Test Drives

Porsche 911 Targa review: Art Deco





In a nutshell, the Targa was conceived to address the concerns of the USA market, which felt more comforted by its convincing looking roll-over protection (in the form of the T-bar) versus let’s say, the conventional cabriolet’s apparent lack-of. Moreover, the Targa solution was intended to provide occupants with the structural security of a Coupe, with the open-top motoring joy of a Cabriolet, especially for those considering a C4 or C4S Cabriolet.

The type 964 was the last of the 911s to feature the characteristic wraparound rear window, wide T-bar in place of the B-pillars and soft-top roof panel, which is electronically-actuated in this latest version. However, even by the time of the type 964, the brushed aluminium T-bar and gills from the first two were already painted black.

If you’re wondering where the name ‘targa’ comes from, it’s Italian for ‘shield’, in reference (some say) to the removable metal panel that used to typify older Targa models, and like the Carrera name, it’s the name of a race, the Targa Florio, held in Italy.

From the type 993 to 997, an oversized glass panel replaced the soft-top roof, much to the consternation of Targa purists, since by the 997, one could achieve almost the same effect with the optional panoramic roof on the regular 911 Coupe. Thankfully, nostalgia seems to be in fashion again, or at least Porsche seems to think so, as the new model reverts back to the style of the first Targa iterations.

Happily, the type 991 harks back to the original in spirit if not exactly in execution. In this generation, the soft-top is no longer a manual affair, as a sophisticated mechanism lifts the rear glass up and shifts the corners of the T-bar aside for the soft-top to deploy – this work of visual engineering art can be appreciated at the touch of a button. The operation takes 19 seconds to complete, but will only work when the car is at a standstill. At the moment, only 4WD versions are available, but we’re told that it is also possible to apply the Targa treatment to a 2WD platform, but the feeling was the 44mm wide-body of the 4WD was more dramatic.

There are a few reasons for this: Firstly, at full extension, the rear glass momentarily blocks the brake lights (there’s also a parking sensor for this, so it won’t operate if the car’s rear is too close to a wall), which is not legal in certain countries. Secondly, if Porsche had to engineer more dynamic stability into the mechanism (to match the Cabriolet roof’s up-to-50km/h operating speed), it would have added an extra 20kg to the car.

The use of lightweight components in the roof system keeps the weight down. We had seen the wraparound rear glass awaiting mounting during an earlier factory tour and pondered the absence of the ubiquitous demisting strips. We’ve learnt since that the rear window is made of very lightweight laminated safety glass and consists of two layers of semi-tempered glass that sandwich very fine, almost-invisible tungsten wires, which cover virtually the entire glass area to ensure optimum visibility under all driving conditions.

On the winding B-roads around the Borgo Egnazia resort, the ride on the 20-inch footwear was well-damped and there is a good balance to the Targa 4S that belies its 1575kg kerbweight. The quality of the roads put the Targa’s suspension to the test and it shone brilliantly – in fact we’re told the bad roads is part of the reason for choosing the location. Compared to the Targa 4 that we briefly tried, the 4S has a far more furious acceleration on the short straights; with Sport Plus engaged in the 4S, the century sprint to 100km/h drops to under 4.4 seconds, with top speed rated to just under 295km/h.

Dr. Erhard Mössle, general manager of the 911 Turbo, Carrera 4 and Targa 4 product lines, mentioned to us during the welcome dinner, “It is possible to have fun in the Targa from just 80km/h; with the Turbo, you only start to have fun above 150km/h!” Having sampled the charms of the 911 Turbo S last issue, we can’t really agree, because we have time to look at the speedo in detail!

Coupled with the type 991’s modern trappings, the classical silhouette of the Targa, have all the makings of a lifestyle icon, so you’d imagine it would appeal to those looking for a little more ‘show’ with the ‘go’, especially the ones who find the wind-effects in the Cabriolet to be overbearing at higher speeds. On the winding roads, the Targa 4S demonstrated plenty of ‘go’ with an accompanying angry snarl as you got on the gas, especially in the face of the occasional ‘challenges’ from the local talent…

For instance, on most cabriolet/convertible test-drives, the roof would come down for the first half-hour, before it pops back up again for the remainder of the day. On the Targa, we left the roof down for the 280km or so distance, with some colleagues even going through a short shower spell with it down, since the speed kept the cabin mostly dry. The soft-top aperture gave us just enough of an open-top motoring experience, yet retained the structural insulation of the Coupe.

Although there is ostensibly 2+2 carrying capacity, the rear is best reserved for small children, since the T-bar effectively restricts the height of the rear occupants – although technically of course, one shouldn’t be sticking their heads above the highest point of such cars in the first place. There’s a wind-deflector strip that runs along the long edge of windscreen, which we were able to fiddle with to create a largely unbuffeted cabin.

Like all the diverse models of the Porsche we’ve had the occasion to try, the brand’s performance DNA is easily discerned in even something as ‘lifestyle’ oriented as the Targa. Considering how Porsche has evolved from creating products for the performance-minded purist to the ‘trendy’ who appreciates the brand’s greater luxury appeal, the ‘likers’ could well win this ‘Targa’ of war.

Porsche 911 Targa 4S


Engine 3,800cc, 24V, horizontally-opposed 6

Power 400bhp at 7400rpm

Torque 440Nm at 5600rpm

Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch

Top Speed 294km/h

0-100kmh 4.4 seconds

Fuel efficiency 9.2L/100km

CO2 214g/km

Price $608,588 w/o COE

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By David ‘Khoo Brid Hybrid’ Khoo

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.