What is it?
In recent years, the Porsche 911 Targa has never quite been held in the same high regard as the lighter, cheaper 911 Coupé. The mysterious lack of the Carrera name – officially present on the Cabriolet and Coupé models but missing on the Targa – and the fact that the Targa isn’t offered with rear-wheel drive in the UK, even seems to suggest that Porsche itself see this variant as a touch more lifestyle purchase than sporting substance.
However, with the new turbocharged engines now at the heart of the range, it seems this may be the best opportunity that the Targa has to redeem itself. After all, it’d be fair to expect the low-down torque to conceal the extra 90kg it weighs (over the Coupé) better than before, although the circa £9k premium it commands still stings a bit, and handling has always been the bigger bone of contention with the Targa, rather than its performance.
Regardless, the appeal of the Targa is writ large in its retro-fantastic looks, and you’d have to be pretty lifeless to not enjoy a 911 with the roof off. This being our first go in the new 911 Targa 4S in the UK, it’s the perfect opportunity to find out if it’s upped its game.
What's it like?
It’s unlikely that anybody would be disappointed. To say that this doesn’t handle quite as well as the Coupé, or even to a lesser extent, the Cabriolet, is a bit like saying that Michaelangelo’s David isn’t quite as impressive as his job on the Sistine Chapel, but it’s true nonetheless.
Get the weight on the nose, and the Targa 4S turns in with fluid precision before hunkering down and booting you out of the corner with prodigious grip levels. For all the much-debated foibles of the electrically-assisted steering, its weighting and fair sense of connection still leaves you in no doubt as to what’s going on between tyre and Tarmac. Despite not having the optionally available rear-wheel steer or active anti-roll bars, the Targa feels keyed in and worthy of the 911 badge.
For all that – and in part because of the lack of those extras – it does feel more inclined to understeer and a touch sloppier through corners, falling short of the incisive precision of the Coupé.
The ride is well judged, though. That extra weight hasn’t corrupted it, and while it’s still a firmly sprung car that delivers the inevitable short-travel bobbing and bucking over scruffy surfaces inherent in that, its damping takes the sting out of all but the worst ruts and leaves you generally unflustered.
Performance remains of a senior supercar level, too. The official 0-62mph time of 4.0sec (when fitted with Sport Chrono and switchable modes) is 0.2sec behind the hard-top C4S, but predictably the 3.0-litre turbo’d engine still has the low-down urgency and long-revving potential that makes the performance so accessible and fun, if - we'll say it again - not quite as good as the naturally aspirated engine it replaces. The seven-speed PDK gearbox fitted to our car is also as rapid-fire precise as ever.
The interior of the Targa is the same as that in other 911s, meaning you get an immaculate finish, mostly logical switchgear layout, the new 7.0in colour touchscreen and two cripplingly uncomfortable seats in the back for people that are better reserved for bags.