Porsche's Targa 4S doesn't lose a performance step with turbo power and buttoned-up chassis.
Targa models offer a unique experience in the Porsche 911 lineup. While they don't feature the full-blown open-top experience of the Cabriolet, they boast a more al-fresco experience than the coupe. And unlike the hunchback convertible, the new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S still retains a sleek silhouette. It's the ultimate 911 win-win.
The Targa top itself runs through a 19-second song and dance that can only be performed at a standstill. Motors lift covers, things fold and pieces lock in place. It's cool to watch, but the thought of something going wrong down the road (and the repair bill that'll likely follow) makes me cringe. But that's a worry for later; right now, the only thing that matters is the Targa's awesome design and wide stance.
Weather conditions during my time with the Targa run the gamut between clear and rainy, with a late snowfall thrown in for good measure. Still, I did as much roof-off driving as I could. At speed, there's a bit of wind turbulence in the cabin, but it's not enough to make your hair look as if you just rolled out of bed. Any wind buffeting can mostly be erased with the manually deployable deflector at the top of the windshield. That, along with cranking up heat and letting the seat warmers cook my keister, help make top-down driving totally enjoyable in cold temperatures.
When rain or snow begins to fall and the Targa's roof has to close, this operation is void of annoying creaks and rattles, which wasn't the case in previous-generation models I've tested. The hushed environment is no small feat considering how many seams, seals and mechanical doodads could emit unwanted noises.
You won't find much to complain about in the Targa's cabin. The layout is clean and easy to work though with a combination of toggles and buttons on the center console, letting me adjust climate controls, heated and cooled seats and more. Supportive front seats along with lots of soft, leather-wrapped surfaces make for a comfortable and quality cockpit.
Like the coupe and convertible, the 911 Targa does have very tight rear seats, with bolt-upright seatbacks and hardly any legroom. Anyone taller than 5 feet, 6 inches will need to contort themselves into a Tetris piece since their head will be jammed up against the Targa's roof hoop, but at least that bar is covered in Alcantara. Really, the back seat is best used for cargo, providing an additional 5.75 cubic feet of space to supplement the 4.66 cubic feet available in the front trunk.
Like the rest of the new 911s, the Targa benefits from hearty technology upgrades. The gauge cluster still consists of an analog tachometer flanked by a couple of 7-inch reconfigurable TFT displays. In the center stack, the quick, intuitive and vibrant-looking Porsche Communication Management system handles infotainment duties with a 10.9-inch touchscreen. It runs a nice-sounding 12-speaker Bose audio setup, navigation with real-time traffic info, Wi-Fi hotspot and can now run both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the safety front, my Targa 4S test car features forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and a 360-degree camera with excellent image quality. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and night vision are available as options.
When it's time to boogie, the Targa 4S doesn't disappoint. Not with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six making 443 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. In my tester, thrust is routed to all four wheels through a lightning-quick eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that helps the drivetrain return an EPA-estimated 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. All told, the 911 Targa 4S scoots to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and can cover the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 180 mph.
These performance claims actually seem conservative considering how rapidly the 4S runs away from stops when using launch control. The turbocharged mid-range grunt makes passing slower traffic and merging onto expressways a cinch, the Targa pulling madly to the engine's 7,500-rpm redline and sounding darn good through the sport exhaust in the process.
For anyone concerned about the Targa's extra heft and elevated center of gravity, don't be. Yes, a 3,687-pound curb weight represents a 200-pound penalty compared to the 911 4S coupe, but handle-better goodies like adaptive dampers, rear-wheel steering, a torque-vectoring rear differential and beefy 20-inch front and 21-inch rear tires hide the extra poundage well. Sharp, direct steering helps the 911 turn in for corners immediately with hardly any body squat as it bullrushes through. This car has all the grip and composure you could ever need for enthusiastic street driving. The brakes are typical Porsche-strong, offering a nice initial bite and great pedal modulation.
It's worth mentioning that this Targa is riding on Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 winter tires. No doubt, with summer skins it'll feel even more eager to hustle through your favorite backroads, but the winter rubber definitely comes in handy for the aforementioned snow. Yes, the 911 is a sports car, but it plows through accumulation without batting an eye, and if you want to have fun kicking the rear end out in a controlled manner, you totally can. Top everything off with the ability for the Targa to be a comfortable and relaxed ride in its Normal drive setting and you have a sports car capable of being driven year-round -- with the right tires.
My ideal 2021 911 Targa 4S, which starts at $138,550 including $1,350 for destination, begins with a no-cost seven-speed manual transmission. As good as the dual-clutch is, I'm almost always going to go with three pedals if available, simply for the added driver involvement. Then I'd go for the $3,270 Shark Blue paint job and $2,950 sport exhaust system for a nicer soundtrack. For the inside, give me the $440 four-way power Sport Seats Plus and $5,350 Premium Package, primarily for the blind-spot monitoring, Bose stereo and cooled seats. All that pushes the price tag of my car to $150,560. By comparison, the Targa tester pictured here with additional high-dollar extras like $2,090 rear-wheel steering and $2,770 front axle lift system pushes its bottom line to a steeper $161,960.
If you're an all-wheel-drive 911 shopper mulling over which open-top model to get, here's something else that could make the decision more difficult: The Cabriolet and Targa models start at the exact same price, with the 4 versions beginning at $122,650 and 4S cars at $138,550. For me, I'm on Team Targa based solely on looks alone. The convertible's bloated rear end can't hold a candle to that sleek 911 silhouette.