First Drive: The Porsche 911 Targa 4S brings classic style with modern performance

What is it?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

If you want to buy a sports car that you could use for everyday duties with minimal compromise, the answer has long been Porsche 911. And if everyday duties and style are more important than outright athletic ability, the Targa is arguably the best 911 of the lot.

Born in the 60s because America was considering banning convertibles for being too dangerous, and named after Porsche’s victories in the iconic Targa Florio races, the 911 Targa became an instant hit.

In 2014, Porsche returned the styling to being inspired by those original models, and the result is one of the best-looking sports cars out there thanks to the rollover hoop, curved rear window design and complex folding roof. Now, there’s a new one.

What’s new?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

Key changes relate to the engine, which is more powerful than before, while a newly developed manual transmission means those looking for a more physical connection with the driving experience are well catered for.

The all-wheel-drive system has been optimised to provide more traction, Porsche Active Suspension Management is now offered as standard, and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus is available as standard on the 4S and as an option on the 4.

What’s under the bonnet?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

Performance comes from a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder boxer engine, which makes 380bhp and 450Nm of torque in the 4 and 444bhp and 530Nm in the 4S we’re testing today.

It’s an undoubtedly fantastic engine that loves to be revved out, and as is always the case with Porsche sixes, it sings high in the rev range. However, there’s no denying that in this application it feels particularly lacking in emotion, with an almost efficient charge through the revs. That does somewhat suit this car’s purpose as a more relaxed cruiser, but it is a bit of a shame given the 911’s natural underlying abilities on a B road.

What’s it like to drive?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

There’s a good reason why the Porsche 911 is one of the class leaders, thanks to its fantastic driving characteristics and spot on driving position. These attributes are all present and correct in the Targa, which is immediately comfortable whether cruising around in traffic, opening up on the motorway or pressing on down a back road.

Being slightly heavier than the coupe does lead to a subtle numbing of the 911’s abilities, feeling a little less nimble on its feet than regular models. However, it’s so subtle that very few will notice the difference or have any reason to be disappointed. Hit your favourite country roads and it’s a blast, with the way the all-wheel-drive grips up and shoots you out of a corner being the highlight.

How does it look?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

The 911’s classic shape never goes out of fashion, and with the retro Targa styling it’s arguably at its prettiest. It’s like buying a retro model but with the bonus of all the modern technology and reliability you could ask for.

If you want to go fully retro, there’s a Heritage Design Edition limited to just 992 examples. It gets styling features inspired by classic models, including gold logos and circular number blocks on the outside, and corduroy upholstery inside.

What’s it like inside?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

Drop into the cabin and it’s clear that Porsche has spent a lot of time making it ergonomically brilliant. The driving position is easy to get right, and most buttons are within easy reach, while the infotainment system is one of the best in the business – its menu design looks smart and is intuitive to navigate.

It’s also surprisingly spacious for a sports car, so long as you’re sitting in the front; rear passengers of even average height will be hoping the journey is short. That’s about the only criticism you can level at it, though, with the practical layout complemented by brilliant materials throughout.

What’s the spec like?

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

Standard equipment on the Targa 4S is extensive. In addition to the active suspension system and torque vectoring tech, it comes with 20-inch alloy wheels at the front and 21 at the rear, leather upholstery, four-way electric sports seats, and the fantastic widescreen infotainment system.

There are various optional extras that can really up the price, too. There are three more alloy wheel designs that are the same size as the standard ones but range in price from £809 to £1,679, adaptive ‘sports seats plus’ for £2,315, Exclusive Manufaktur leather interior for £7,899, and a huge variety of exterior upgrades.

Verdict

Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Porsche 911 Targa 4S

There’s no denying that, as usual, Porsche has absolutely nailed the brief with the 911 Targa. Sure, it lacks some of the emotion driving flair of rivals, but that’s often been the case with this iconic sports car – the fact it’s so good to drive so much of the time has won it plaudits for decades.

Those looking for a true performance car might be better looking elsewhere in the 911 range, but if style and practicality are key to your sports car purchase you will not be left disappointed.

  • Model as tested: Porsche 911 Targa 4S

  • Price: £109,725

  • Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo boxer

  • Power: 444bhp

  • Torque: 530Nm

  • Max speed: 189mph

  • 0-60mph: 3.6 seconds

  • MPG: 28.5

  • Emissions: 227g/km