New car review

Porsche 911 Targa 4S test drive

The 911 Targa brings '60s-inspired style with modern performance, but is there substance behind the style?

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 911 Targa 4S is arguably the best of the lot.

Born in the 1960s because America was considering banning convertibles for being too dangerous, and named after Porsche’s victories in the famous Targa Florio races around the Italian island of Sicily, the Porsche 911 Targa became an instant hit.

From the mid-1990s, the Targa became less distinctive as the removable roof panel was replaced by a large panoramic sunroof. In 2014, however, Porsche returned the styling to being inspired by those original models. 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.

The latest 911 range currently holds an exceptional rating of 94% on The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating scale, based on 34 reviews for the coupé and cabriolet 4 and 4S models. The 911 Turbo will be rated separately and we’re building an Expert Rating page for that at the moment, so check back soon.

What’s new about the 911 Targa 4S?

As you’d expect, the latest Targa is based on the 992-generation Porsche 911 coupé that arrived in the UK about a year ago. Key changes compared to the previous 991-generation Targa 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.

As in previous generations, there are two specifications – The Porsche 911 Targa 4 and more powerful Porsche 911 Targa 4S, which is the one we’re reviewing here.

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 Targa 4S and as an option on the Targa 4.

How does it look?

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 the spec like?

Standard equipment on the 911 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.

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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.

What’s the Porsche 911 Targa 4S like inside?

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 under the bonnet?

Performance comes from a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder boxer engine, which makes 450hp and 530Nm in the Targa 4S. If you opt for the lower-spec Targa 4, you get 385hp and 450Nm of torque.

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 your favourite B-road.

What’s the Porsche 911 Targa 4S like to drive?

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.

992 Porsche 911 Targa 4S road test - rear

Verdict

There’s no denying that, as usual, Porsche has absolutely nailed the brief with the 911 Targa 4S. 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.

Similar cars

Aston Martin Vantage Volante | Audi R8 Spyder | Chevrolet Corvette | Jaguar F-Type | Lexus LC 500 Convertible | McLaren 570S Spider | Mercedes-AMG GT Convertible | Nissan GT-R

Key specifications

Model as tested: Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Price: £109,725
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic

Power: 450 hp
Torque: 530 Nm
Top speed: 189 mph
0-60mph: 3.6 seconds

Fuel economy (combined): 28.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 227g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Not tested
TCE Expert Rating: 94% (as of August 2020)

Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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