Day one: What a nice looking car. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. Perhaps it’s best not to worry about it. No one looks at Keira Knightley and says, what a pretty girl, now let’s analyse why. But then Keira Knightley doesn’t have a silver roll hoop and other excellent references to a 1970s forebear without being too cloyingly retro. Perhaps something for her to consider in future.
It’s a nice day so the roof goes back which it does with a lot of whirring and a movement from what appears to be half the back end that makes the entire car rock. It’s quite an impressive piece of street theatre. Less impressively, once the roof is down there is a rattle from somewhere at the bottom of the back window. If I’d paid 88 grand for this car, I’d be quite cross about that.
Day two: Yesterday I said the Targa rattles with the roof down. I was wrong. It also rattles with the roof up. At least with the roof retracted the wind drowns it out at anything over 10mph. And you can start the retraction process as you walk up to the car by holding down a button on the key. This is quite cool and makes you look like an enormous show off at the same time. In Porsche’s official video of the roof going back it all looks very smooth and slick. In real life, once you see it from the outside you notice that various bits of it are slightly wobbly. Still a fairly mind boggling piece of engineering. In some ways it might have been easier just to deliver every car with a man in the passenger seat who could take out the roof panel for you. He could wear a T-shirt bearing the slogan, ‘Must not be used while the car is in motion’.
Day three: Today I am driving to Cheshire. There’s a weird thing going on with the aerodynamics of this Porsche. You know that painful flubbelling noise you get from having the sunroof open in some cars? With the roof back, the Targa does that at anything over about 40mph. You can stop it by putting the windows down but then it all gets a bit breezy. The only other solution is to put the windows back up and drive a lot faster, then you don’t notice because you’re being physically assaulted by the air. Even so, I attempt much of the M6 with the roof back. After a while the noise and turbulence seems normal. It’s only when you stop and put the roof up you realise it was actually quite noisy. And painful. And you’ve gone deaf. I’m visiting my mate C. He has so little interest in cars it’s a miracle he knows what one is. C is a little surprised to see me pull my overnight bag from where the engine should be. I explain that the engine’s at the back. I was going to continue by saying it doesn’t feel especially rear engined and all Targa models are four-wheel-drive, partly because they need the AWD model’s wide body to accommodate the roof mechanism and partly because the marketing department assumes Targa buyers would have the ski-lodge lifestyle that would need it, so it’s very far from tail-happy. But then I realised C wouldn’t be less interested if I spent 20 minutes describing how I put on my socks. So instead we go for a pint and no more is said about the Porsche.
Day four: It’s a beautiful morning and my route back to the motorway takes in some of my favourite roads. Although the Targa would never be the purist’s choice of 911, it’s impossible not to enjoy blasting across the Cheshire plain. This car isn’t an S and that means it makes do with the 3.4-litre engine but it’s hardly slow. The PDK double clutch ‘box is snappy, the steering has that tight, precise heaviness to it that Porsche do well and, although it’s well disguised, as you accelerate out of corners you get that sense of the car squatting onto its back axle that seems to be one of the reasons to like a 911. The ride’s not bad either. A 911 coupe would have been lighter and more precise on this journey, but I wouldn’t have felt the warm morning air or the smell of cut grass and cow turds swirling around the interior. So, swings and roundabouts.
Day five: Back in London, I take the Targa to pick up my friend Claire. She is from Dagenham. ‘Started selling drugs, have you?’ she says as she gets in. I don’t think a drug dealer would have a Targa. It’s too flash. Or not flash enough. Depends on the drug dealer I suppose. Personally, I find there’s something rather appealing about the image of this car. Less serious and helmsmanly than the coupe, less mid-life crisis than the cabrio.
Day six: A very early morning drive to Kent. Roof up, heated seat on. I believe it should be the law that convertible cars come with heated seats as standard. The Targa does not. They’re a £320 option. Other ‘HOW MUCH?’ options on this car include auto dimming mirrors at £372 and Porsche crests embossed into the headrests, a snip at £138. Total price of this press demonstrator is £96,890. Which, at the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, is a lot.
Day seven: Still in Kent. Driving through those weird coastal towns that Morrissey would definitely have something to say about, I realise one of the good things about the Targa design is that you can get the wind in your hair without feeling completely exposed to a) the elements and b) a sudden goz attack from local youths at a bus stop. Unless they’ve got a really good aim.
Goodbye: The Targa must go. It leaves me uncertain. On the one hand, it’s a terrific looking thing and, whilst certainly not the sharpest 911 money can buy, it’s a decent driving car in its own right. The trouble is, it sits strangely between two stools. If you want the full wheelsmith’s 911 experience, get the Carrera S coupe. And if you want a Porsche that blows insects into your hair, the Boxster S is cheaper and nicer to drive. Both those cars are utterly and fantastically glorious. The Targa stops a bit short of that.
The car talked about here is a Porsche 911 Targa 4. It has a 3.4-litre flat six engine making 345 horsepower. Porsche says it can go from 0-62 in 4.8 seconds and on to 174mph. With the PDK ‘box but no other options, it costs £88,765.