Porsche 911 Targa 4 review: A modernised blast from the past

Think of the Targa-topped Porsche 911 and, assuming you were alive, your mind is likely to be transported to times past, a time when men with slick hair shouted into enormous mobile phones about buying low and selling high. But the top is back in the 2014 Porsche Targa. Oh yes.

The open-topped 911, which was typically decked out in a brilliant red hue in the 80s, quickly became the perfect way to blow an enormous bonus and the Targa version was like the Maradona in a pack of 1986 World Cup Panini stickers - highly desirable and extremely sought-after.

But the Targa shape actually dates back to the late 1960s, where it was hailed as the first properly safe open-top sports car thanks to an ingenious protective hoop that sat behind occupants' heads. It was this hoop and manually detachable roof that gave the car its instantly recognisable silhouette.

So when Porsche announced it was to resurrect the style in its latest 991 generation of the 911 at the Detroit motor show earlier in 2014, there was a collective gasp from the crowd. Many believed that the somewhat rudimentary rollover safety hoop and manual roof mechanism deserved to stay in the memory banks alongside Wall Street, conversations about business cards and power dressing.

But the engineers from Stuttgart held a number of aces up their lab coat sleeves in the form of a cutting-edge and fully electronic folding roof, modern styling and the typical Porsche craftsmanship customers have come to expect. The 2014 Targa 4 looks like a beast, but what's it like to drive?

Packs a styling punch

The brilliant racing yellow Targa 4 that we climbed into during our track and road day's experience is the mechanical meat in a Porsche 911 GT3 and Carrera 4S sandwich. No, we haven't been invited to Heston Blumenthal's latest banquet but a test track outside of Dusseldorf where we have been gifted the opportunity to put the retro-inspired 911 through its paces.

READ: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S review

The styling is instantly recognisable - the beautifully pert rear, sleek silhouette and aluminium roof structure offering the perfect nod to Targas of old but the overall finish is undeniably modern 911. Slim LED tail-lights sit proud at the rear, as does the active tail-light strip that runs right across the Targa's derriere. State-of-the-art Bi-Xenon headlamps can be found at the front, while neat chrome surrounds provide another cheeky reference to models of old.

 

It's certainly a stunner and it features enough bespoke touches to ensure it stands out from the rest of the 911 line-up. Something that will likely please the poor soul parting with the best part of £100k.

Top-notch tech

Porsche has always been blasted for making minimal changes to its products range over the years. Exterior styling tweaks are always subtle and the same can be said for the interiors - but this slow evolution has lead to a cabin that is now superbly comfortable and highly functional.

The Targa is no different, offering the same ergonomically designed ascending centre console and PCM media system (typically an optional extra) that will tether your phone, play DAB radio and offer some of the best satellite navigation currently available to man.

 

The lack of interior flourishes is somewhat disappointing - a few retro touches wouldn't have gone amiss either - but that Transformer-esque roof is the real technological tour de force. It takes around 20 seconds for the electric motors, pivots and supports to remove and stow the individual laminated, heated glass sections of the roof - plenty of time to admire the slick action and brilliantly over-engineered solution to the convertible conundrum.

There are a couple of downsides to this entertaining engineering feat however, and they include the extra 40kg of weight and the fact you can't operate the roof while moving. The modern Targa top also requires a fair amount of space to swing back and fold away - if the parking sensors feel an object is too close, the entire process is aborted. Especially frustrating if you're attempting a quick spot of roof stowage at the traffic lights.

Drives like a 911

Most will never take their beloved Targa 4 on track and will therefore never really explore the full dynamic depth of this special car, so the addition of 40kg for a rather fetching roof mechanism won't mean a thing. That's sort of a good thing because the suspension has been tuned for comfort and good road manners rather than hot laps around Silverstone.

The PDK gearbox on the version we tested was as sweet as it always is, swapping cogs with laser precision and at mind-boggling speeds.

However, what may bug potential buyers is the wind noise - it's simply too loud for a modern open-top car. Forget conducting conversations at motorway speeds and stowage space is seriously impeded when the roof is down. Still, it's a small price to pay for a car that looks this good and most will simply cruise around town with the Targa top dropped rather than attempting an open-topped Continent crossing.

Porsches and posing go together like chips and vinegar and this modern Targa 4 may just be the most "look at me" model in the current line-up. Seriously: just look at our pictures. Hubba hubba, right?

There's no doubt the 2014 Targa is absolutely gorgeous and features all of the Germanic engineering and everyday usability that make Porsches so attractive to today's buyer. Ok, so it's not the most dynamic, nor the most practical 911 currently on sale but we think it might just be prettiest. Park up, lock the doors and attempt to walk away without gifting yourself one last look - we bet you can't.



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