The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF

STYLE with sub­stance is the sig­na­ture of Porsche’s lat­est 911 Targa.

It atones for not be­ing quite as fast and fu­ri­ous as the coupe (and that’s a rel­a­tive con­cept when deal­ing with any 911) with a vis­ual pres­ence that eclipses both coupe and con­vert­ible.

Right now Tar­gas ac­count for around five per cent of 911 sales. Porsche ex­pects that num­ber to rise when the new model lands here midyear. Hav­ing seen and driven it, we can only agree: this is a car that will con­vince many po­ten­tial con­vert­ible buy­ers they only need to take half their top off. The Targa has no com­peti­tors. Nom­i­nally a 2+2 seater, only the front seats are ex­posed to the el­e­ments with the roof down. That’s a unique sell­ing point.

Ex­clu­siv­ity is never cheap and in the case of the base Targa 4 model the price is $247,900. Those look­ing to bet­ter the Targa 4’s 5-sec­ond run to 100km/h and opt for the 4S with a 4.4-sec­ond sprint to triple fig­ures and a price of 285,100. In both cases swap­ping the sev­en­speed man­ual for a seven-speed dual-clutch auto adds $5950. The elec­tri­cally fold­ing soft­top, with mag­ne­sium frame to keep it taut, rep­re­sents the good and the bad for Targa own­ers. Good in that stow­ing the panel will stop traf­fic as the Porsche in­dulges in a 19-sec­ond semistrip tease as it slips off its wrap­around glass rear to stow the roof; bad in that it can only be done when sta­tion­ary.

Porsche says the car must be at a stand­still be­cause the glass canopy drops over the tail lights, po­ten­tially pos­ing a safety risk and that the mo­tors, struts and piv­ots would have had to be big­ger — and heav­ier — to achieve it on the move.

As it is the Targa is 90kg heav­ier than a stan­dard Porsche 911 Car­rera 4. The Targa looks like a 911 with a hefty roll bar un­til you take the top off. Then it looks sen­sa­tional. The wide sil­ver Bstrut adds to the lines and im­bues this car with the best styling of any model in the Porsche sta­ble.

If sex sells the Targa is an adult toy shop. It lacks for noth­ing against the reg­u­lar 911 and has more vis­ual panache than the con­vert­ible.

Front lug­gage space, un­der what would be tra­di­tion­ally be the bon­net, is 125 litres — enough for a cou­ple of air­craft carry-on bags, while the rear is a slightly more ac­com­mo­dat­ing 160 litres. The only thing the Porsche lacks is be­spoke lug­gage de­signed to fit in­side the uniquely shaped in­te­ri­ors. Porsche doesn’t earn a crasht­est rat­ing, purely by virtue of be­ing a small vol­ume maker.

That said, I’d hap­pily run a 911 into a brick wall, such is the feel­ing of so­lid­ity from the chas­sis. In nor­mal on-road cir­cum­stances, only those who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the right foot and the seat-of-the pants feel will ever get a Porsche out of shape. Even then, the sta­bil­ity con­trol will save you — long gone are the days when a Porsche bit back at own­ers with more cash than com­mon sense.

The Targa is fit­ted with four airbags if things do go awry but be­fore that four 330mm fourpis­ton monobloc cal­lipers wash will pull speed off and the sta­bil­ity con­trol will per­mit a de­gree of tail-wag­ging over­steer then pull the car into line be­fore the driver has cause to panic. Give it the right boot and it is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent the Targa is far re­moved from a hair­dressers’ con­veyance. The sus­pen­sion damp­ing and re­bound rates have been ad­justed to al­low for the ex­tra weight and the re­sult is a ve­hi­cle that is planted on the road.

On the in­ten­tion­ally cho­sen crap B-roads around Bari, Italy, the Targa was al­ways com­posed, al­beit with ev­ery bump be­ing felt through the chas­sis and/or steer­ing. It may go top­less but it still goes hard and Porsche prefers to keep the sport­ing ori­en­ta­tion to the fore.

There’s a whiff of scut­tle shake over the big­ger bumps — the Targa has about half the tor­sional rigid­ity of a coupe — but it is a small sac­ri­fice to make for the open-air ex­pe­ri­ence.

The car tracks true ir­re­spec­tive of the road con­di­tions but it isn’t the most re­fined open-top tourer — go buy a BMW 6 Se­ries if that’s your in­cli­na­tion. The Targa hoop not only blocks head­check vis­i­bil­ity but de­flects a gen­tle eddy of air back onto the out­side shoul­der of driver and pas­sen­ger and di­verts a steady breeze into the hair of back-seat pas­sen­gers (as­sum­ing you can find any­one pre­pared to spend time back there).

More con­cern­ing is the rat­tle from the wind­screen-mounted PRICES From $247,900 WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED PRICE SER­VIC­ING: No SER­VICE IN­TER­VALS 12 months/15,000km RE­SALE 61 per cent (three years, Glass’s Guide) SAFETY Not rated EN­GINE 3.4-litre flat six­cylin­der, 257kW/390Nm (Targa 4); 3.8-litre flat six­cylin­der, 294kW/440Nm (Targa 4S) TRANS­MIS­SION 7-speed man­ual, seven-speed dual-clutch auto; AWD THIRST 9.5L/100km, 223g/km CO2 (man­ual Targa 4); 8.7L/100km, 204g/km CO2 (auto Targa 4); 10L/100km, 237g/km CO2 (man­ual Targa 4S); 9.2L/100km, 214g/km CO2 (auto Targa 4S) DI­MEN­SIONS 4.49m (L), 1.85m (W), 1.3m (H) WEIGHT 1540-1575kg SPARE Tyre re­pair kit air de­flec­tor over bumps at free­way speeds. If I’m pay­ing mid-$200K for a sports car, the only squeaks I ex­pect are from the pas­sen­gers.

It was only ev­i­dent on one of the two ve­hi­cles tested — and they’d al­ready been pun­ished by a suc­ces­sion of mo­tor­ing hacks — but is so in­con­gru­ous in a Porsche that it is note­wor­thy.

In the main, the Porsche is su­perbly re­fined and dis­plays a cor­ner­ing prow­ess that shames many Euro sports cars priced in the same league. I’ll take the tra­di­tional hard­top but for those who want the look — and to be looked at — the Targa is the best amal­gam of coupe and con­vert­ible.

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