2014 Porsche 911 Targa review
* Open-top with innovative folding roof driven in the UK * Four-wheel drive, with 3.4- or 3.8-litre engine * On sale now, priced from £86,281...
The Porsche 911 Targa is the open-air 911 for people who don't want the fully fledged Cabriolet.
This new edition retains the original Targa's characteristic silver B-pillar just behind the seats – but while older versions required you to remove the central roof panel manually, the latest generation can complete the entire operation with electric motors.
It's a particularly complex movement that requires the entire rear window section to lift up before the fabric roof can be stowed behind the rear seats. The whole process takes 19 seconds but the car has to be stationary – the full-on cabriolet 911 takes 13 seconds and can be doing up to 31mph.
The Targa is available in four-wheel-drive Targa 4 and Targa 4S form, so it gets the wider body that comes on all four-wheel-drive 911s. The standard transmission on both models is a seven-speed manual, although a seven-speed PDK auto is available as an option.
What's the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa like to drive?
Most 911s are sold with the optional PDK auto gearbox, and we tried that transmission in both the smaller-engined Targa 4 model and the more powerful 4S version.
The Targa 4 has the 911's 3.4-litre naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine, producing 345bhp and 288lb ft; that's enough to take the car from 0-62mph in 5.2sec, or 4.8sec if you choose the PDK gearbox and the optional Sports Chrono performance pack.
The vast majority of the key 911 characteristics are present and correct. The steering is direct, sharp and precise (although undeniably less communicative than in previous generations of the car), the gearbox has ultra-quick shifts and is beautifully smooth in automatic mode, and the car's astonishing grip means that you'd need to be doing crazy speeds to get it properly out of shape.
However, the Targa models are around 110kg heavier than the comparable conventional 911s, and that's enough to make a difference to the way the 'lesser' edition drives. The 3.4 is our pick in regular 911s but in the Targa, you will be aware that you're driving a heavier car; it's not exactly slow, but you'll notice that you're well beyond 4000rpm before the motor really starts to pull like a genuine sports car's.
For many Targa owners, this will be perfectly acceptable, but there's no doubt that the Targa 4 does feel like it's leaning even more towards being a relaxing, swift GT. It is also worth noting that the 4S is 90kgs heavier than a Carrera S Cabriolet – and the rear-drive car is quicker from 0-62mph.
The ride quality and roof refinement help with that, too. Our Targa 4 S was fitted with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, which allows you to vary the stiffness of the dampers at the touch of a button. With this system, the Targa deals fairly well with pock-marked roads, even at low speeds around town. PASM is standard on the Targa 4S.
High frequency bumps will catch it out though – and the rear axle works busily away with a noticeable thump when you drive over pot holes or motorway expansion joints. These sudden jolts also send a shudder through the steering wheel, and you can feel the extra flex in the chassis over the Coupe.
On the plus side, the roof is impressively well insulated from wind noise at speed - and even when you tuck the fabric behind the rear seats, it's possible to have a conversation at around 50mph before you have to start shouting at each other. There is very little buffeting either – even at motorway speeds.
The Targa 4S gets a 3.8-litre engine with 394bhp and 325lb ft, enough for a 0-62mph time of 4.8sec - or 4.4sec with PDK and Sport Chrono. There's a fair chunk more low-end punch from the engine too, and that's enough to make the 4S feel like a proper sports car, despite the extra ballast on board.
There's no need for the optional sports exhaust, either, because the Targa's configuration allows you to hear the motor roaring behind you without additional assistance. Still, on a car that nudges close to the £100,000 mark, the added aural drama of the louder optional pipes is very welcome.
What's the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa like inside?
The Targa's cabin feels very similar to a regular 911's, but that's no bad thing, because it means plenty of high-quality materials in the right areas and an excellent driver-focused layout with good visibilty. It's just a shame that the standard touch-screen sat-nav is a little fiddly to use on the move.
The sports seats are extremely supportive and there's plenty of adjustment for both the driver's seat and the steering wheel, so you should be able to find a comfortable position.
It's not quite so accomplished in the rear; true, the fact that there are rear seats at all in a car like this is a plus, but they're so small they're only for small children or grown-ups in an emergency.
The boot space is divided into two areas; there's 125 litres of capacity under the bonnet, and a further 160 litres available behind the rear seats. That's still enough for a couple of decent overnight bags, but a week's luggage may prove a challenge.
Standard kit on all models includes leather sports seats, climate control, xenon headlights, a seven-inch touch-screen sat-nav system and a DAB radio. The Targa 4S adds bigger alloy wheels, the PASM suspension system and Porsche's Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a limited-slip differential.
Should I buy one?
The Targa is an interesting proposition. In fact, it has the all-round accomplishment to be one of the more appealing options in an already attractive line-up, with decent refinement, a trick roof mechanism and a driving experience that's not too far behind the 911 Coupe's.
Bear in mind, though, that in the 3.4-litre form at least you're buying perhaps one of the heaviest and therefore least sporting, of this generation of 911s. The cabriolet is cheaper, faster in rear-drive form and the roof is easier to use on the go, with the only trade-off being a slight loss of roof-up refinement.
On this evidence, if you want the one that still feels like a sports car as well as a GT, then you'll need to stick with the regular coupe or fork out the extra for the excellent Targa 4S. However, the Carrera S cabriolet remains our pick of the open-air 911s.
What Car? says...
Engine size 3.4-litre petrol
Price from £86,281
Torque 288lb ft
0-62mph 5.2 seconds
Top speed 175mph
Fuel economy 29.7mpg
CO2 output 223g/km
Engine size 3.8-litre petrol
Price from £96,316
Torque 325lb ft
0-62mph 4.8 seconds
Top speed 184mph
Fuel economy 28.2mpg
CO2 output 237g/km