Porsche 911 Targa 2016 UK review
Verdict on new turbo version of evocative Porsche 911 Targa drop-top
The transition to turbo power hasn’t spoiled the way the 911 responds, and you’re guaranteed a fantastic driving experience whichever version you choose. Even so, for purists, the Targa is arguably the most compromised model in the range, thanks to the extra weight of the roof mechanism. Still, the distinctive look – plus the fact you can hear the flat-six engine in all of its glory – will be enough to sway some people towards the Targa over the coupe or Cabriolet.
The Porsche 911 has such a reputation for driving pleasure, that the launch of a revised model is a massive deal. We've already tried out the new turbocharged Carrera in the UK, but now we've sampled the convertible Targa model on British roads as well. Can it reach the same heights as its sibling?
Like the coupe, the 911 Targa ditches its naturally aspirated flat-six for forced induction, and uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo mounted in the back. Previously, the standard model and more potent S version have had different capacities, but this time the Targa 4S simply features larger turbos and a revised exhaust to boost power from 365bhp to 414bhp. While that means the newcomer is marginally faster than its predecessor, the biggest gains are in terms of economy and emissions, with the 4S claiming 31.4mpg and 208g/km. The PDK auto model improves on that, posting 35.3mpg and 184g/km respectively.
As before, the Targa is only offered in four-wheel-drive guise, so it has a wider track than the rear-drive models and features a signature red light strip connecting the tail-lamps at either side. Porsche has also revised the price structure of the range, so the Targa 4 and Targa 4S now cost the same as their Carrera 4 Cabriolet counterparts; so all you need to do is choose whether you want a full cabrio or the classic Targa look.
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The updates to the new car are subtle. There are revised air intakes below the front bumper, new door handles and redesigned intakes at the rear to improve airflow. The Targa’s roof mechanism is carried over, and it features the same silver roll hoop as before, but now buyers can specify the canvas section of the top in the same range of colours as offered on the 911 Cabriolet.
Climb inside, and the changes are more significant, with a new steering wheel inspired by the 918 Spyder hypercar and an updated multimedia infotainment system. The new touchscreen is standard across the range and is easier to navigate than the previous model’s set-up. What’s more, the system is compatible with Apple CarPlay, so iPhone users – who make up around 75 per cent of Porsche buyers – will be able to mirror their phone to the touchscreen and stay connected when on the move.
While the on-board bells and whistles are great, the most important thing about a 911 is how it drives, and the new Targa doesn’t disappoint. Fire up the flat-six and you’re greeted by a familiar bark. The standard sports exhaust opens the system up to deliver a raucous note throughout the rev range, too. Drop the roof and you can savour that noise in full, and you’ll also notice a trademark whoosh as the turbos spool up when you accelerate.
Although it sounds like it takes time to engage, the engine responds instantly to your inputs, and power delivery is so linear that there’s no hint of turbo lag. Like its naturally aspirated predecessor, the 3.0-litre has a broad spread of power, and while there’s 500Nm of torque at 1,700rpm, it still thrives on revs. Push it to the limit and you can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds in the PDK twin-clutch model, while adding the Sport Plus pack cuts that to four seconds flat.
The seven-speed PDK box delivers quick shifts in manual mode and blips the throttle on downshifts for smooth progress, although leaving the transmission in auto mode delivers well judged changes, whether you’re taking it easy or pressing on. When you do go hard, though, it’s difficult for the car to disguise the extra weight of its roof. The Targa 4S is 90kg heavier than the standard Carrera 4S, courtesy of chassis strengthening and that complex roof mechanism, and you can feel that the extra bulk has raised the centre of gravity a touch over the coupe.
Even so, the Targa is still a great-handling sports car that’s huge fun to drive thanks to its fantastic grip and agile responses. It’s just that the standard 911 is much more focused for driving purists.
While the Targa has been priced to bring it in line with the 911 Cabriolet, it’s still rather expensive to buy. Add the twin-clutch transmission and you’ll break the £100,000 barrier. And although there’s more standard equipment than ever, there are plenty of options you can add to take the final cost even higher.