REVIEW DATE: 22 Aug 2008
The third bodystyle option for Porsche 911 buyers is the Targa. Steve Walker reports.
The Targa, with its retractable glass roof, is always likely to be the slowest seller of the three Porsche 911 bodystyles but that's not to say there's no place for it in the range. Available solely with the four-wheel-drive transmission system, it offers a desirable compromise between the Coupe and the Convertible.
Coupe or convertible, convertible or coupe; the Porsche 911 has long presented buyers with this interminable dilemma. The coupe represents this legendary sports car in its classic form: the convertible is the choice for the discerning poseur. So which do you choose? For some, the answer will be neither because Porsche, in its wisdom, offers a third way in the shape of the glass-roofed 911 Targa.
The 911 Targa made its debut at the 1965 Frankfurt Motor Show and Ferry Porsche branded it an "entirely new kind of car". He may have been a little over optimistic but the Targa was an entirely new kind of 911, one that history has seen carve out a small but significant niche for itself in the hierarchy of Porsche's greatest model line. A glass-roofed Porsche will not be top of everyone's shopping list but offered exclusively in all-wheel-drive form, it's an unorthodox and interesting choice that holds definite appeal.
The Targa 4 and Targa 4S models have been moved closer in technological terms to the all-conquering 911 Turbo, a move which should boost their profile. Prior to the arrival of the latest 911, the Targa 4 derivatives featured an all-wheel-drive system that distributed its power via a viscose multi-plate clutch. Today's models get the more advanced PTM Porsche Traction Management system that was developed for and previously only available on the 911 Turbo. The system, which has been modified for use in the Targa 4 models, uses an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch and features a mechanical limited-slip differential on the rear axle. It's designed to feed optimum amounts of engine torque to each wheel in any situation enhancing traction and stability in the process. With the Targa 4 using a 3.6-litre 345bhp flat-six and Targa 4S powered by a 385bhp version of the same engine, there's no shortage of power for the PTM to dole out.
"The 911 Targa is quick and its roof doesn't hang around either.."
The engine still sits way out at the back of the 911 and nowadays it's a DFI unit featuring Porsche's Direct Fuel Injection system. This utilises a sophisticated engine management computer and high pressure injectors to fire a fuel and air mixture directly into the combustion chamber. This mixture is constantly adjusted according to the demands being placed on the engine at the time. The results are said to include a more efficient combustion cycle, superior engine response and more power. The other major technological innovation on the latest 911 is the PDK gearbox. This is a conventional seven-speed manual transmission automated by a hydraulic control mechanism. It's reassuringly high tech and operates with unerring speed.
The 911 Targa is quick and its roof doesn't hang around either. Seven seconds is all it takes for the top section to slide completely underneath the top hinged tailgate section, creating a wide opening above the heads of the car's occupants. The whole glass canopy is over 1.5 square meters and it lets a whole lot of light into the cabin. When in its open mode, it creates an aperture of 0.45 square meters and there's an electronically-controlled sun blind that can be deployed to give shade whether the roof is open or closed. The glass in the Targa's roof is heat reflective and also provides protection from UV radiation, even in bright sunshine. The roof gives the Targa a distinctive look, especially from the rear, and retains the rigidity that's lost when the Coupe's fixed roof is replaced by the convertible's soft top.
Inside, the 911 Targa is as classy as its exterior lines would suggest. Expensively slush-moulded fascia materials made a welcome change to the hard plastics seen in the 996 and it's possible to specify leather trim. The front seats are large comfortable items that still sit the driver low to the ground but there's a choice of four different seat options depending on how racy you want to feel. The PCM Porsche Communication Management system dominates the facia with its 6.5" colour screen display. It bundles satellite navigation with the various setting menus together with the audio system and even an optional TV tuner.
The Targa models (costing from £72,980) split the equivalent Coupe and Convertible on price, positioned around £5,500 above the Coupe and a couple of grand below the Convertible. It makes sense really, given the halfway house roof arrangement. The options list is bulging with desirable extras and it's perfectly possible to stoke up the asking price for your car to something way in excess of the list values. The Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system is standard on all 911s. These days it also includes the Brake Assist and Brake Pre-Filling functions that were once offered only on higher spec models. The Porsche Vehicle Tracking System is also standard and approved to Thatcham Category 5.
4x4 vehicles can get something of a raw deal in terms of their public perception on environmental issues but the 911 Targa 4 is no off-roader. Indeed, Porsche have taken steps to improve fuel economy across the 911 range with the greater efficiency of the latest DFI engines producing significant benefits. In addition, the PDK gearbox has no impact on fuel economy and cars equipped with it share the same figures as the standard manual models. The economy figures are in the region of 28mpg from the Targa 4 with the PDK and around 26mpg from the Targa 4S also with the PDK installed. This is very respectable for cars sporting this kind of firepower.
The glass-roofed Targa models might not be the most obvious choice in the Porsche 911 range but offer the core qualities of the more mainstream 911s with a little bit of added individuality. The retractable glass roof looks well engineered and gives a very different feel to the 911's interior while the drive train and styling modifications made to all the latest 911s should be more than enough to prolong the Porsche's stay at the top.
The PTM 4x4 system, DFI direct injection engine technology and the optional PDK double clutch gearbox make the latest 911 a technological tour de force that is a match for any rival. Combined with the automotive institution that is the 911 brand, it all makes a compelling argument in favour of 911 ownership.
|For 911 TARGA|
|OVERALL||7.6 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|