2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S 992
The second open-topped 911 of the current range, Porsche’s new Targa adds breadth, if not depth, to the 992 choice, as Kyle Fortune discovers…
2020 Porsche 911 Targa 992 first drive
The sun is shining, the roof is down: does the new 911 992 Targa deliver as Porsche’s best open-topped 911?
I have to stop and get out of it. Sat on a bench, in a sleepy village about 30 miles from Porsche UK’s Reading HQ, where I picked up the Targa 4S, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’ll admit right now, I like my 911s with a roof, a conventional, metal one that doesn’t fold away. Pressing and holding the roof button on the key fob of the Targa 4S sees the car do its party trick. It never gets boring. That feat of automotive origami is a sight to behold. The rear window, and a sizeable portion of the bodywork, including the rear wing tops and the engine air intakes, lifts up and gracefully tips backwards. The signature Targa hoop reveals itself to be sectional as two parts of it flip up quickly to allow the mechanism of the centre fabric section of the roof to be stowed visibly under the rear window. It’s impossible to do just once, and each time I do it I notice another movement, a cool little detail – like the fact that the rear portion of the fabric top has to fold in slightly to fit, that answering my thoughts on why Porsche doesn’t offer a body-coloured hard panel in place of the fabric one.
“That duality is its appeal even if, ultimately, it’s undeniably at the expense of the more extreme end of the 911’s bandwidth”
It’s an operation you have to be stationary for; getting out is optional, but I reckon if I had one I’d do so, every time. Doing so is enough to attract attention, even here in a village that can’t have more than 20 houses in it, with one local walking on the pavement stopping to watch the Targa do its transformation. The roof ’s stowed and I’m sat staring at the Targa script directly in front of me, positioned on the roll hoop.
That badge is different, the once elegant flowing font has been replaced by a more angular one, a small detail perhaps, but one that jars a bit. The ‘r’ in particular, which now drops sharply enough to look like it’s going to be an ‘n’, but hitting the sharper ‘g’ before doing so. Porsche Tanga anyone? Porsche rarely, if ever, doesn’t do something for a reason, and I can’t think why it has changed it. I’m left wondering whether it might be to allow the Heritage Design Edition to wear the more classic script in gold, but with just three short hours in this German-registered, non-Heritage, Carrara white Targa 4S, that’s something I’ll have to check later. Now that I’m here sat in front of my Mac, I can confirm it’s not; the Heritage Edition seeing the same angular Targa badges finished in gold – which leaves me seeing an opportunity for someone to finish 991 Targa badges in gold and offer them to Heritage Edition buyers with an eye for detail.
That stop was about an hour and a half into my three-hour window with the Targa, giving me time not just to play with the Targa’s roof some more, but to reflect on the drive here. It’s on familiar roads, their proximity to Reading meaning I have some favourites marked on Google Maps – car parks where I’ve met with others on previous drives and shoots for these very pages. More usually I’m on the right-hand side of the car, but with a global pandemic currently going on the launch for the Targa, like the Turbo S before it, is a ‘come and pick up the car from HQ’ affair. And it’s a German car, so I’m on the left. That’s not an issue, but it does somewhat amplify the scale of the 992 Targa, with the need to keep tight to the very edges of the roads when you’re faced with approaching traffic, which around here you’ll find is more often than not trucks carrying racehorses, being, as I am, situated in the Valley of the Racehorse near Lambourn.
In between the key fob pressing, roof-stowing and font-pondering I surmise that white isn’t the Targa’s colour, nor indeed the 992 in general. That’s unusual, because I like the slight hint of pre-stickered racer that white usually suggests with sports cars. Contrasting black elements more often adds a geeky hint of Star Wars Storm Trooper chic to a white car too, but it’s just not working today, the 20-inch front and 21-inch rear alloys in black just being lost in the wheel arches and the roll hoop in Satin black (a £413 option) not working here.
The interior, black here with the nicely supportive Sports Seats Plus finished in deeply cool Sport-Tex square leather with contrasting crayon stitching, needs a bit more colour too. Indeed, it’s little surprise that Exclusive used the Targa as the basis for that first Heritage Edition, as the Targa’s schtick suits the retro visuals and feel. This Targa needs more contrast, a bolder body colour with a black hoop, or a darker tone with silver, and playing about with Porsche’s configurator, as I often spend too much time doing, sees me erring towards either black with silver (and red roof, because why not), or carmine with black (and black roof), with the wheels staying silver.
That’s not something I’d usually give quite so much thought to, but more than any 911 the Targa is more about the visuals. That’s been particularly true since the 991 arrived, it immediately tying me up with discord – its knee-weakening prettiness teasing me away from my usual Coupe-only stance, even if that Targa top brings with it some compromises.
They’re apparent on the roads around here. It’s sunny, so for all but a brief period to check on the differences between being open and closed, the roof is sat under the cool curve of the rear glass. Being sat in the gutter, where the tarmac is at its worst, does exacerbate the Targa’s loss of rigidity. It’s not something I particularly noticed in the convertible upon which the Targa is so obviously derived from, but there’s some movement from the structure that’s to the detriment of its feel.
To call it shake would be unfair; it’s more of a subtle frequency, that’s more apparent when changing the chassis settings anywhere away from the Normal one. There’s optional PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), which brings with it the need for Rear Axle Steering – both unnecessary additions here, because the Targa just doesn’t feel like the 911 you’ll be seeking out favourite canyon roads for thrills in. Indeed, I’ve long surmised that the Targa’s more natural home is between the valleys of buildings, as a 911 that allows you to revel the views of a city in, open, but still ensconced thanks to its unique roof system. That duality is its appeal even if, ultimately, it’s undeniably at the expense of the more extreme end of the 911’s bandwidth, here shaving off some of the precision and engagement behind the wheel for a less engaging sports car in extremis, but adding to its capability as a relaxed, enjoyable and hugely stylish cruiser.
That’s not necessarily a complaint, because if Porsche has always been good at one thing it’s offering a 911 for everybody. I’ll admit that the Targa’s not the 911 I’d chose, but it’s unquestionably a hugely appealing car for many, and few will get out of it wanting for more performance, or agility.
No, it doesn’t feel quite as wieldy as even its Cabriolet relation, the increase in mass denying it of that – the 50kg it gains over the fully open Cabriolet, and 110kg over the Coupe inevitably impacting negatively on how it drives. That’s in relation to its dynamics, because if turbocharging the entire 911 range did one thing it was to mask the differences in bulk between the different models. Here, in 4S guise, there’s 450hp to attain from the turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six. More significantly it’s the 530Nm of torque which, thanks to those turbines, is available from 2,300rpm right through to 5,000rpm that allows for a 3.8-second 0-62mph time in standard form, with that dropping to 3.6 seconds if you’ve optioned the Sport Chrono Package as has been done here. Throw in a top speed just 1mph shy of 190mph and the Targa 4S is an indecently quick car, with its four-wheel drive meaning it’s as surefooted as it can be. The PDK paddle-shifted transmission makes for quick, easy progress, whether you’re swapping ratios yourself or just leaving the Targa 4S to do so for you. The engine masks any additional weight, the flexibility on offer being key, the Targa 4S being an any gear, any revs performer. The 992’s 3.0-litre engine makes light work of it, the Targa more than any other 911 benefitting most from the turbocharger’s low-end muscle.
There really isn’t any need for anything quicker on the road, and with the sun out and the roof down there’s a lot to enjoy, and a little that frustrates. It’s noisy, the wind rushing by isn’t as all-encompassing as a convertible but, oddly, it’s more of a distraction. The combination of the sounds of the moving air, allied to the glass and hoop rear, both visually and physically, remaining in position highlight that. It means, even with the optional Sports Exhaust fitted, and selected, the 3.0-litre’s sounds are barely heard over the din.
The performance it’s delivering isn’t in question, then, even if it’s not accompanied by a rousing sound. Nor indeed is the Targa’s agility in doubt, the steering still sharp, the weighting good, even if there’s the slight shimmy that reveals the Targa’s open-topped status. It’s not as precise then, but it’s minuscule, and it’s a trade-off that a Targa buyer will likely be more than happy to concede for the other facets it brings to the experience, rather than, ultimately, the drive.
Over everything from country roads to the motorway it’s driven with that Targa top down, and it reveals it’s at its best at a more sedate pace, when the rushing sounds of the air aren’t so apparent, and the views can be enjoyed more. The towns and villages that punctuate my drive reveal more in the Targa, with it also getting more admiring glances than a Coupe would, yet also not being quite as showy as the convertible.
It remains what it always has been then, a car with its foot in both camps, that mixes elements of each convincingly, but with some obvious concessions too. Enough to have me stop and ponder it, more than any 911, and conclude that yes it’s a superb Targa, with all that brings with it, but as a result not the greatest 911. Nor even the best open 992. If that sounds like faint praise then don’t read it as such – choice is a fantastic thing, and the Targa gives you more of it, more of the time. For many that’s more than convincing enough an argument to have it over either of the other 992s available to you, and you’d not be wrong in choosing one in preference to them, either.
Total 911 verdict
Choice is a good thing, and the Targa brings more to the 911 range than it takes away.Looks, effortless performance, incredibly clever roof mechanism/operationA less engaging drive, wind noise, why change the classic badge?LEFT Seven-speed manual transmission is available for 2021MY 911s
BELOW 992 fulfils the Targa’s remit of being a good boulevard cruiser rather than an out-and-out sports car
ABOVE LEFT Iconic rollbar design, revived for the 991, remains on the 992, with either a black or aluminium-look rollbar this time available from launch
LEFT Targa looks beautiful, but wind noise remains
Model 992 Targa 4S
Compression ratio 10.2.1
Maximum power 450hp @ 6,500rpm
Maximum torque 530Nm @2,300-5,000rpm
Transmission Eight-speed PDK, four-wheel drive
Front Spring-strut suspension; wheels independently suspended on wishbones with trailing links and struts (McPherson type, Porsche-optimized)
Rear Lightweight multi-link suspension with wheels independently guided on five suspension arms
Wheels & tyres
Front 8.5x20-inch, ET 53 alloys; 245/35 ZR20 tyres
Rear 11.5x21-inch, ET 67 alloys; 305/30 ZR21 tyres
Performance 0-62mph 3.8 seconds (3.6 with Sport Chrono)
Top speed 189mph