For so many years, the Targa was the left-fielder of the Porsche 911 range. Originally introduced as a work-around for US safety regulations, the model has gradually morphed into one of the more desirable 911 variants. And now the box-fresh 992-generation Targa has been unveiled in full Australian specification. So what do you get?
Those looking for reams of choices might be a little crestfallen. There are basically two Targa models on offer, both all-wheel drive and both sending their power to the treads via a seven-speed PDK transmission. While some other markets get a manual, we're not among them.
So your choice comes down to a 283kW/450Nm 911 Targa 4, developing 11kW more than its predecessor, or a 331kW/530Nm Targa 4S, up by 22kW on the old 991 Targa. Given that most of the mechanicals are shared with the 992 range, of which you're probably familiar, we won't detain you with the finer points there.
Prices start at $275,800 for the Targa 4 and $314,100 for the Targa 4S, with customer cars arriving in quarter three of this year. In other words, if you want a car before the New Year, you'll need to get your order in quickly. Like now.
As is usally the case with all Australian Porsches, the standard specification errs on the generous side. In some markets, features like LED headlights, Porsche Dynamic Lighting System Plus, a top tint windscreen, electrically folding mirrors, metallic paint, Surround View, Lane Change Assist, Comfort access, front seat heating, 14-way sports seats with memory package and a Bose surround system would reside on the options list, but Aussie cars get all that before you even start ticking boxes.
Like all 992-generation 911s, the wide-body styling gives the new Targa a pugnacious, planted look and the integration of the soft top roof is very slick. It's a similar mechanism to the 991, but many of the materials have been optimised. Two integrated flat magnesium elements tauten the fabric roof and offer noise and thermal insulation.
It takes just 19 seconds for the roof to open or close and it's fully automatic, with no manual latching required. The action never really loses its novelty as the glass rear window raises, tilts and moves back. Then the soft top roof pops back and stows behind the rear seats, the flaps in the Targa roll bar close and the rear window slides back into place. The best thing? Roof open or closed, it retains the iconic 911 profile.
Porsche has clearly listened to criticism that the 991 Targa, as good-looking as it was, wanted for a little in terms of wind protection when the roof panel was stowed. This 992 promises far better protection from buffeting and turbulence in the cabin, with a manually activated wind deflector doing its best work between 50 and 145km/h.
The Targa also debuts a couple of extra features that will filter down into the rest of the 911 range. Porsche InnoDrive is, in effect, a super cruise control system that uses data from mapping to calculate the optimum acceleration and deceleration settings for three kilometres ahead of the car. In practical terms, the system will be a lot better at managing the car in slow-moving traffic jams and, when the adpative cruise is set, will be able to recognise upcoming road features such as roundabouts, slowing accordingly.
The other introduction is something that Tesla owners have had for a while. The optional Smartlift function is what happens when the GPS talks to the front lifter kit. The system saves GPS co-ordinates and can remember when you lifted the car's nose. Approach the same position from the same direction again and it'll pop the front up by 40mm without you having to intervene. Neat.
PORSCHE 911 TARGA TIMELINE
A registered trademark of Porsche AG, the Targa badge first appeared on the 1965 911 amid fears that the NHTSA in the USA would ban full soft-top cars. Porsche wasn't the first to come up with the idea of a pop-out roof panel and a sold roll-over hoop. Michelotti was the originator of the idea, with his 1957 Fiat 1200 Wonderful and 1961 Triumph TR4 designs also featuring the layout, the removal panel of the latter being dubbed a Surrey Top. That didn't catch on.
In 1981 Porsche finally introduced a full soft-top Cabriolet version of the 911SC at the Frankfurt Motor Show which was sold to the public the following year. Positioned above the Targa in the 911 hierarchy it was a huge success, selling 4214 units in its first year on sale.
The Targa body style nevertheless continued through the 3.2 Carrera era (1983-1989) and 964 (1989-1994) model lines. The 993 generation debuted without a Targa in the range in 1994, and it wasn't until 1996 that one appeared. This took the Targa in a different design direction. Gone was the manually removable roof panel and in its place was an innovation that would persist through the subsequent 996 and 997 generations; the sliding glass roof pane.
While this system helped retain the characteristic 911 'flyline' in profile, losing the old car's somewhat ungainly humped rear and flat roof, it also added a lot of weight to the top of the car, raising its centre of gravity.
Described by current 911 boss Frank-Steffen Walliser a little disparagingly as a 'big sunroof', the glass Targas nevertheless proved popular, but it wasn't until the introduction of the 991 generation that we saw the first truly beautiful Targa-roofed 911. Unveiled at the 2014 Deytroit Show, the 991 Targa featured a clever electrically-stowed soft top, which hid beneath a clever motorised rear deck/window arrangement. Suddenly the Targa became hugely desirable and, model for model, it's now the most expensive 911 body style.
The 992 continues this theme, and with its wide-body styling and even more powerful engines, it punts the Targa into a new market. Walliser openly admits that Targa customers are "good customers" with the highest options spend of all 911 buyers. Perhaps there's headroom for an even higher-end Targa? Who'd bet against a 992 Turbo Targa appearing in a couple of years' time?