'I’ve driven the best 911 – and it’s a Targa 4'

Published: 04 January 2009

Last Thursday, the stars twinkled like pixie glitter over north London’s evening sky. I know this not because I have an unhealthy obsession for things astronomical (apart from the price of the handbag I bought for my wife last birthday).

No, it’s because I spied the glorious winter firmament from the cosseted, leather-bound world of the Porsche 911 Targa 4 that I was sitting in, stuck in a jam of biblical proportions on the North Circular. I felt like one of the Three Kings, except I was on my way to Barnet, not Bethlehem. You don’t get that sort of feeling in a 911 coupé. 

It’s 12 years since Porsche first introduced the retractable glass roof for the Targa. It’s suffered in the past under the burden of its ‘master of none’ tag. You could hardly call it a runt, but it’s the utility player of the 911 line-up. The Gary Neville. It’s not as recognisable a name as the coupé, Turbo or Cabriolet. But the Targa is a synthesis of them all, and as such, it’s the greatest incarnation of this sports car icon.  
Bet that shocks some of you. Maybe most of you. Other CAR staffers are wittling away at their quills in order to launch them, Phil Taylor-style, in my direction as I write. But the new 911 Targa 4 really does have it all. Roof in place, it looks like a coupé. In fact, there’s more than a nod to the cello-like rear curves of the Turbo. It’s also not a Cabriolet.

The 911 Cabriolet is the kind of car driven by people who wear sunglasses at night and their mobile phone on their hip. The Targa, meanwhile, performs as near as dammit to the standard 911 as you can get. Power? Is the dual-clutch PDK auto’s 341bhp enough for you? That’s the same as a standard Carrera 4 and by hitting 62mph from a standstill in 5.2 seconds, it's just 0.6 seconds slower than the Carrera 4.

The best news of all – aside from the fact that the Targa 4 is also a hatchback – is that in 2007, Porsche GB say that the Targa accounted for just 5.5 per cent of its overall UK 911 sales. In other words, that holy grail of any serious driver, exclusivity, is satisfied by Porsche’s panoramic wonder too.

They’ll vehemently disagree, but with its nod to sports cars’ open-top heritage, the Targa is the one for the purist.

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By Stephen Worthy