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Porsche 911 Targa 4S (2008) review

Published:25 September 2008

Porsche 911 Targa 4S (2008) review
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London motor show video

Porsche’s 'Targa' moniker has been applied to open-air 911s since the late 1960s, and now with the latest version complementing the recently launched coupe and convertible models, it completes Porsche’s visually subtle but mechanically thorough overhaul of the 911 armada. We now awaited the Turbo and GT variants...

So, this Targa's basically a new Porsche 911 with a big sunroof then?

Well, technically yes. Since the days of the 993-generation 911 in the late 1990s, the Targa option has meant an electrically powered sliding-glass roof; in earlier decades it stood for a separate panel that you removed from the car. Still, it’s nevertheless an effective way of gaining more light in the cabin; achieving much of the pleasure of open-top motoring, and all without the usual security and (most of the) torsional stiffness bugbears associated with a traditional canvas roof.

Sounds like it’ll be easy to operate as well?

Absolutely. Two switches are located behind the gearlever: one operates the glass roof panel; the other shuffles the canvas blind back and forward. The operation is quick and quiet, and there’s very little buffeting with the roof slid back – no need for cumbersome wind breaks here.

The glass itself incorporates a UV filter to keep temperatures bearable in the cabin, supposedly letting through only 17 percent of the thermal energy of sunlight. However, despite the expanse of sky above your head, the Targa doesn’t offer the expansive environs you get from a true convertible; it always feels like a coupe with a large sunroof without that ultimate sense of freedom.

Unfortunately, rear visibility is mildly diminished when you have the roof glass section slid back, but with the roof section in place you can open the rear 'screen', allowing decent access to the storage area behind the rear seats – up to 230 litres with them folded, according to Porsche.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Porsche 911 Targa 4S first drive

Scroll down the page to the embedded player below to watch the video road test of the new Porsche 911 coupe    

London motor show video

Tell me more about the car itself: how does it differ from the 911 coupe in looks?

As with the previous generation 997, the Targa model is only available in four-wheel drive form, thereby receiving the wider track chassis with its engorged rear-wheel arches. The tinted glass of the roof contrasts nicely with a bright exterior colour such as yellow or white, and the distinctive 911 side glasshouse is extended further back to end in a sharper angle, its outline highlighted in a unique-to-the-Targa alloy finish along the topside of the opening.

Otherwise, it’s all the same as the recently facelifted coupe and convertible models: that means oh so subtly revised front and rear ends, LED driving lights and new wheels and mirrors. The crux is this: are you infuriated by Porsche’s glacial design progress, or still enjoying the traditional 911 silhouette and curvaceous Carrera 4 rump? Now that one’s sure to start an argument between enthusiasts.

How about the drive: I guess these Targas receive all the upgrades found on the other new 911s?

That’s correct, including the new electronically controlled four-wheel drive system inherited from the Turbo, the new 3.6 and 3.8-litre engines with direct-fuel injection and the option of a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox christened PDK. We drove a 4S with a manual gearbox, and it confirmed many of the thoughts we’d already had about the revised 997. It is fearsomely quick in 'S' guise thanks to 380bhp, but however impressive the PDK ‘box is, there is a greater sense of involvement in the task of driving with the traditional stick shifter – and you also benefit from not having the ergonomically awkward steering wheel from the PDK-equipped car that seems to dampen the lines of communication from wheels to palm.

The engines are certainly quieter and less tuneful than before – if commendably cleaner and more fuel efficient. Targas run a slightly softer suspension set up than their coupe brethren as they’re expected to lead a more leisurely life, but on the Italian roads of the launch the extra suppleness was often welcome, and there’s little composure lost in normal driving. Essentially, there’s all the grip and performance you could want for a car with a brief such as this, but a shot of 911-character concentrate is somehow missing.

Verdict

Few actually need four-wheel drive in a Targa, and adding a large bundle of Porsche’s expensive upgrades makes for a more capable car, but not necessary a more enjoyable one. But then this is less likely to be a 911 for enthusiasts as a sports car all-rounder facilitating a decent tan. At that, it’s effective, albeit expensive: at around £6000 more than the coupe this 4S model driven here is £80,270, and that’s before any options have been added. Glass clearly costs.

Click 'Add your comment' below and tell us whether you'd take a Targa 4S over a regualr 911

Scroll down the page to the embedded player below to watch the video road test of the new Porsche 911 coupe    

Specs

Price when new: £80,270
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 3800cc flat six, 380bhp @ 6500rpm, 310lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 184mph, 25.7mpg, 259g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1540kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4435/1852/1310

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  • Porsche 911 Targa 4S (2008) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4S (2008) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4S (2008) CAR review
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