The suspension settings have also been softened off, again to suit those buyers.
And wouldn’t you just buy a Cabriolet?
A cabrio does seem like better value for money but not everyone wants a fully open 911. Some don’t want to worry about having their hood slashed, some don’t want to lose too much of the coupe’s rigidity. Porsche says that Targa customers are coupe customers, not cabrio buyers too. Whatever the reason there’s a market for the Targa. But it does seem odd that Porsche also offers a conventional sunroof on the 911 coupe.
Is it all pose or can it still do the business?
Oh it’s far more than a fashion accessory. You can feel the softer setup, not so much in roll but in vertical movements with the PASM dampers set to normal which had the nose kissing the tarmac on the test route where a Coupe would have glided past. But let’s get things in perspective, it still feels every inch a 911, the steering respone is perfect, the control weightings all beautifully matched and it’s still a great size for blasting along smaller roads that would make a fully blown supercar feel vulnerable. The Targa’s 60kg weight penalty over a Carrera 4 barely affects performance, knocking the S’s 62mph time by just a tenth, to 4.9secsec, and top speed from 180mph to 179mph. The S might seem like an extravagence when the standard car is so good but the meatier exhaust noise, sharper throttle response and addictive accelerative improvements means it’s worth forking out for if you can. Rear visibility is slightly compromised with the roof retracted but the biggest problem is wind noise, which becomes incredibly annoying above urban speeds. Glass roof in place though, it’s almost as hushed as the coupe and as the glass area is twice the size of a conventional 911 sunroof, the extra light dropping into the cabin makes it feel far less claustrophobic.
Even by 911 standards the Targa is a niche product. It’s the least handsome 911, wind noise is awful with the roof open and you can’t have two-wheel drive. Personally we’d have a two-wheel drive Carrera S coupe and put up with a regular sunroof, while those wanting to top up their skin cancer can have a full cabrio for little extra money. It’s in no way a bad 911, but there are so many better ones out there.