The softened compromise imposed by the 911 Targa is no longer anything like as pronounced as it used to be in the days before Sport Chrono Plus packages and PASM adaptive dampers brought such versatility to the modern Porsche driving experience.

With the variable systems of our test car set to Sport Plus mode, it had resolute body control and excellent outright grip levels during our limit handling tests.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The extra body roll makes the Targa more of a handful in the wet. Its 4WD system never quite works quickly enough to prevent a big slide

Only in the minutiae of the car’s on-road behaviour can you really tell a Targa from a Carrera now. If you’re a 911 traditionalist, there’s actually a good chance that you’ll prefer what you find in the Targa, whose roll axis feels higher and more rearwards sloping than that of the standard car.

The Targa wants to roll a little farther than a Carrera as you commit it to a bend, to squat slightly harder on its driving rear wheels mid-bend and generally to exhibit the traditional handling characteristics of a 911 more vividly.

Because there’s more compliance and roll in the chassis in normal PASM mode, there’s also a shade less precision to the initial steering response and marginally less outright lateral grip than in a Carrera 4S. But a Targa still steers more accurately and talkatively than most of its rivals and it grips just as hard.

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The difference is that, when you extend it on the road, the Targa feels more like an old-school 911 than the Carrera: it wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s more alive to a lifted accelerator pedal or a trailing dab of the brakes in a fast corner; more rewarding and interactive to drive in certain circumstances, even.

Added to which come the benefits of that softer chassis for rolling refinement. No 911 is ever likely to be a refined car in the strictest terms. The Targa’s wide rear tyres create plenty of road roar, and the cloth roof doesn’t entirely keep out wind rustle.

But the added long-wave absorbency of the chassis tune is welcome over British roads, at times when comfort matters more than perfect handling precision.

Set to one side any sort of prejudice that might put you off a 911 Targa, if for no other reason than this: when push comes to shove, it’s as quick around a track as a 911 should be — and that means a good deal quicker than anything else in the ballpark.

The lap time of the Targa 4S on the dry handling circuit proves beyond doubt that this car is to be taken seriously. We’re confident that a like-for-like Carrera 4S would have been a shade quicker, but a Mercedes-Benz SL500, BMW 650i convertible and a Jaguar F-type V8 S are all markedly slower — and by full seconds, not tenths.

The Targa grips, goes and stops hard up to a high threshold, and when it does begin to run out of adhesion, it does so as you expect: from the front end under power and from the rear under brakes. It gives you some power-on understeer to contend with — but brake right up to the apex, settle the front end and drive in time-honoured Porsche style, and it’s poised and adjustable.

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