What Car? says...
What is a Porsche 911 Targa exactly? Well, back in the 1960s there were worries that the US would ban full convertibles on the perfectly reasonable grounds that if you rolled one, it might very well knock your block off.
So in 1966, designers came up with a clever solution for the Porsche 911 sports car. Instead of the whole roof folding away, the Targa had removable roof panels above its front seats that kept you blissfully aerated on a summer’s day, but behind you the rear window and roll-hoop stayed in place to protect you. Genius.
Fast forward nearly sixty years and convertibles never were banned, they just grew a lot safer, and this means the full-blown Porsche 911 Cabriolet is there for wind-in-the hair motoring if you want it. Yet, seemingly anomalously, the 911 Targa still exists, too, for reasons that mainly boil down to style; folk just love its classic looks. But, arguably its roof – now electrically operated – offers better insulation in the depths of winter than the Cabriolet’s.
Could the 911 Targa actually be a better convertible than a 911 Cabriolet? And can it trump rivals that include the Audi R8 Spyder, Jaguar F-Type Convertible or Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster? Find out in our in-depth review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Firstly, let’s examine the pub-talk platitude that the 911 Targa isn’t as good to drive as the 911 Coupé. In absolute terms, it isn’t, but everything is relative. The Targa’s body and all the gubbins that make up its clever folding roof make it around 110kg heavier than the hardtop Porsche 911 and 40kg heavier than the Cabriolet. And that’s before you factor in that the Targa is sold in four-wheel-drive guise only (badged Carrera 4), which adds even more weight relative to two-wheel drive versions (badged Carrera) of the Coupé and Cabriolet.
Simple physics dictates that this extra weight will make the Targa accelerate, stop and turn less keenly than the Coupé. And, without a permanent roof to hold things together, its chassis is also less stiff than the Coupé’s and that affects the suspension’s settings, which in turn, affects how the car handles.
So, the differences are real, but they’re comparatively minor in the real world. In terms of handling ability the Targa is the most compromised of the 911s, but that’s like saying a Lockheed Martin F-35 is less nimble than an F22 Raptor – they’re still both incredibly nimble fighter jets.
With its sweetly weighted steering you can guide it intuitively through S-bends, and its superb body control (especially with the standard Porsche Active Suspension Management adaptive dampers set to the firmer sport mode) allows you to push right up to the limit of adhesion with utter confidence – something that can’t be said about the Jaguar F-Type Convertible or Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster. And despite having a higher centre of gravity than the standard 911 due to that complex roof mechanism, the optional active anti-roll bars (called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport) fitted to our test car kept body roll to minimum. Put simply, this is a car that is incredibly rapid from A to B, and while the Targa’s standard four-wheel-drive might reign back some of the tail-wagging playfulness that runs through the veins of rear-drive 911s, it does make it particularly surefooted, even on greasy roads.
As we mentioned earlier, the Targa only comes in four-wheel-drive guise – a little ironic for a car conceived with fair weather in mind – and you have the choice of 380bhp Targa 4 or 444bhp Targa 4S engines. Both are available with a seven-speed manual gearbox (which we have yet to try) or an eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic; with the latter fitted the 4S can hit 62mph in a frankly ludicrously rapid 3.6 seconds, and the ‘entry-level’ car takes just 4.2sec when so-equipped.
With 391lb ft of torque sustained from relatively low down at 2,300rpm all the way through to 5,000rpm, not only is the mid-range punch of the 4S is mighty impressive, but unlike so many modern turbocharged engines that quickly run out of puff, this twin-turbocharged flat-six feels utterly relentless all the way to its relatively heady 7500rpm redline. You really appreciate the PDK gearbox’s speed and smoothness, too; it ensures that the car never feels unbalanced even if you happen to change gear mid corner. It really is in another league from traditional automatic ‘boxes such as the one found in the F-Type, even if the sheer number of gears (eight) means you sometimes have to pull the downshift paddle several times when braking into corners or overtaking in manual mode. We look forward to sampling a Targa with a manual ‘box, but we suspect the automatic will fulfil the needs of most buyers.
The Targa’s ride is also supremely well judged. Our test car went without the commonly specced optional ‘sport chassis’, which drops the ride height by a further 10mm, and this setup strikes an impressive balance between pliancy and body control. With PASM set to Normal, it’s supple enough to round off sharp abrasions such as potholes and depressed drain covers, while also remaining remarkably flat and stable when confronted by a series of challenging crests and dips.
In terms of refinement, with its roof up, the Targa does an even better job than the Cabriolet at suppressing wind noise at speed. More noticeable is the considerable road noise drummed up by the Targa’s meaty tyres, particularly over coarse road surfaces – an affliction that also affects both the Coupé and Cabriolet. Meanwhile with the roof down, it can get a little noisy at motorway speeds, but thanks to the clever wind deflector mounted on the top of the windscreen there’s not much buffeting.
The interior layout, fit and finish
There’s little wrong with the 911’s basic driving position, apart from that lumbar adjustment is only offered as part of the expensive option of 14-way electrically adjustable seats. Otherwise, the range of movement to the seats (which includes powered seat height and recline as standard) and steering wheel is plentiful and allows you to get nicely hunkered down behind the steering wheel, while the supportive seats and perfectly placed pedals ensure you remain comfortable on long trips.
Indeed, our only real complaint is that while the speedo and rev counter are directly in your line of sight and are easy to read at a glance, some other instruments, including the fuel gauge, are obscured by the steering wheel. This is in direct contrast to the rest of the interior, which looks and feels very well thought out.
It’s also well built, as you’d expect for the money. All of the buttons and switches on the dashboard are well damped, sturdy and classy to look at, while most of your other frequent contact points are made from metal or covered in leather. If you want, you can make it even swankier with a multitude of personalisation options, but these are rather expensive.
Talking of price, Porsche has acquired a reputation for being stingy with the amount of kit it fits to its cars, but the 911 Targa comes with all of the infotainment essentials, all of which are controlled through a pin-sharp 10.9in touchscreen. It's quick to respond to inputs and is placed within easy reach of both the driver and front passenger. True, being a touchscreen means it can still be a little distracting to use on the move, but it’s one of the best systems of its kind. The system is well equipped, too, with a DAB digital radio, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring and sat-nav built in. The eight-speaker stereo is decent, but audiophiles might want to consider the optional Bose or Burmester sound systems – the latter being particularly impressive.
In terms of visibility, the Targa is much easier to live with than the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Both cars have excellent forward visibility thanks to their slim windscreen pillars, but the Cabriolet suffers because its fabric roof creates big over-the-shoulder blindspots that aren’t present on the Porsche 911 Coupé. What’s more, even when it’s stowed, the structure behind the rear seats is high enough to limit what you can see. This simply isn’t a problem in the Targa. Roof up or down, the Targa benefits from a wraparound rear window with no C-pillar, giving you an almost panoramic view of what’s behind you.
That said, we do like that you can raise and lower the roof of the Cabrio at speeds of up to 31mph – handy in the UK when a bright summer’s day can suddenly be interrupted by a downpour. The Targa’s more complex mechanism, meanwhile, can only be operated at a standstill and takes a lengthier 19 seconds.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Being that it’s a sports car, you might not expect the Targa to be roomy, but there’s a surprising amount of space in the front. It’s certainly more capacious than the Jaguar F-Type Convertible and you’d have to be unusually tall to run out of leg or head room. Even the large centre console has padding on its sides to keep your left knee comfortable on a long journey.
In the rear it’s a different matter. Those two back seats are small; an adult would do well to squeeze in even for a short trip. They’re really for small children at best; in fact both seats have Isofix fittings so you can fit a child seat on either side of the wide transmission hump.
This all said, the fact that there are back seats at all can be considered a bonus, as all the 911 Targa’s main rivals are strict two seaters. And, when the seats aren’t in use, they act as a handy supplement to the boot and allowing you to carry bulkier items such as a set of golf clubs. The front-mounted boot itself is relatively small but still not bad for the class; there’s space for a couple of weekend bags.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Both the Targa 4 and 4S undercut more exclusive rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Audi R8 Spyder and Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster by quite a wide margin, but they do look quite expensive when compared with the Jaguar F-Type.
With a long options list, it’s easy to add thousands of pounds to the price, too, and discounts are non-existent. However, this fact – along with how tightly Porsche controls the number of cars it builds – helps to ensure that resale values are very strong. In fact, the Targa is predicted to hold onto its value better than all of those aforementioned rivals.
Fuel consumption might pleasantly surprise you, too; achieving over 30mpg isn’t too tricky with a light right foot. Just remember, however, that you can see that drop to the low teens if you’re having fun.
Surprisingly, given its reputation, Porsche finished in a disappointing 21st place out of 31 manufacturers in our most recent reliability survey. It’s not all bad news though, because every Porsche 911 come with a comprehensive three-year, unlimited-mile warranty, including breakdown assistance.
In terms of value, the entry-level 4 will is the pick of the bunch. Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, cruise control, heated seats and keyless entry. Several desirable items are reserved for the options list, though, including rain-sensing wipers and keyless start.
In terms of safety, you get six airbags and a sophisticated stability control system, while all three passenger seats feature Isofix child seat mounting points. It’s just a pity you have to pay extra for blindspot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.
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|RRP price range||£109,275 - £193,260|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.3 - 27.4|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,918 / £14,104|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£15,836 / £28,209|