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2021 Porsche 911 Targa first drive review: Sun king

It's not quite a convertible, and not quite a coupe, but the new 911 Targa combines the best attributes of both.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
5 min read

Convertibles aren't the only way to let the good light in. The Targa and its half-removable roof has always stood as a unique outlier, sharing its standout quality with very few cars on the road. For the 2021 model year, the 911 Targa finally catches up to the rest of the 992-generation lineup, and it's a good'un.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa

The most prominent part of the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa is the roof bar just behind the first row. This, and the large expanse of glass behind it, are capable of doing a surprisingly complex dance. It's all great theater, too. Everything behind the Targa bar lifts up, the actual roof slides its way to its home behind the rear seats, and everything slowly locks back into place. And you know the best part? Whether it's static or dynamic, the roof looks badass.

It's worth noting that the Targa's roof doesn't operate at any speed above a standstill. In most situations, this isn't a problem, but if you're a bad planner like me, staring down ever-darkening clouds one stop light before a highway on-ramp, those 19 seconds feel like 100. Nevertheless, the ballet is smooth and delightfully free of creaks, although all that complexity might come back to bite the owner by way of the service department someday.

For as many seals as I notice in and around the top half of the 911 Targa, the car is devoid of egregious wind noise, and whatever wind noise does exist is drowned out by the tire noise, because my Targa 4S tester is running some fat, staggered, summer performance tires. However, tire noise is largely dependent on the material underfoot, and on most types of highway, the Targa 4S is a quiet grand tourer. With the roof open, I'm not finding any speeds where buffeting becomes an issue. It's all very pleasant.

My tester is the 911 Targa 4S, the higher-performing variant of the two models on offer, both of which lock you into all-wheel drive. Its 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged flat-6 puts down 443 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, respective improvements of 23 and 2, respectively, over the old 4S. That's enough to result in a 3.4-second sprint to 60 mph, but it's not like that power is best utilized at stoplight drags. Torque is available at nearly every opportunity without requiring a gearshift. When I really lean into the gas pedal, a hint of turbo noise accompanies a whole bunch o' clamor from the active exhaust -- which, yes, you should always leave in its louder setting -- and the Targa will push and push like it's standing on the edge of a Warped Tour mosh pit. The PDK dual-clutch transmission grows an extra gear for the 992, for a total of eight, but it remains as sharp-witted and fast-shifting as ever; it's easily my favorite dual-clutch on the market. It will work perfectly if left to its own devices, changing its attitude with the vehicle mode, although I'm not a huge fan of how Sport mode tends to forget eighth gear exists in higher-speed cruising scenarios.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa drops its top in a unique way

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At this point, it goes without saying that the Targa is great to drive, since every other version of the 992 to date has yet to disappoint. Since it shares powertrains and most of its chassis with other parts of the 911 lineup, the Targa's additional high-mounted heft does absolutely nothing to shake the vehicle's character. Body roll only exists in my mind, and the latest iteration of the PASM adjustable suspension smooths out the experience better than before. The Targa's default mode is surprisingly supple on the highway, while spinning the wheel-mounted mode switch to Sport or Sport Plus wakes up the dampers as they begin communicating every inch of the road to the driver. Some of my preferred back roads are a little janky, so the softer setting comes in handy, because it still handles incredibly well. Chuck it into a corner, and as long as you didn't truly screw it up, the Targa will sort itself out and plow out the other side unfazed.

The other parts of the driving experience are just as world-class as the rest of the 911 range. The steering is direct, responding nearly immediately to changes, while the throttle tuning is just the right amount of sharp in each mode, with distinct differences between them. The brakes are powerful enough to give your optic nerves a run for their money, but the pedal modulation permits for smooth, controlled stops in regular driving with no low-temp shrieking.

The 911 Targa also shares its in-car complement of tech with the rest of the lineup. The dashboard sports a 10.9-inch touchscreen that runs the PCM infotainment system. The latest iteration is quite good, with fast boot and response times, amply sized tiles that don't require too much distraction to click and a whole boatload of goodies like an embedded 4G LTE connection, onboard navigation and Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto). The screens flanking the sole remaining physical gauge offer even more low-distraction ways to glance at data, but the steering wheel almost always obscures them, so it can be annoying.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa
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2021 Porsche 911 Targa

The Targa's interior is no different than any other 992-generation 911's, which is to say, it's pretty swell.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

But you have to take the good with the bad, and to that end, familiar 992-era issues pop up here, too. It's not particularly good on gas, never cresting 18 miles per gallon combined on my mixed-road evaluation loop. The door handles are dumb as hell, picking up electromechanical bits that only serve to inflate future repair bills. The PDK's gear lollipop (it's not a lever) looks silly and ditches the ability to manually shift gears, so I hope you like the admittedly excellent paddle shifters. That's about it, though.

Of course, you'll have to pay to get all this mechanical trickery in your driveway. The Targa 4's starting price of $120,650 is a bit loftier than the fixed-roof Carrera 4's $107,850 window sticker, but it holds even with the Carrera 4 , so it really comes down to whether you prefer a hard top or a softie.

What else is there to say about the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa, really? It's not unexpected that the Targa feels every bit as calm, collected and capable as every other 992-generation Neunelfer, and the addition of the deployable roof panel gives drivers a little bit of the convertible feeling without the full ragtop and the weird body hump that comes with it. Best of both worlds, if you ask me.