It takes about 19 seconds to convert this coupe into a quasi-convertible. Roadside gawkers would say it takes more than that — only natural, really, when time stands still. I have had my fair share of experience with two-door sports cars featuring retractable roofs, and the complementary attention they get — but this one is another level altogether. You see, the roof of the 911 Targa 4S is a complex engineering marvel, which should ideally be seen in a Ridley Scott movie, or in Transformers: Clever Buggers, Those Autobots. So you can well imagine the effect on our roads — at the flick of a switch, a giant glass panel behind you simply lifts up, the roof over your head moves back and nestles itself somewhere behind you, and the glass panel settles back in place. Et voila, in 19 seconds you are in a convertible, and multiple strangers on the road suddenly want to make love to you. Or maybe even marry you. Looking good for the camera-phones is the least of your worries.
Driving a 911 is a surefire way of telling the world that you are a sports car enthusiast of a different breed altogether. It is proof that you can have money and taste, because the Porsche 911, frankly, is heritage, performance, craftsmanship, design, exclusivity and practicality rolled into one. The Targa version of the 911 takes all this one notch higher. It is distinctive compared to other 911s, because of that fixed Targa bar and the glass panel at the back, and the car which I was piloting was stunning, inside-out.
Finished in glossy metallic black and offset by the painted die-cast aluminium bar, with its classic three gills and topped by clear-lens tail-lamps, it is a special sight on any road in Monaco, let alone in India. The grey leather upholstery inside had bright yellow accents, right down to the stitching. Add the yellow dials and the Sport Chrono clock at the centre of the dash, and you are in a car that’s as individual as you. The way the light falls on its elegant lines and accentuates its fat bottom is enough to take anyone’s breath away. And then, you see it move…
The reason for that prominent rear-end is that it is an all-wheel drive 911. Compared to the regular 911 Carreras, the wheel arches are wider and also accommodate fatter rubber. Another way to make out the 911 in front of you sends power to all four wheels is to notice a rear light strip that joins the tail-lamps — unmistakable. The Targa comes only in all-wheel drive, but it has a 3.4-litre engine in the Targa 4 and a bigger one in the 4S.
And that’s what I am piloting. Sitting beneath that wraparound rear window is a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine. Displacing 3800cc, the motor develops 394 bhp at 7400 rpm anda turning force of 44.8 kgm at 5600 rpm. Porsche engineers have fettled the Targa — owing to its complex roof mechanism — with exotic materials and engineering, so that the engine does not have to work extra hard compared to the regular versions. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (PDK, in Porsche-speak) via the Porsche Traction Management system transfers all that power to the road.
Step on the pedal and the 911 Targa accelerates without even a millisecond of hesitation. It is not gut-wrenching, disembowelling or sphincter-tightening — there are other potent 911 versions for that. This one is good enough to beat the pants off most cars at the stop light, but why would you want to do that? Allow everyone to see the way it moves and cut through the visual clutter, like Jaws through a sea of unsuspecting swimmers. That said, this Targa 4S can touch 100 kph in just 4.4 seconds and a top speed a smidgen short of 300 kph. You were saying…?
The hidden aspect in its arsenal is something called the Carrera S Powerkit, which gets a tiny mention near the engine. This is an optional extra. Ticking on the options box for this translates to not just 30 more horses and the Sport Chrono package with dynamic engine mounts, but also the sports exhaust system, with specially designed twin dual-tube tailpipes that make you feel like Walter Rohrl (the legendary German rally driver) inside.
Sheer engine performance aside, the 911 is a visceral experience to drive, simply because of its uncanny ability to translate your inputs to the road. The steering precision and the handling make you feel that the car is an extension of your body. Not many sports cars can deliver that experience, no matter what anyone says. Okay, maybe the Porsche Cayman GT4 would have a thing or two to say to that. If you wish to make a statement of elegance, there are not many sports cars out there that can marry performance with beauty. The 911 Targa 4S is undoubtedly a classic… from tomorrow. Cars that can make time stand still generally are.
There was a demand in the 1960s for a Porsche 911 that allowed for wind-in-the-hair motoring, and Porsche hit upon a solution that was unique and in keeping with regulations — a fixed roof bar that had a removable top at one end and a plastic window affixed by a zipper at the back. Porsche chose to pick a reference from its illustrious motorsport history and called this model the Targa. Held in Sicily, the Targa Florio is considered the oldest motor racing event in the world, and one of the most dangerous. Porsche had earned multiple wins here, so it deservedly affixed that badge on the first Targa in 1966.