Automorbit, Cars – It’s unfair to say that the latest Porsche 911 doesn’t have any personality to it. The biggest criticism of the car usually runs on about how it’s mechanically brilliant, astoundingly capable and ridiculously enjoyable, but emotionally bereft. The idea being that Porsche provides the competence, but you have to provide the personality yourself.
That’s a lament of just about any sports car in the 911’s category, given that they’re able to do amazing things generally accepted to be beyond the ken of most mortal drivers. You’re highly unlikely to find the car’s limits on your daily commute; for that, you’ll have to go to a track.
A 379-Horsepower Hairdryer
There are few better ways to inject a dose of personality into any car than to remove the top, and the newest Targa does it with a show that leaves onlookers gawping. We could go on about the 911 Targa’s amazing handling characteristics, or its explosive acceleration from its more powerful 379-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine sitting behind the passenger compartment, but the truth is that it feels and handles and drives like the hard-top coupe. Most buyers would never in a million miles be able to tell much difference in performance between this all-wheel-drive Targa 4 and a less expensive but more powerful 443-hp Carrera S, featuring a similar engine but with rear-wheel drive only. The suspension is magical, allowing you to sense it working over bumps and road undulations but without the visual jolts and shudders over the hood that you’d expect to come with it. The new-generation electronically controlled dampers do their thing, transmitting feel without force, unless the pavement turns truly cratered — but even then, it’s firm but never harsh. The engine is gloriously powerful, sonorous in ways so many other sports cars can’t match, and works with the eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission flawlessly (a seven-speed manual is available but only on the more expensive and more powerful 443-hp Targa 4S).
But again, all of this is echoed in the base hard-top coupe. It’s an iconic German sports car, and the newest one delivers the precision, engineering and gut-punch acceleration of older ones. The Targa’s mission is something different — it’s all about that trick roof. Approach the car from the front, and it looks like a normal 911. Come at it from behind, and you’ll notice that the back glass wraps around the sides, creating a huge transparent area aft of the bright silver B-pillar trim. A fabric-covered roof panel sits in between that faux-rollbar bright trim and the windshield frame, looking like a removable convertible panel. Push a button on the center console and the entire back glass lifts up and rearward on a powered, articulated frame as one massive assembly, while the center panel slides back behind the vestigial rear seats. The big glass window then settles back down, leaving you with what most enthusiasts call a Targa roof on any car with this setup, but “Targa” is a name that can only legally be applied to this car because Porsche has the trademark on that word.
What does this do for the 911 experience? It creates a fusion of the mechanical precision and flawless driving experience that you expect from the latest version of the quintessential German sports car, though combined with wind-in-the-hair grin generation that comes from being able to hear the exhaust out the back pipes without having it filtered through glass and steel. In short, it’s the best of the two worlds that the 911 is meant to satisfy — a track-ready sports car and a posh boulevard grand touring machine.
It Does What 911s Do
Despite a manufacturer’s claim of a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.0 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono Package (0.1 seconds less than the outgoing Targa if you specify the PDK automatic transmission and employ electronic launch control), the 911 Targa feels just as explosively quick as any other 911 you’re likely to find yourself behind the wheel of. Perhaps it’s the song that accompanies it, a snarling crescendo that builds with the application of your right foot, music that only a boxer engine can really deliver. Its 379 hp may not seem like much in these days of relatively cheap supercharged 800-plus monster V-8 engines, but the key to any Porsche isn’t an overpowered engine, it’s the balance of power and capability. The 911 Targa has all the power it needs to keep you massively entertained — adding horses just for bragging rights wouldn’t make sense. That said, if you do want a little more power, a Targa 4S is available. But you know what? You don’t need it. The base Targa 4 is plenty powerful, ridiculously quick and eminently enjoyable just as it is.
The car’s steering is delightful, with superb feel and feedback, delivering outstanding communication between the driver and the road. You feel the suspension doing its thing, using all of its electronically controlled tricks to keep the car level and planted, crushing imperfections in its softer settings or letting it all through in its sportier ones. My test car had the Sport Chrono Package that brings a special button to the steering wheel called the Sport Response Button that when pushed, amps up all the settings to their sportiest for 20 seconds. Push that button, and hold on for dear life as the 911 just rockets forward before returning to normal after a third of a minute. It’s especially useful for passing slower traffic on twisty two-lane roads with a limited window of opportunity.
It Also Does What Few Other Cars Do
None of the Targa’s “911-ness” has been lost with the addition of the trick roof. But being able to enjoy its 911-ness without being cocooned inside a metal cage is what pushes it to being something more special than a standard fixed-roof 911. Perhaps it’s the wind rushing past your face, but not unpleasantly so, because the big rear window helps with wind buffeting when the top is rolled back.
The disappearing roof is not perfect, however. One caveat that may make you pause upon deciding between a 911 cabriolet (full convertible) and a 911 Targa: You will not want to drive the Targa with the top panel open and the windows up. The resulting air buffeting is horrendous at speeds above 35 mph, which was a great surprise to me, given that I suspect many people would drive this car using the Targa panel as something of an enormous sunroof. But no, within the first mile of leaving my driveway on a cooler July morning, I immediately lowered the windows to stop the pounding on my eardrums. I’ve not driven the cabriolet to know if this situation exists with the full droptop version of the new 911, but if you’re shopping between the two, make sure you try them both in the top-down, windows-up configuration as well as fully opened up before you plunk down a deposit.
Yes, there is a weight penalty that comes with the Targa; it’s about 200 pounds heavier than the 911 Carrera 4 coupe (3,658 pounds versus 3,460 pounds), or figure the equivalent of always having someone in the passenger seat with you. It’s not much heavier than the 911 Carrera 4 cabriolet, only about 44 pounds. The bigger benefit to the Targa is that with the top up, it is more secure than a cabriolet, as the fabric-covered panel only looks like it’s a convertible panel because it’s really a solid panel with magnesium plates, covered by viny
Traditional Exterior Looks, All-New Interior Digs
Like the coupe, the Targa gets some mild styling updates outside. The bigger changes come inside, where a fully refreshed, modern interior awaits you. The traditional 911 five-round-gauge instrument cluster is retained, but the only actual permanent gauge before you is the central tachometer. Panels to the left and right are digital, and reconfigurable to a number of different display options. Unfortunately, in my seating position, the dash cluster is largely obscured by a lot of the steering wheel, and I had to crane my head around to see some of the copious amounts of information it projects. To the right is a new central media cluster, which does offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as Porsche’s decent if not entirely user-friendly native systems. Flat plastic panels abound on the center console, looking like blanks that should hold some sort of buttons, but no, they’re just blank plastic panels. Thankfully, the one thing the new 911 interior doesn’t have that seems to be infiltrating its way through German automotive brands both luxury and mainstream: touch panels. There are some flat controls in the new 911 interior, but they still depress and click. There are no dead plastic control panels present in the new cabin, for which we salute the Porsche designers.
Overall, the cabin is comfortable, beautiful, and still affords the excellent upright, outward visibility that Porsche is known for. Everything about the layout makes the car easier to drive quickly, and that’s a good thing. It’s also screwed together with absolute vaultlike solidity, with materials that exude a quality tactile feel underscores the price you likely paid for this machine.
Special, and Priced to Reflect That
Ahh, the price. Base price for a new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is an eye-popping $120,650, including destination fee. My test car had — get this — forty thousand dollars in options. Actually, $40,270 in options, to be precise. What does the cost of a middle trim Honda Pilot get you? The leather interior is a $4,960 upgrade, the fancier wheels are just over $3,700. Nearly every desirable option costs a few grand:
- Sport Chrono Package: $2,790
- Front axle lift system: $2,770
- LED Matrix Design headlights: $3,270
- Adaptive cruise control with active lane keep assist: $3,020
- Adaptive 18-way power sport seats: $3,470 (and adding ventilation to front seats is another $840)
- Burmester audio system: $5,560
And it isn’t even complete; there’s far more you can add to the price from the options list if you really wanted to.
Part of the reason this car is so expensive is that Porsche allows you to configure one to your tastes, with a myriad of color and interior trim combinations that can very easily make your 911 a one-of-one if you have the coin to spend. Enabling that level of customization doesn’t come cheap, and the 911 reflects that. But the options list is also ridiculously long with specialty items like leather-covered-anything-you-want; custom color options to paint the car literally any shade you want; two different audio options; wheel and tire, seat pattern and safety packages; and so, so much more. You’re paying a lot of money because you can get a 911 just about any way you could possibly want it, and Porsche customers are willing to pay that premium to get something uniquely theirs.
The new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is a fantastic machine, so rewarding to drive, so enjoyable to operate, so much fun to look at and be seen in. Yes, you pay for that exclusive experience, but what an experience it is.