Porsche Targa 4S, Side view 19 Photos Zoom

Porsche Targa 4S put to the test: Return of the original frame

It once again features the classic Targa frame – as its ancestor from 1965 did before. This is joined by bucket seats, a ceramic braking system and a boxer engine with 395 HP. Several good reasons to test the Porsche 911 Targa 4S.

Detractors claim that a Porsche 911 Targa is not for sports drivers. The extroverted open-air variant of the 911 has cropped up so rarely during the history of our magazine that you could almost be forgiven for paying heed to the critics. Only a 911 SC Targa (4/1981) and Targa models from the 993 (12/1995) and 996 (2/2004) series have thus far subjected themselves to our test. The fact that today Targa is not merely a synonym for the open-air cruiser, is evident in the equipment list of the current Targa test models: racing yellow paint, sports exhaust, ceramic braking system, sports bucket seats plus a 3.8-litre Boxer with 395 HP – sports drivers, what more could your hearts actually desire?

The Porsche 911 Targas roof opens in 19 seconds

Unlike the predecessors from the 997, 996 and 993 generations of 911, the most recent Porsche 911 Targe no longer features just a glass roof and tailgate, but like the original Targe from 1965 it once again features a broad Targa frame in place of the B-pillars, a movable soft-top over the front seats and a wrap-around rear wind shield without a C-pillar.

At the touch of a button, the entire construction lifts up electronically, is stowed in the section of roof behind the back seats and the glass wind shield then closes again. The fact that the Porsche 911 Targa 4S can open or close in around 19 seconds is a spectacular piece of choreography. In its press kit, Porsche does emphasise the "intelligent lightweight construction", although in reality the Targa 4S weighs 62 kilos more than the previously tested 4S Coupé with manual transmission (3/2013) and 99 Kilo more than the PDK 911 Carrera S from the supertest (12/2011). Our diet suggestion: get rid of the folding roof frame and install a removable carbon hard-top.

However, the Porsche 911 Targa 4S doesn't allow itself to be distracted by its few extra pounds. Without any noticeable slip, the Porsche 911 Targa 4S makes short work of its factory specifications, reaching a speed of 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. Something that may be of interest to 996 fans: in 2004 the 1,521-kilo 996 Targa with 316 HP, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, when put to our test, accelerated to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. In the sprint to 200 km/h the current model puts a little more light between itself and its historic Targa relative, with a time of 15.7 seconds (996 Targa: 16.3 s).

Porsche 911 Targa with seven-speed dual clutch transmission

While in the 996 manual, a great of clutch/accelerator sensitivity was required for sprints such as this, the Porsche 911 Targa 4S springs seamlessly from the spot, without any messing about. Thanks to the seven-speed dual clutch transmission, with exceptionally effective Launch Control, the sense of acceleration here can almost be duplicated at will.

Fast shifting processes or consumption-reducing "sailing" in seventh gear – the automatic mode in the Porsche 911 Targa borders on perfection in everyday driving. In manual mode, which doesn't hold gears, even with the PSM deactivated, but gears up or down or its own accord under kickdown conditions, there is, however, room for improvement.

The technical progress is more evident in the deceleration values than in the acceleration. With a value of 32.4 metres, the Porsche 911 Targa from the 991 series stops 2.5 metres before the 996 version from 2004 when braking from 100 km/h. From a speed of 200 the newcomer comes to a stop after 132.2 metres, well in excess of ten metres before the 2004 model (996 Targa: 144,2 m).

Strong wind noise

But that's enough longitudinal dynamics on our test field in Lahr. While measurement values are always calculated with a closed roof, we enjoy the connecting journey to the F1 track in Hockenheim with the top down. On the country road, at up to 70 km/h, it's all good. At a top engine speed of up to 7,800 rpm, the Boxer trumpet of the Porsche 911 Targa fires up with a sense of rebellion and sloshes over the rear glass wind shield into the exposed interior.

At 100 km/h the sound scape changes and with regard to the current 911 frame we must also attest to what former tester Friedbert Holz wrote of the 911 SC Targa in vol 4/1981: "strong wind noise in the Porsche Targa".

At over 120 km/h you can only hear the engine noise with the roof of the Porsche 911 Targa open to a limited extent, on account of the extreme turbulent noise. This isn't helped by the wind deflector mounted on the front wind shield frame, which extends when the roof is open

Arrival in Hockenheim, Softtop closed. The fact that, with the roof closed, the noise level in the interior isn't much greater than that in the fixed-roof 911, is not what we are focussing on at this point. The short circuit is calling and the Porsche 911 Targa 4S doesn't take long to bite. The race track experience is similar to that in the 4S Coupé version. The electro-mechanical power steering works smoothly, almost without any jolt and with precise feedback.

Not a vehicle for sports drivers?

The handling remains largely neutral. Thanks to the variable all-wheel drive PTM, the traction at the rear axle is exceptional, however, under load the grip at the front axle – in particular in tight corners (coming out of the Querspange, the Sachs corner) – could be better. The tendency to understeer is more pronounced in the Porsche 911 Targa 4S than in the previously tested Carrera 4S. Thus, with a lap time of 1:12.9 minutes, the Targa loses 1.2 seconds on the 4S fixed-roof model.

So are the critics mentioned earlier right that Targa is not a car for sports drivers? Certainly not, since in Hockenheim the current open-air version of the 911 is three tenths faster than the former track day weapon, the 2003 996 GT3 Mk2.

Christian Gebhardt


Rossen Gargolov


13 March 2015
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