While it may have happened quite some time back, I distinctly recall during the international media launch and drive of the new Porsche 911 Targa in Italy, that if ever I were to buy a 911, this would be it; and yes, that includes the almighty GT3. The question I tried desperately to answer during the two-day drive that ensued was why.
First introduced to the motoring world in 1967, the history of the 911 Targa can be traced back to almost the time when the first actual 911 exploded onto the scene in ‘63. According to reports back then, the Targa wasn’t very well received. In essence, the ‘Targa’ itself per se, serves a specific purpose. That roll-hoop which looks like someone stuck a handle to the body of a 911 convertible is actually for added safety and structural rigidity.
It was a necessity back in the day when Porsche was trying to penetrate the lucrative US market, which was introducing much stricter safety regulations, especially in terms of roll-over protection. Also, ever notice how easy it is to twist a box when its lid is off? That’s the simplest way to describe structural or torsional rigidity; a car with no roof ‘twists’ a lot easier. The Targa overcame this with the use of that iconic ‘handle’.
Birth of an Icon…
So the history of the legendary Porsche 911 spans an incredible five decades. I shall not delve into the past too much; as I’m sure many of you reading this are quite familiar with what’s possibly the most iconic, and most instantly recognizable car ever made. However, unlike other Porsche’s, say the ‘fiery’ GT3 for example (sorry, bad joke), it’s hard to not touch a bit on the history of the Targa when it comes to writing about the new one. As mentioned the Targa was first introduced in 1967, and despite misgivings about that roof, to say the Targa was a success would be an understatement; of the total 853,000 units of 911’s that have been produced in the last 50 years or so, the Targa accounts for 13 per cent of that figure. Collectively, in 2013 alone 30,200 new 911’s were snapped up globally.
The Targa: All-Wheel Drive and one wasn’t enough…
Porsche has indeed stayed true to its roots when it comes to the new 911 Targa. However, where once its roof was manually operated, this time the new Targa loses its head at the touch of a button, which neatly folds the Targa roof electronically into the area behind the rear seats, in 19 seconds. Just like its predecessor though, the new Targa comes in two variants; the Targa 4 and Targa 4S. It’s a crime to call any Porsche ‘entry-level’, especially when the former is powered by a 3.4-litre flat-six engine that produces 350bhp and attains a top-speed of 282kmh, while hitting the century mark takes a mere 4.8 seconds, but that’s what the ‘lesser’ of the two Targas is capable of.
Petrolheads however, are going to want the Targa 4S. It produces a colossal 400bhp from a 3.8-litre flat-six, does the same century dash in 4.4 seconds and powers on to a top-speed just shy of 300kmh. Interestingly though, both variants are equipped with all-wheel drive and fitted with Porsche’s signature 7-speed PDK gearboxes, mated to an intelligent all-wheel drive system governed by PTM or Porsche Traction Management.
The Shoebox Theory…
Back to what I mentioned earlier about it being easier to ‘twist’ a shoebox with its lid off, a great deal of thought has gone into the new 911 Targa in terms of structural rigidity. The chassis of the new Targa is mainly based on the 911 Carrera Cabriolet. Possessing the same wide track rear-axle as the aforementioned cabriolet, this enables the Targa to have the same high-speed stability in fast bends, or during hard acceleration. Passive shock absorbers are standard on the Targa 4, while the 4S gets PASM or Porsche Active Suspension Management as a standard fitment, which is also available as a cost option on the 4. Both chassis versions however, are specially tuned for the 911 Targa and have rebound buffer springs on the front and rear suspensions. Both variants are also PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) capable, as a cost option. It is very likely though that the versions sold here in Malaysia will come fully-equipped.
The Targa Experience…
I’ll be the first to admit, I love new cars that come with a long history and provenance, and the Porsche Targa is one such car. It was only fitting that we paid a visit to the famed Porsche Museum during the international launch and media drive of the Targa, and upon arriving at the premises, I was stunned. Till today I still don’t know if our hosts had planned this, or if it was just by fluke chance, but parked outside the museum was a mint-condition first-generation classic 911 Targa in mustard yellow. Needless to say we were all swooning over it, and momentarily forgot what we were doing there (see separate article on the amazing Porsche Museum here)
It’s almost a religious experience getting handed the keys to a 911, and getting a set for the Targa was no different; I saw angels with harps, I swear… Of course the first order of business after the requisite prepping of the GPS and briefing by the crew were done, was to lower the roof; or in this case, electronically store it. We really could not have hoped for the better day to test what’s possibly the most historic 911 ever made; the conditions were perfect; dry, sunny and cool, with zero humidity and temperatures in the teens. It was time to find out why I came to the aforementioned conclusion that if ever I bought a 911, this would be it…
Driving the 911 Targa…
Try to think of the best drive you’ve ever had, in the best car you’ve ever driven, on the most perfect stretch of asphalt imaginable, and then multiply that by a hundred to the power of infinity, and then maybe, just maybe you’d know what it’s like to be at the wheel of a 911 Targa 4S with its roof down on a day like it was in Bari, Italy. It’s really hard to put into words.
Well, point of fact, it isn’t, I just sorta did, but there’s more. You see the thing that separates the 911 Targa from all other 911’s and derivatives of it, is the history behind the name. You’re actually driving a legend that has not had that many successors since it was launched five decades ago; this is only the third iteration, and in spite of the all the latest electronic-wizardry, driver aids, passive and active safety systems, et al, that have been shoehorned into the new Targa, it’s still very much old-skool in the way it makes you ‘feel’ when driving it.
Don’t get me wrong though, this new Targa will run rings around the original even if it had two flat tyres and only three cylinders firing properly. It’s brutally quick and yet possessed of a chassis that belies the fact that it has no roof. Torsional rigidity, the bane of any convertible and something that was taken very seriously by the engineers at Porsche, is absolutely incredible. Not once, even during the hardest off-camber followed by an incline cornering, did I encounter any chassis-flex or tram-lining for that matter. The Targa remained steadfast and completely planted despite my intentions to the contrary.
A precautionary word of advice to anyone buying the Targa in future though, make sure your tyres are at optimum levels all the time because they’re likely to break traction long before the suspension and handling, complemented by an array of active-safety systems designed to keep the car on track, give up the ghost. It’s uncanny just how well this car handles. Were it not for the clear view of the cloudless sky overhead, I’d swear I was in a regular 911 Carrera 4S, because there is no discernible difference in performance handling dynamics between the two. Charging into corners, scrubbing off speed with the shifters, the tail steps out ever so subtly before the traction management catches it, turn-in, hit the apex, power-out, a bit of fish-tail on the gas before PTV takes over, rinse, repeat. The Targa just takes it all in stride with nary a hint of protest, over and over again. Honestly, you’ll run out of steam long before the Targa does. And that was just Day 1…
With the need-for-speed itch well and truly scratched, and the ‘must corner so hard till I pass out’ bug squashed, and with some modicum of sanity left – not to mention tyre tread – I decided to put the car in ‘D’ and just cruise for Day 2. Not surprisingly, the Targa does this very well too. Turn-off the ‘Sport plus’ that makes the muffler have enough bass to put a death-metal band to shame, ease-up on the fun pedal and simply cruise; the Targa likes this, and in essence, this is what it was created to do.
Yes, there’s still more than enough grunt on tap, but if you really trace the roots of this car, you’ll discover the essence of what it’s all about. The Targa will never usurp the GT3 or Carrera 4S as a ‘performance’ car, despite its delicious flat-six, and that’s perfectly fine, because it shouldn’t. You don’t race a Targa, you revel in it.
Cruising along at more ‘legal’ limits after a day of unadulterated automotive debauchery, the likes of which are definitely in my book as one of the ‘best-ever’, the Targa magically reverted to one of the finest cruisers one could ever possibly hope to drive. With that sublime flat-six just purring in the background, anyone driving this will be brought back to a more carefree time, long before the advent of the internet and social media, an era where we took our time to savor the finer things in life.
Targa in Malaysia…
I recently heard that the new 911 Targa will be making its maiden debut in Malaysia sometime this year, it’s already available in Singapore, and I have no doubt whatsoever it’s going to be a colossal hit here. In an age where it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell one 911 from another, the Targa is a breath of fresh air; instantly recognizable, defiantly unique and incredibly desirable. – Chris Wee.
Porsche 911 Targa 4
Engine Water-cooled flat-six, quad cam, 24v, vario-cam, 3436cc
Max power 350bhp @ 7400rpm
Max torque 390Nm @ 5600rpm
Transmission 7-speed PDK, AWD, PTM + Porsche Torque Vectoring
Acceleration 0-100kmh: 4.8sec
Top speed 282kmh
Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Engine Water-cooled flat-six, quad cam, 24v, vario-cam, 3800cc
Max power 400bhp @ 7400rpm
Max torque 440Nm @ 5600rpm
Transmission 7-speed PDK, AWD, PTM + Porsche Torque Vectoring
Acceleration 0-100kmh: 4.4sec
Top speed 296kmh
For the press release on the new Porsche 911 Targa, click here: 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S Press Information
Porsche 911 Targa Photo Gallery (Photos by CW & Porsche AG)