In just the second year of the latest generation, Porsche already offers the 911 in 14 varieties, which is about halfway to where it will probably end up once they've rolled out every possible iteration. The latest mutation of 911 DNA spawns the 2021 911 Targa, which features a power-retractable targa panel, but it isn't a full-on convertible. It does, however, cost just as much as the cabriolet, thus raising sound questions about the point of this roof reengineering exercise. To which the answer is: Don't overthink this. We've got a new 911 Targa 4, and seemingly the whole back end of the car pops off to hide a little piece of roof. And if you don't think that's cool, you're welcome to peruse one of the many other 911s or just go down to the nearest pond and yell at the ducks.
The Targa's top operates just as it did on the previous generation: The rear window cantilevers back as the top folds itself and tucks behind the rear seats, the glass then returning home on a 19-second round trip. On the previous Targa, it was possible to pop the top and smash that pricey piece of formed glassed into a brick wall or the Cayenne parked in the garage. In the newest generation, if the parking sensors detect any threats within 1.6 feet, the top will halt its disappearing act and alert the driver to the imminent danger. The Targa bar comes standard in silver and can be optioned in black. And be sure to keep this latest edition rubber side down or the two magnesium bars fitted to keep the targa panel taut would likely create a dazzling sparkler show.
The Targa is propelled by a familiar powertrain, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six mated to Porsche's magnificent eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Starting at $120,650, the Targa 4 cranks out 379 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. Upgrading to the 4S will run an additional $15,900 but bumps the power output to 443 horses and 390 pound-feet. Sadly, the Targa is only offered with all-wheel drive, but there's a little morsel of redemption. As with the other S variants, a seven-speed manual transmission is offered as a no-cost option. The do-it-yourself gearbox replaces the electronically controlled limited-slip differential with a conventional limited-slip unit and includes the otherwise optional Sport Chrono package, which adds drive modes and dynamic engine mounts. Curious how the Targa will perform? Check out these tests of the Carrera S, Carrera S with the manual, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S and Carrera S Cabriolet.
Because it's a Porsche, a plethora of performance goodies and dress-up items are available à la carte. The German-spec Targa 4S we drove had all the fixings, which, at $181,840, inflated the sticker price into capital-T 911 Turbo range. A 911 is beautiful to drive at any price point, but the Targa 4S's extra performance gear certainly didn't disappoint. The adaptive dampers (standard on both models) adeptly smooth the wrinkled pavement of old country roads, and the steering operates with impeccable precision and provides useful feedback. The brake pedal is perfect, and the optional carbon-ceramic rotors are unbothered by any abuse you can throw at them. The active anti-roll bars paired with rear-axle steering (both only available on the 4S) seemingly grant the Targa cornering superpowers and the driver instantaneous confidence. If launch-control starts don't induce belly laughs, keep doing them until they do. The car won't mind.
Of course, even a $180,000 Targa comes with a few caveats. The 911 coupes are stiffer than the convertibles, and the Targa feels a little more like the latter. The structure trembles a touch more over high-frequency washboard, and the tremors are amplified through the steering column. With the top peeled back and the wind deflector deployed from windscreen frame, there's a bit of booming wind buffeting that occurs around 50 mph. And then there's the additional mass. This loaded Targa 4S tipped the scales at hefty 3765 pounds, nearly 250 pounds more than the last Carrera 4S coupe we tested.
But all of those quibbles are rooted in logic, and the Targa is, at its core, an illogical machine. Sun worshippers are better off with a 911 Cabriolet; track rats will want a coupe. With so many models in the lineup, every 911 has a particular, focused mission—except this one. The Targa is the 911 that comes closest to whimsy. It's here just for fun, to present an overly complex solution to a simple problem, and to deliver a throwback open-air experience without the hassle. If you don't get it, don't get it. The Targa and its audience will find each other, just as they always have.
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