If you want a Porsche 911 with a roof, there's a 911 that fits your needs. There's also a 911 with a fully removable roof, if that's your preference. But there hasn't been a 911 with a robot in the back that eats part of the roof to give you some much needed sunshine. Until now.
(Full Disclosure: I've been trying to get a 911 Targa to test since we first saw how cool the roof was. And when I nearly gave up hope on getting it, it showed up at my door on a rainy morning. Best surprise ever.)
The Targa has been a stalwart of the 911 lineup since 1967, when Porsche put a distinctive roll hoop on the 911 Cabrio because they thought the USA was going to outlaw full convertibles. Since the US was an important convertible market, the Targa was the solution to provide rollover protection. Instead of a fully retractable top, the Targa had a roll hoop with a removable center panel and a plastic rear window.
In 1968, Porsche started offering a glass rear window as it became clear that convertibles wouldn't be outlawed. As it evolved, that glass rear window became the only choice for the Targa, and it continued along with the cabrio and coupe in the lineup.
See, since the Targa wasn't a full cabrio, it had a wider range of use and was perfect for cooler climates. Pair an autumn roof off drive with a sweater and the heater on, and you have a nice cool breeze and actual warmth. Sure, it isn't the hardest core, lightest weight 911 out there, but it was the one with the widest range of use.
Starting with the 993 Targa in the 1990s, the removable roof panel disappeared, replaced by a gigantic glass sunroof. Now, that's all well and good, but a giant glass sunroof does not a Targa make. It's a compromise that Porsche saw as stylish, but made the Targa just a weird, heavy version of the coupe, not the all-weather smile machine that it once was.
And the dark times of the big sunroofed Targa lasted all the way until the release of the 991 generation Targa and its beautifully complicated roof. Unlike the Targas of old where you lift out a little panel and place it in the back, the new Targa uses motors to create a mechanical ballet wherein the roof is slowly devoured by the rear of the car. It's mesmerizing to watch.
It's about 100 pounds heavier than the Carrera 4S Cabriolet that it's based on, but is infinitely more attractive. The Targa is easily the best looking of all the 911s out there today, but does its weight penalty and inherently less rigid chassis make it bad to drive?
Bad? No. Compromised? Yes. But does that really matter?
All of the current 991 generation 911s are pretty great looking cars. They're low, wide, and sleek, like a 993 on steroids.
But the fairest 911 of them all is the Targa. No, it doesn't have the aggressive face of the GT3 or the widebody stance of the Turbo, but it doesn't need that.
What it does have is an aluminum Targa bar with throwback lettering, a black roof that looks kind of vinyl-y in the right conditions, and a gigantic rear greenhouse that you could use as a tanning salon or make into a pretty swell garden.
At first glance, the Targa doesn't look all that different from a regular C4S, but once you notice the Targa bar and huge rear window, well, it makes the C4 look pretty pedestrian. There is just something special about the Targa, it's the sort of modern design that you'd expect from the French but not necessarily from the Germans. And because it's based on the Carrera 4, you get wide rear haunches and the delicate light bar out back that really tie the room together, man.
I love it very much.
Look, every 911 interior is the same. This one was black. Here's what we said about the 911 C2S Cabriolet:
The spartan days are gone, replaced by an interior that seems to come straight out of the Panamera. This isn't a bad thing at all. Everything is at arms reach and feels super high quality. The center console is lined with buttons (something you don't really see from the Germans anymore these days), and I gotta say, I prefer them.
Not sorting through oodles of menus to adjust the heated seats is a welcome change. Of course, Porsche may have put a few too many buttons, since I wasn't sure what some of them did after repeated touches. Also, the backseat is still useless, unless you're transporting an infant gymnast.
The Targa 4S has a 0 to 60 time of 4.4 seconds, a full three tenths slower than the Carrera 4S Cabriolet and five tenths behind the Carrera 4S coupe. Since both of them make 400 horsepower and 325 pound feet of torque, this deficit seems like it's solely down to the 100 pound weight gain of the trick roof mechanism (and it's actually 300 pounds, or one Bruce Vilanch, heavier than the coupe) and, possibly, any aerodynamic penalty.
That means it shouldn't be surprising that a car with the weight of the center square on it just feels more sluggish off the line, like the flat six is pissed at you for making it tug along more weight. "Do I gotta do this?"
Launch control starts are a different story, with PDK ferociously dropping the clutch and all four wheels hooking up immediately. There is a slight bog as it decides which way and where it needs to send the majority of the power, but it is the slightest of slight bogs. Super slight. Very, very slight.
Also, it feels a bit weird complaining about the acceleration habits of a car that gets to 60 in just 4.4 seconds.
This car did not have Porsche $8,000 carbon ceramic brakes, and if you are just using the car on the street, you really don't need them. And since you're buying a Targa, you will not be going on the track. Real talk.
Unless you feel a need for very expensive yellow calipers, you don't need PCCB. The steel brakes have a great initial bite and good feel, with repeated heavy stops producing a minimum amount of fade. They're just really solid brakes.
Here's what you want to do: Leave the suspension alone. If you order the adjustable suspension, putting the dampers in sport makes it oppressively stiff. It's still controlled and it won't break your back, but the idea of the Targa isn't really to pound the pavement into submission.
This is a car that's at it's best on a back road on an autumn day, with the top down (or eaten), and being driven at a spirited pace. But not drifting. Not finding the limits of adhesion. Not setting record times.
Nah, you want the Targa for spirited touring, and in it's regular setting, the suspension is perfectly pliable and comfortable, perfectly suited to the car.
I don't have an issue with the 911's electric steering like all the pedants that are complaining beyond belief. Now, part of that might be because I'm a young whipper snapper that hasn't driven every single 911 ever built and don't have the same starting point, but I think it's more likely that this is just solid steering.
So why the demerits on handling? Well, like acceleration, the weight is the issue here. Add to that the less rigid nature of the open topped Targa, and you have a 911 that doesn't turn in as quickly and feels a tad more lethargic than its hard topped counterparts.
I also find that the all-wheel drive blunts the feel of the front end, so combine it with the weight gain, and you have a car that has all the characteristics of a 911, but just enough modifications that it doesn't have that same sharpness as a Carrera 2S. Too bad you can't get a rear-wheel drive Targa.
PDK is still the best. Shifts are perfectly smooth, silky even. This is the best paddle shift gearbox on the market, better than the wunderkind ZF eight speed and better than the seven speed manual that Porsche offers.
Every pull of the paddle shifts gears and releases some sort of giddiness into your system at just how great it is. I'm going to name my first child PDK.
The crackles and pops of the 911's flat six never get old, especially as you run it up to redline. You just get the feeling of a GT3 Cup car running to redline at Le Mans or Sebring. It's such a recognizable sound. And with the top down and that big glass window, the sound resonates within the cabin, lingering in your ears, tickling your senses, touching your...
Uh... I need a moment.
Ok, we're back. There is an issue. At highway speeds with the top down, it is very, very loud right next to your ear. Buffetting is worse than in the cabrio, with a constant wind noise next to your left ear if your driving. In a world where everyone complains about wind noise this and quiet construction that, it is an annoyance.
Here's my solution: Drive with the top up on the highway. Job done.
It has all your normal stuff, so parking sensors, cruise control, PDK, satellite radio, Bluetooth, etc, etc.
But then it has another toy, and that is the roof. It's a toy that I actually held off on using for as long as I could. It was kind of like holding yourself back from opening that big Christmas present under the tree till last.
It's so cool. Sooooo cool. It's chaotic mechanical ballet that shouldn't work, but somehow does. A few times, I'd put it up or down half way, get out of the car, and take pictures of it, astounded that Porsche put something like this into production, and then I'd laugh at the future person who purchases one out of warranty.
When you drive a 911, you don't really get a lot of people asking you about the car. They aren't exactly rare, people see them, they aren't all that impressed. The Targa is a different story. I had a cop pull up next to me to tell me how beautiful it is. I had people stare at it on the highway. And I had numerous requests to put the top up and down, just because it's so damn cool.
The top of this car is a rare moment of flamboyance from Porsche, and it's the ultimate toy on any car in this class.
The Targa 4S has a base price of $116,200, which is actually $1,300 less than the price of the Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Like any 911, this one had a ton of options (including the $3,200 love it or hate it lime gold paint) that brought the price up to nearly $145,000.
No 911 is a "deal." But every 911 is worth it. This is a car that has been consistently evolving for 50 years around a framework that should perform as well as it does. Yet every new variant and every new model is magic that defies physics and impresses everyone that drives it.
The new Targa is the perfect embodiment of what the Targa always was: The best compromise 911. It's not the best track 911, it's not the best street 911, it's not the best convertible 911, and it's not the best coupe 911. But it is the only 911 that is a track street coupe convertible all in one. If you want to buy just one 911 but you're indecisive about the body style, the Targa is the perfect choice.
This would not be the 911 I would buy, since a GT3 or GTS would come in with more performance at a similar price. But now that the Targa has brought back the bar and gotten rid of that sliding glass roof, it's the best looking one you can buy.
Plus that roof. Holy cow.
Engine: 3.8L H6
Power: 400 HP at 7,400 RPM/ 325 LB-FT at 5,600 RPM
Transmission: Seven-Speed Dual Clutch
0-60 Time: 4.4 seconds
Top Speed: 182 MPH
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 3,472 LBS
Seating: 4 people* (The two people in the rear seats better not have legs, or be contortionists)
MPG: 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined
MSRP: $120,280 (Base price is $116,200 with a manual trans, $150,000ish As Tested)
Photo Credits: Tavarish and Raphael Orlove