I was never a fan of the Targa body style of Porsche 911 — until the 2015 model came along.
The first generation of 911 Targa was introduced at the Frankfurt auto show in 1965, and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Returning for 2015, this semi-convertible is the seventh generation.
You’ll know this body style by its Targa picnic-basket bar (handle) that wraps from just behind the driver door across the roof. It is a style garnish to delineate where the half-roof folds back with one-button ease. It’s more than a sunroof and not quite a cabriolet. But it works quite well for Porsche-fast open driving with little wind disturbance to disrupt conversations. From the driver seat, the experience is the same as driving in a full convertible.
In previous generations, sculpting the roofline to allow open-roof motoring had created an awkward flat spot in an otherwise graceful arc. But not so now. The current 991 body architecture is longer, which more graciously allows a flowing roofline. And the Targa is now offered only in all-wheel drive so it also gets the wide body of the other 911 AWD variants.
And there are now 20 different 911 models from which to choose, ranging from rear drive or AWD, coupe or cabriolet, two engine choices, two transmission choices, Turbo or non-turbo and a scattering of higher-performing models such as the GT3 and GTS.
The Targa is sold in two power choices. The entry Targa 4 starts at $102,595, which includes the 350-horsepower, flat 3.4-liter six-cylinder with its horizontally opposed pistons. The Targa 4S, today’s test car, starts at $117,195 and justifies the price bump with a 400-horsepower, 3.8-liter flat six. A very-compliant seven-speed manual transmission is standard. But I have found the optional dual-clutch automatic, known as PDK, to be even more engaging and a rowdy drive partner. But it’s a significant addition at $4,080. The abbreviation stands Porsche Doppelkupplung, or double clutch.
The Targa 4 gets to 60 mph in 5 seconds, the 4S in 4.4, or 4.2 with the Sport Chrono package, $2,370. The choice may be how fast do you want to go and how much do you want to pay?
Most Porsches are a canvas for options and accessories. The test car, for example, with options had a sticker of $142,360. And as equipped it was much as I would like my Porsche to be, though it did not have heated seats or heated steering wheel or a rearview camera, which are available. Among the valued extras would be the sport exhaust system, $2,950, which opens the pipes to a gravelly blare in Sport and Sport Plus modes. And the Porsche Dynamic Chassis control (an active anti-roll system) at $3,160 may seem unusual for a Targa, but it provides a higher level of flat cornering.
The lined and insulated soft top is also well soundproofed and folds back quickly in a sophisticated Z function. The trunk is deep and large enough for getaway luggage and the back seats fold for more storage.
There is no body flex with the roof open and all that easy power is so responsive to firing off downshifts and diving into turns. The suspension firms up nicely but never is abusive to occupants. The four-wheel disc brakes are drilled and internally vented with 13-inch rotors front and rear, gripped by six-piston calipers front and four rear. The PDCC upgrade adds 13.78-inch rotors.
There are three driver-selectable modes of performance. “Comfort” mode is the fuel-economy driver, which is 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 mpg combined, on premium fuel. It was easy to work up to 25 mpg on the daily commute.
Sport mode jumps the rpms by 500 and puts driver and suspension on predator alert. Then the Sport-Plus is track ready. It’s so intense that I wondered if I’d have to upshift from first when the revs were wailing and I was nearing 50 mph. Then with Formula One swiftness the PDK transitions to second and then somehow the message to the driver is to floor it and listen to that orchestra of engine and exhaust. There is an acoustics science to “sound design” at Porsche, but no artificial noise generators.
I was among the first to gripe when Porsche made the 911 bigger to fit the heftier North American market, but I’m a convert now. The cabin size is roomy enough and the seats are all-day supportive. It’s a low car but not all that challenging to open a door in a crowded parking lot.
The silly center shift console makes a cool design statement — but with wasted space and a plethora of buttons. Flimsy cup holders that fold out from the passenger side of the instrument panel are inadequate and even the tiny “smoking package” ash tray is small and poorly placed. It would be better as a phone slot, but it’s even small for that.
But those shortcomings fade in relevance after such rewarding seat time.
A Porsche product expert asked if I would now buy a Targa. It was never a consideration before and I’ve always preferred the Cabriolet. Pricewise, the Carrera 4 and 4S Cabriolets are $1,330 more than the Targa model, which is less than most 911 option packages.
But my snob appeal really couldn’t tell the difference and I now prefer the speed lines of the Targa. So when I win the Lotto or the Powerball, yes, I will buy a 2015 Targa 4S and live happily ever after..
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage