This still feels like a sports car test to me. Which is, I suppose, a feat of marketing – and, perhaps, a feat of the fact that cars without roofs are not quite so crippled dynamically as they once were. It’s mostly the marketing, though, I think.
Had Jaguar’s F-type arrived first in coupé form, instead of the roadster that you see here, would you see it as the F-type sports car? Or would it be the poorer relation? The roadster was bigged up as the new Jaguar sports car when it was launched. “You’ll know within 50 metres,” Jaguar’s people said, “that you’re driving a Jaguar like none before it.”
Mostly true. But over the past year – and this dark blue F-type roadster, in V6 S form, has been with Autocar on our long-term fleet for just over that long – we’ve also come to learn that it is a Jaguar with many qualities of Jaguars before it.
Mostly the XK, from which, if you’re being uncharitable, the F-type’s aluminium architecture is derived. It’s wide, low and auto only, has hydraulically assisted steering and, for all its dynamic capability, is a bit of a hot rod at heart. But still, yes, it’s a sports car.
So, too, is the Porsche 911 Targa – to most people I’ve asked, anyway, who seem to see the Targa in a kinder light than the soft-top 911 cabriolet.
There’s something (and I hesitate to use the word because I’m 39) inherently cooler about an early 911 Targa than a cabriolet, no? And although the Targa’s purpose has been diluted somewhat in recent generations by being little more than coupés with sliding panoramic roofs, this version rekindles its identity by bringing back the traditional aluminium-look roll hoop with its gills on the side.
Except that, of course, in this case, it’s a bit of a bluff. Beneath the Targa lies generally the same roof mechanism as the the 911 cabriolet’s, only it’s a bit heftier even than that.
Where the cabriolet’s rear panel swings up and the boot folds below, the entire rear window and roll hoop lifts on the Targa, before the roof panel stows beneath it. Porsche calls the folding and unfolding a spectacle.
Porsche’s people are not wrong, but it’s a spectacle that can only be enjoyed when the car is stationary, and one that takes a full 20 seconds. The machinations add 40kg even to the cabriolet’s weight, making it 110kg heavier than the coupé, and its size requires the extra width of the bodywork fitted, as is traditional, to four-wheel-drive 911s.
So the Targa comes as a 4 or 4S only (4 here, incidentally), is vastly heavier than the coupé and yet isn’t, to my perception, massively less desirable than either the coupé or the cabriolet. Call me shallow, but that’s how I see it.
The Jaguar doesn’t require you to be stationary before its lid does its thing. And I’ve come to rather like how you can drop the roof as soon as you enter a 30mph zone, below which speed it’s happy to go up or down.
On a cold motorway commute, popping the roof down as you enter your home town, putting the exhaust into grumpy mode and listening to the crackles for just a few minutes adds vastly to enjoyment of the F-type, I think. And I don’t think that you’d bother doing the same in the Targa, not least because its rear-slung 3.4-litre flat six engine doesn’t deliver the same urgent aural thrills as the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in the Jaguar.
Not that it’s without relative merit. The 911 makes peak power, 345bhp of it, at 7400rpm – sports car revolutions. The Jaguar’s all done by then, its peak output, 375bhp, made at 6500rpm. You might argue that there’s something more ‘sporting’ about the Porsche’s gearbox, too: a seven-speed PDK auto that adds £2298 to the Targa 4’s £86,377 price.