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Porsche 911 Targa First Drive

By raccars Published

Porsche has filled the gap between its 911 coupe and Cabriolet with the new 911 Targa ‘semi-cabrio’. Sporting a look inspired by the 1960s original but brought bang up to date, it’s a welcome new addition to the 911 range.

  • Price: £86,281 (Targa 4), £96,316 (Targa 4S)
  • Gearbox: Seven speed manual/seven-speed PDK
  • 0-62mph: 4.2-5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 175-183mph
  • Fuel economy: 28.2-32.4mpg
  • CO2: 204-237g/km
  • On sale: May 2014
  • Insurance group: TBC

Three UK Porsche 911 Targa facts

  1. Prices start at £86,281; that’s over £7,300 more than the equivalent 911 coupe
  2. The 911 Targa will be sold in two trims, 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S
  3. Porsche expects the majority of UK Targa sales to be of the Targa 4, equipped with the PDK gearbox

What is it?

Back in the 1960s, Porsche invented the 911 Targa concept. Worried by concerns that America would ban open-top cabriolets, it created the ‘safety cabriolet’: it had a removable roof section and a large fold-down plastic rear hood – but with rollover protection provided by the big sturdy polished metal ‘Targa bar’.

Porsche followed this look for decades but in the 1990s it switched to an all-glass metal roof instead. Modern, but not that distinctive anymore. So with the new 2014 911 Targa, Porsche has gone back to the past – with a twist.

This time, instead of a manual lift-out roof section, Porsche has designed a fully automatic folding soft top which is stowed behind the rear seats when lowered. How does it get there? Through the rear glass hinging upwards and rearwards, leaving space for the roof to drop into. Brilliantly clever, it took Porsche years to perfect the design and is a real spectacle to watch

Mechanically, the rest of it is pure 911. It is four-wheel drive and powered either by a 350hp 3.4-litre engine in the Targa 4 or 400hp 3.8-litre motor in the Targa 4S. Either seven-speed manual or seven-speed PDK gearboxes are offered, and Porsche says the Targa 4S with PDK will sell best, despite a list price that even in basic form nudges £100,000.

Styling and interior

The Porsche 911 Targa is a distinctive-looking car. There’s no missing the shiny metal central Targa bar and the huge wraparound glass screen is impressive. It’s a standout alternative to a 911 coupe and easier on the eye than the 911 Cabriolet – those seeking a 911 offering something a bit different will love it.

The lower half of the body is pure 911 Cabriolet, but is given a muscular look courtesy of Porsche’s wider rear wheelarches. Both regular Targa 4 and Targa 4S get them, and they blend well with the wide-body impression given by the rear screen.

Inside, the dashboard is pure 911 again. Nothing wrong with that as it’s a smart and upmarket interior, constructed from very high-grade materials. You feel you’re getting what you’re paying for here.

The big Targa bar means it feels a bit more closed in up front (and it makes pulling out of junctions tricky) but the rear screen floods the rear with light and creates a pleasingly different feel inside. Kids using the small rear seats may like it too – if they don’t mind not being able to see past the B-pillar, that is…

There’s a genius touch with the new 911 Targa: the rear screen can be hinged up separately to the roof, which creates a space for small bags to be dropped into. Despite its clever new roof, the 911 remains a car with two boots.

Performance

The Porsche 911 Targa is a bit heavier than a regular Cabriolet, which is itself a little heavier than the coupe. Despite generally still being a very fast car, you do feel this a little in the basic Targa 4: it needs revs to get shifting out of tight corners and is only supercar-sharp if you have more than 4,000 revs showing.

The Targa 4S is much better. The bigger, more powerful engine has the grunt to move the 911 along with more force, even if you’re lazy with the gearbox, and the sheer pace it has at high revs is very impressive. It can reach 62mph from rest in as little as 4.2 seconds: be in no doubt, this is a proper supercar.

We also preferred the deeper, meatier noise of the Targa 4S, which felt more in keeping with the 911 spirit.

While an intriguing seven-speed manual gearbox is standard, we’d advise going for the optional PDK seven-speed paddleshift gearbox. It changes gear brilliantly quickly and is a technological masterpiece. No driver could change gear as fast with a manual: trust us, it’s the gearbox that will give you most pleasure.

Handling

The Porsche 911 is a purist’s dream sportscar and this remains the case even in open-roof Targa guise. The extra weight and a loss in overall structural rigidity over the coupe means it’s not quite as sharp as the driver’s choice 911, but by most standards it’s still very good.

The steering gives good feedback, it turns into corners with alacrity and the general poise is beyond reproach. We also liked how the four-wheel drive system gave you a tweak of rear-out shove as you powered out of corners again – very satisfying.

You can feel the effect of losing the roof section in a little more shimmer through the structure. This isn't the traditional scuttle shake, where the entire car seems to shudder and vibrate: there’s too much inbuilt integrity and strength for that. But you do notice it in the odd slight wobble and, more obviously, some trim noise from the rear as you go over bumps.

Ride quality itself is, for a sports car, excellent though, particularly with the PASM adaptive suspension. This is standard on the Targa 4S and a highly recommended option for the Targa 4: it soaked up even the alarmingly poor Italian roads of the car’s launch without fuss, giving the car a real feeling of sporting sophistication.

Price and value

No two ways about it, the Porsche 911 Targa is a very expensive car. It starts at over £86,000 and the Targa 4S costs more than £96,000. Add on PDK, PASM suspension and a few more options and you’re over £100,000 already. You can expect nearly every 911 Targa sold in the UK to be a six-figure car.

But is it good value? Well, it’s an excellent car and there’s nothing else quite like it. Porsches are among the most usable sports cars on the road. It is, as we’ll see, very fuel efficient. It’s a hard one to call but the very high standards of the car throughout probably justify it – particularly as strong residuals mean you get plenty of it back when you sell.

Fuel economy

The efficiency of the Porsche 911 Targa is amazing. In its most efficient guise, it can average over 32mpg, which for a supercar that accelerates to 62mph in just over five seconds is remarkable. Low CO2 emissions are a welcome by-product too: the best puts out just 204g/km.

The PDK gearbox even has a clever feature that helps you save fuel in action – where possible, when you’re cruising, it cuts the revs down to tickover speed, instantly rising again when you need more drive. Tricks like this mean the PDK is almost 3mpg more economical than the manual. More reason to choose it.

Verdict: Porsche 911 Targa

The latest Porsche 911 Targa is a welcome return to a look that served Porsche really well for decades. Modern technology means it’s very easy to use, and we’re sure it may well tempt some 911 coupe buyers who quite fancy a convertible but don’t like the thought of a 911 Cabriolet.

It’s not cheap, but it’s different enough to appeal. In a marketplace full of able open-top roadsters, Porsche has given us something intriguingly appealing and, when it arrives here in May, we will watch its performance in the UK with interest.

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