Hubert Burda Media

Test-drive: Porsche 911 Targa

A remake of the iconic Porsche 911 Targa that debuted in the 1960s, the Targa 4 is a technological beast.

It’s undoubtedly sexy and attractive, as anyone can tell from the number of heads that turn when I drive by.

Sure, it has the same elegant design that the cars in the Porsche 911 series are known for. But the recently released 911 Targa 4 (and its more powerful sister, the Targa 4S) is different. For one, it’s a convertible and a coupe — a concept the marque first conceived in 1965. As with the original Targa, the roof with a fixed rollover bar can convert from a coupe into what I can only describe as a seriously stylish semi-convertible. But unlike the older models, it is now completely motorised, with the rear window lifting away momentarily to neatly stow the fabric centre section. The entire process takes under 20 seconds to complete, at just a simple push of the button.

“That’s really the talking point,” says Martin Limpert, managing director of Porsche Asia-Pacific. “No other model in the 911 line-up has this concept and no other car has this combination; they are all either convertible or coupe cars.”

While many folding-tops can work at low speeds, with the Targa, it can only be done when stationary — a snag if you’re driving top-down and there’s a sudden downpour. But this inconvenience is for safety reasons, as the rear window protrudes beyond the back bumper when lifted onto its hinge, blocking the taillights. This also means that if the car is backed up too close to a wall, the parking sensor will prevent the roof from opening or closing.

This sleek metallic beast, Limpert adds, expresses the brand’s core values of combining heritage and design ethos with innovation. “We had to make sure we complied with US safety regulations for convertible cars — that there should be a kind of fixed rollover bar,” he says of the now iconic fixed Targa bar introduced in the 1960s. “And we’ve managed to maintain its historical design elements and characteristic since then.”

To also ensure the current model is safely equipped to tackle any road type or weather condition, the modern Targa comes with the enhanced Porsche Traction Management system that regulates the drive forces for better handling and control.

The snazzy Targa 4 also boasts the same technical specifications as its 911 counterparts. For one, all Targas are four-wheel-drive, so powertrain is distributed to all wheels for an impressive sports car performance. In my experience, the drive is very responsive to the taps on the brake or accelerator. And though this model is significantly heavier (because of its roof design) than the standard coupe or cabriolet in the 911 stable, it still manages to complete the century sprint in five seconds flat, while the 4S does it even quicker in just 4.6.

Adding to its appeal, the Targa also makes cruising (preferably only for two, since the backseats are rather cramped) a relaxing and laidback affair. It has the muscle I love in a sports car of its calibre, while delivering the very smooth, comfortable drive I crave. However, the convertible-coupe does feel a tad clumsy at lower gears — possibly due to its weight and Carrera 4-esque extra-wide body — but still packs a hard punch at higher speeds. Its suspension is also better than the Cabriolet to combat this weight difference. So all in all, the throttle response isn’t a bother at all to me, even when I put the Targa through the all-too-familiar Singapore experience — the midday jam. But if it does irk you, switch the drive up to Sports mode and feel the difference as the car powers up for an even more robust performance.

And where’s the fun in cruising if it isn’t accompanied by remarkable acoustics? Roof up or down, the Targa boasts a much finer sound system than most other convertibles. When closed, the flat magnesium elements keep the fabric roof taut while the rear window is made from weight-optimised laminated safety glass. Couple this with a noise-insulating roof liner and you’re assured the racket outside is kept to a minimum. While dropping the top usually gravely does the opposite, the wind deflector integrated into the cowl panel frame helps reduce wind noise, so there isn’t a need for me to yell out a conversation with my companion. (If you so desire, both the 4 and the 4S come with the extra-cost option of being fitted with the Bose Surround Sound System or the Burmester High-End Surround Sound System.)

All in all, the 911 Targa is a distinctive car that suits those who want luxury and style without compromising on performance and engineering. And with Porsche’s latest launch of the 911 Targa 4 GTS at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, petrol heads can soon expect an even better race-track experience when cruising the streets.

Porsche 911 Targa 4 PDK
Engine: 3,436cc 24-valve flat-six
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shift
Max output: 257kW @ 7,400rpm
Max torque: 390Nm @ 5,600rpm
Max speed: 280kph
Acceleration: 0-100kph in 5.0 seconds
Fuel consumption: 8.7L per 100km
CO2 Emission: 204g/km
Kerb weight: 1,560kg

In High Gear

Martin Limpert, managing director of Porsche Asia-Pacific, talks about his life-long Porsche obsession and the brand’s latest releases
You’ve been with Porsche since 2004 and made your move to Asia-Pacific in March last year. But why Porsche in the first place?
Since I was a child, I’ve always dreamt about the sports cars I saw on posters or in car parks. And whenever I saw a Porsche, I’d stop to take a closer look. It’s been my dream car forever. When the opportunity arose after my studies to get into Porsche, I immediately took it up. Since then, everything has gone quite well. It’s been really exciting, with a lot of challenges and different job postings.
What is the Porsche philosophy that resonates most for you?
Our motto of intelligent performance: Bringing what we learn or experience on the racetrack and with our race cars to our serious production cars. We don’t just strive for the highest speed, the biggest engine or the biggest output; we want to do it in an intelligent way, being efficient or low-fuel-consuming at the same time. We have four couplets of seemingly opposite brand values: Tradition and innovation; functionality and design; exclusivity and social acceptance; and performance and all-day usability.
How has the brand grown in Singapore?
Impressively strong. In Singapore, Porsche’s presence is roughly 30 years so we have a very strong Porsche Club community. We have very loyal customers and they understand what the brand’s genetic code is: Being born on the racetrack. We have a high brand education level among our Singaporean customers, especially towards the 911s, Boxsters and Caymans.
Has buyers’ tastes and demands changed over the years?
Car buyers in Singapore are very, very loyal to the brand. They understand the genetic code and brand values, and appreciate the brand approach. We see customers go for their sixth, seventh or eighth Porsche and this excites us a lot. Singaporean buyers seek out a high level of personalisation. They look for special individualisation options from our exclusive offers to express their own character into the car.
Aside from the new 911 Targa, Porsche has also unveiled Macan and Cayenne models. Tell us about the new Macan range.
In July last year, we launched the Macan in Singapore and customer feedback was very positive. It’s the sportiest offer we have in the compact SUV segment and appeals to a target group that is probably new to Porsche — it’s for young families or young urban professionals looking for the perfect combination of a four-door car that’s also sporty.
How important is the Cayenne to the brand?
The Cayenne supported a lot of the brand’s profitable growth globally. The first generation (launched in 2003) sold 276,000 cars worldwide and the second generation in 2010 sold another 3,300. It’s definitely one of the key pillars of our business, in terms of high-contributing volume. Our customers appreciate the fact that besides the mid- and rear-engine sports cars, we extended our offers to those who would like a second or a third car, which we couldn’t in the past. Now a lot of our customers have a 911 and a Cayenne in their garage, and probably even a Panamera.
How about the 911 and in particular, the Targa?
The 911 is the core of the brand; it’s where the genetic code comes from but at the same time, we try to diversify within the model range. We have a lot of derivatives going from the base of the 911, 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S, up to the Turbo and Turbo S. The 911 Targa is a very attractive combination concept of a convertible and a coupe. On one hand, you have the tradition of the Targa with the fixed rollover bar, which we implemented for the first time in 1965. On the other, it now boasts the highest technology with a glass roof concept that opens and closes within 20 seconds.
What’s your favourite ride?
From the current series, it would be the 911 GT3. But I have the Carrera 4S as a convertible, which we don’t offer in the GT3. Also, my car has a very nice level of individualisation — it has a sports design package and painted rims, a sport exhaust system, red stitching and leather elements, and darkened front lights to name a few. There are a lot of elements you probably wouldn’t even notice on the second glance, but that’s what makes it so special.