It's ironic that Porsche, one of the world's greatest sports car manufacturers, names one of its least sporty cars after one of the world's greatest road races. Yes, there's always been something a bit wishy-washy about the Targa.
This latest version is better, though. The 996 Targa felt baggy, the sliding roof rattled a little bit in the rails - it certainly wasn't what you'd expect of a 911. I can remember feeling that the whole experience wasn't as taut as I had been hoping.
But in this face-lifted 997, things are much
better. The whole car feels as rigid as the coupe, which
is impressive, given the size of the glass area in the roof. There's absolutely no rattle from it, and
it doesn't feel like there's a lot of weight up there, despite the Targa being a whole 60kg heavier than the normal coupe.
Porsche tells us that the fabric roll cover that slides across inside the roof is new, but it's difficult to tell for sure. It still works fine, and it still blocks out most of the sunlight so you don't scorch your bonce. The 'new' roof still slides in the same way as the old one - a single button drops it below the rear window and completely obliterates your rear view. And the Targa is still the most practical 911 because the rear glass opens like a hatchback. There's 230 litres of luggage space with seats folded.
But then the Targa 4 S driving experience is where the Targa package falls apart slightly. The 4 S is missing too much of that 911 soul - you don't get that classic rear-engined squatting roll through a corner, for instance. The steering feels a bit dead in your hands.
The 4 S simply feels like a really fast car. The Porsche precision is still there, but some of the feel and delicacy that used to make these cars the sports cars to have has been knocked back. Granted, our 4 S has the counter-intuitive PDK gearbox and I'm nit-picking, but the general impression I get is not the ultimate drive that Porsches used to guarantee. Even if this is a Targa.
The engine note has also been tamed, so you can't really hear the classic flat-six noise behind you. It now sounds far better from outside.
All of this is a huge shame. Every Porsche enthusiast has moaned that the character has been taken out of them since the demise of the air-cooled engine, but that never used to matter because the driving experience was so spot-on. Now, though, it's less so with the new double-clutch gearbox. The Targa never had the Porsche perfection, but this variant is now simply the rule, not the exception.