2014 Porsche 911 Targa Details:

  • Classic Targa returns after 20 years
  • 395hp 3.8L flat-six motor | 7-speed manual
  • 15% stiffer than 991 Cabriolet | Specific damper rates
  • Roof arrangement folds in 19sec

Electronics: Fully automatic top | Bi-Xenon headlights as standard | Optional Burmester 800w sound system | Optional seven-speed PDK auto | Porsche AWD Traction Management

+ Pros: Glorious, retro exterior | Amazing roof mechanism | Drives beautifully, better than the Cabriolet | AWD for year-round use | Huge feel-good factor

- Cons: 991 steering not as good as before | Likely to cost as much as the Cabriolet | Poor throttle response in Normal mode


We here in the US should be proud. We're responsible for this new 991-series Porsche 911 Targa. Well, our legislators are... or maybe I should say, "were." Allow me to explain.

In 1948, when Porsche began making its excellent 356, you could buy a Cabriolet from the outset. And when its fabric top was folded away, the passenger compartment was completely open to the elements. Stuttgart was out of the blocks early with a flat shoulder-line on its convertible.

So where did the Targa's distinctive appearance come from? Well, as Porsche was working on the open-top version of its then-new 911 in the 1960s, US safety concerns about open convertibles were coming to light. The fear was that in a rollover, the prospect for the occupants might be bleak. So the government was making noises about potentially banning such machines.

This presented Porsche with a problem, but Zuffenhausen naturally devised a solution. And so, at the 1965 Frankfurt Auto Show, the company showed its first Targa - a 911 with a rollover hoop rising from the B-pillar, and removable roof sections in the center and rear.

Named after the Sicilian Targa Florio race in Italy, where Porsche had seen success, the idiosyncratic design neatly sidestepped the potential convertible ban and went on sale in 1967.

Thing is, the ban on full convertibles never came. Yet the Targa carried on regardless, even with the arrival of a "proper" open-top 911 in 1982.

In 1996, with the arrival of the Type-993 Porsche 911, the Targa morphed into a Carrera with a big sunroof, dropping the rollover bar and losing its classic styling.

But now it's back. A full 20 years since the last 964 Targa departed the scene, Porsche thinks it can again sustain two fabric-topped convertibles in its 911 portfolio. And taking into account the Type-991 Targa's arresting looks, we have to agree. The new Targa is stunning.

Retro-themed re-imaginings of former classics are nothing new (see the Mini, Ford GT, etc, as proof), but they leave the companies susceptible to accusations of being out of ideas, but reviving the correct Targa shape was nothing short of Germanic genius.

Like the 1967 original, the 991 version is defined by the tasteful stainless steel rollover hoop - complete with its three side gills and the Targa badge at its base. There's also the characteristic wraparound rear screen lacking C-pillars behind it.

Top up or down, the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa is certainly an eye-catching design that sits well on the 991 platform, while reminding us of the original. But it's how the Targa roofs works that is astonishing.

Unlike the Cabriolet, you can only activate the Targa's roof mechanism when stationary because of aerodynamic limitations (the rear glass would catch the wind like a huge airbrake). It means you'll amaze anybody lucky enough to be walking past as you put the Targa through the motions.

The rear glass lifts into the air and moves backwards. It allows the fabric center section to lift itself over the roll bar and tuck down into a recess behind the tiny rear seats. Then the glass returns to its rightful place and you're ready to go.

The downside of this balletic act is that the body is only half as stiff as the 911 Carrera Coupe, and a significant 242.6 lb heavier. It even weighs 88 lb more than the Cabrio, but at least it's 15% more rigid than the latter.

Every Targa will get an all-wheel drive "4" badge, and there are two engine and transmission choices. The entry point is the 3.4-liter Targa 4 with 345hp and 288 lb-ft. But the 395hp and 325 lb-ft from the 3.8-liter "4S" model is well worth choosing.

With its optional seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission (there's a seven-speed manual, too), the Targa is as rapid as you'd expect. But equip it with the Sport Chrono pack and it'll complete 0-62mph in just 4.4sec and on to 183mph.

It also sounds sensationally good as it goes about its business, the mellifluous flat-six blare only heightened by the Targa's open roof.

The Targa is hugely capable in the corners as well. Its all-wheel drive provides monstrous grip and the ability to change line mid-bend without fearing for your long-term well-being. It maintains a vice-like hold at all times, and you're never aware of the extra weight. In fact, it's easily 99% as capable as a Carrera 4S, and yet you've got miles of sky above you to tilt the feel-good balance in the Targa's favor.

Perhaps more importantly, when you're not driving like you stole it, the Targa makes perfect sense, especially if you opt for the PDK tranny. The T4S rides beautifully, if firmly, but never shows any flex in its structure. Occupants won't be ruffled by wind, because a deflector rises above the windshield to protect you from gusts. And while the 3.8L is never silent, it quiets down enough to make long journeys easy to contemplate.

Flaws? Well, the amount of accelerator movement and the engine's response in Normal mode don't tally; Sport mode is sharper and should be the norm. The steering isn't as exquisite as 911s of old; claiming it is a 2+2 is misleading, and the Targa is likely to cost almost as much as the Cabriolet when US prices are confirmed. But you know what? None of this matters. The price of entry is worth it for the huge smile it puts on your face every time you drive it.

A classy convertible with a slice of '60s style and the Carrera 4's dynamics mean the Targa has made a welcome return. We'd certainly choose it over the Cabriolet, and over lots of other cars, for that matter. It's a fantastic interpretation of a model we never knew we missed.

Tech Spec

2014 Porsche 911 Targa 4S PDK

Layout
rear-engine, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) AWD

Engine
3800cc horizontally-opposed six-cylinder 24v, quad cam, VarioCam Plus variable inlet valve timing and valve-lift adjustment

Drivetrain
seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch automatic transmission, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with mechanical rear-axle differential lock

Brakes
six-piston monobloc calipers, 340mm drilled rotors f, four-piston, 330mm r

Suspension
MacPherson strut f, five-link r; Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with electronically controlled vibration dampers

Wheels & Tires
20x8.5" f, 20x11" r ten-spoke wheels, 245/35 ZR20 f, 305/30 ZR20 r tires

Performance

Max power
400hp at 7400rpm

Max torque 325 lb-ft at 5600rpm

0-62mph
4.4sec (PDK with Sport Chrono pack)

Top Speed
183mph

Weight
3472 lb (PDK)

Economy
TBC

MSRP
TBC

By Matt Robinson
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