The latest Porsche 911 is available in Targa form with new generation 3.0-litre bi-turbo power and one of the most incredible roof mechanisms we've yet seen. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The Porsche 911 Targa features all-wheel drive, a choice of two power outputs and one of the most fiendishly clever open roof mechanisms yet seen on a production car. Where the Targa was once the ugly duckling of the 911 range, it's now arguably the prettiest car Porsche makes.
The very first 911 Targa was first unveiled in September 1965 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, so it's fair to say that with around half a century of form behind it, the Targa has established its bona fides. The name 'Targa' was borrowed from the famous Targa Florio race and that first car featured a fixed roll-over bar, removable folding roof and hinged rear window. It evolved over the years, via a pop-out hard top roof panel with fixed rear glass window to a full length sliding glass roof, but the theme was much the same, namely one of 'semi-open' motoring. The Stuttgart brand has revived the Targa bodystyle for the modern era and the current 3.0-litre bi-turbo version is the most complex and interesting version to date.
The 911 Targa is based on the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 chassis and is available in two specific guises, both powered by the brand's latest bi-turbo 3.0-litre engine. This powerplant offers more power than 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S buyers have been used to before. In the former model, the new motor develops 370PS, while in the latter this increases to 420PS. In both cases this in an increase of 20PS over the old engine, with torque increased by 60Nm. Crucially, peak pulling power is now developed from just 1,700rpm, which should make it much easier to tap into the performance. The 0-62mph sprint now takes 4.1 seconds for the Targa 4 and just 3.8 seconds for the 4S (using the PDK auto gearbox), with top speeds at 178 and 189mph. Those are figures a full fat 911 Turbo model would have been proud of in the not too distant past. Those worried about losing the 911's distinctive noise at high revs are promised a lofty (for a turbo motor) 7,500rpm redline and the 'typical sonorous Porsche flat-six engine sound'. An optional four wheel steering system is available on the Targa 4S for the first time. As for the 4WD stuff, well in normal driving, 100% of torque goes to the rear wheels. It's only when you overwhelm the rear boots that the front wheels are tasked with traction duties. The system reacts within 100 milliseconds, with an indicator on the dashboard showing where the power is being directed at any given time. If you've spent any time in recent 911 models, you'll know that ride quality is excellent these days, although one option we would certainly tick is the sports exhaust which lends the 911 the sporting personality it so richly deserves.
Design and Build
The 911 Targa's roof mechanism takes the concept of a folding top to the next level. Yes, we've all seen cars which can flip up their bootlids and fold the roof in and a very neat trick it is to. This Porsche one-ups them quite comprehensively. The roof is made up of two movable parts: a soft top and a glass rear window. The rear window, which is attached to the convertible top compartment lid, is opened and tilted at the push of a button. At the same time, two flaps open in the Targa bar, releasing the soft top. The convertible top is released and stowed away behind the rear seats. Once the top has been stowed, the flaps in the bar close and the rear window moves back in to position once again. The roof takes around 19 seconds to open or close using the buttons in the centre console - and can be operated only while the vehicle is stationary. The rollover hoop stays in position and you stop and wonder how that just happened. There's a wind deflector integrated that can be erected manually when the top is down in order to reduce buffeting at speed. Keeping that voluptuous piece of glass at the back helps the 911 Targa's good looks and all-round visibility. It does look a big car though, and the tape measure doesn't lie. In fact, this latest 911 is both longer and wider than a first generation Range Rover.
Market and Model
The asking price for the Targa 4 starts at just over £86,000 with the 4S tacking on just over £10,000 more. Specify the PDK twin-clutch gearbox and that'll be another £2,400. So, as you can see, it's fairly easy to end up with a 911 Targa that costs over £100,000. Metallic paint, a stereo upgrade, Sport Chrono and so on aren't cheap. But what do you compare this car with? That's a key concern if you're trying to assess the value proposition. An Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster is priced at £95,000, while a Maserati GranCabrio starts at £98,000, so both are in the same ballpark as the Targa 4S. The Audi R8 Spyder opens at £102,000 while a 435PS Mercedes SL 500 AMG Sport looks good value at £80,000. The 911 feels a different car to each of these and, surprisingly, it's the Mercedes SL that most accurately replicates its blend of talents, especially in racier SL 63 AMG guise. Standard equipment on all models comprises leather interior, sports seats, automatic climate control, bi-xenon headlights, 7-inch colour touch-screen Porsche Communication Management with satellite navigation, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity and Porsche Stability Management (PSM). Opt for the Targa 4S and you'll get 20-inch alloy wheels and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Sensors that prevent the roof opening into a wall or car close behind would also fitted as standard, although there's nothing stopping someone pulling up very close behind a Targa just as it starts raining!
Cost of Ownership
Thanks to the more efficient turbocharged engines, running costs are now a little more affordable, despite the significant uplift in performance. Just as the best acceleration figures require Porsche's PDK auto gearbox, the headline economy and emissions figures need it too. So the Targa 4S with PDK transmission manages 35mpg on the combined cycle, a useful increase on he 30.7mpg figure this variant previously recorded when fitted with the old engine. Even with petrol prices better than they were, that's a significant saving. If the money doesn't interest you, then at least you'll be visiting fewer petrol stations over your ownership period. It should be noted that the difference should you wish to change your own gears is significant. The warranty is a standard three year affair although does include three years of roadside assistance as well. Should you want further peace of mind, extended packages are available.
The Porsche 911 Targa has long divided opinion but this latest model looks set to get more potential customers onside. It's good looking and extremely clever in its execution and with the maturing of the 911 model, the Targa looks a better fit than ever in the range. I'm not hinting that it's gone soft, merely that it's more rounded in its dynamics these days. You could conceivably buy a 911 now as a GT car, something that wasn't always the case, yet it can still lift its skirts when required. Of course, there will be some who see the Targa as an overly complex solution to folding a fabric roof and they may well have a point. It looks and works brilliantly now, but after five or ten British winters? That's the acid test for many open-topped cars and one that Porsche have spent millions trying to get right. You can't fault them for ingenuity though.