Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Targa

Raising the roof with no effort needed

It’s been 20 years since Porsche last sold a 911 Targa.

I know there have been cars in that period that have used the name, but they’ve been no more than 911s with abnormally large sunroofs. The last true Targa, where the entire roof section of the car from the windscreen to the B-pillar is removable, was the 964-generation car whose life ended in 1994.

But now the Targa is back, and because no owner would these days countenance having to physically lift out the roof section, he or she instead now just presses a button and watches the rear of the car raise up to provide a convenient home for the roof to reverse into before closing like a clam around it. The whole process requires zero effort and less than 20 seconds at the side of the road (it can’t be done on the move because the rear lights are momentarily obscured).

But why have one over the already available 911 convertible? The answer is before your eyes: to me at least, this is the best-looking 911 of the current generation, a brilliantly judged homage to the original 1965 Targa that avoids looking like a pastiche but instead simply recalls its heritage through that silver band that loops over the centre of the car without in any way being enslaved to it.

The Targa originally came about because Porsche was naturally keen to sell a convertible 911, but was anxious about how it would be received by a public already concerned about the car’s reputation for highly original handling. An open 911 with a massive central roll-bar was the answer and so the Targa was born. To this day Targas are still bought by the more risk-averse among 911 buyers, which is why this car is only being sold with four-wheel drive.

There are two versions, the £86,281 standard car powered by a 3.4-litre engine with 345bhp, and a £96,319 3.8-litre ‘S’ model with 394bhp and a far thicker, flatter torque curve. And the hard truth is – the standard car is to be avoided. At 1540kg it weighs a massive 160kg more than a 911 coupé with the same engine, a penalty so great the car is slower than a Boxster S costing £40,000 less. And although the suspension has been carefully retuned to mitigate the worst effects of this additional weight, and the fact that most of it is just where you don’t want it, the car doesn’t so much bite into corners as nibble ineffectually around their outsides.

The S is a different matter. It has the power to provide decent performance and, with standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, to deliver the poise that its more affordable sister lacks. It is still not one of the great driving 911s, but what Targa or convertible ever was? What matters is that it delivers on the promise of its looks, and the base car does not. Indeed, if you want a 911 to satisfy your desire both as a petrol head and an aesthete, right now this is the one to have.

Engine: 3.4 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged
Power: 345bhp @ 7400 rpm
Torque: 288lb ft @ 5600 rpm
Transmission: seven-speed manual, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.2sec
Top speed: 175mph
Economy: 37.7mpg
CO2: 223g/km