It had been my dream ever since I was eight years old. This Stuttgart beauty had caught my eye when it blazed past cars on the winding roads of the Swiss Alps. The ease with which the Porsche manoeuvred its way past the twists was stuck in my mind. When the moment for this dream to become a reality came, my palms were sweaty and my heart was pounding hard. But you can't really haul me up for feeling so edgy, because it is not every day that you get an opportunity to drive the Porsche 911 Targa 4S.
The Targa is a very unique car. It is more of a street coupe than a convertible, even though it has a folding roof. What differentiates it from other cabriolets is also its wraparound rear glass window. With a price tag of Rs 1.78 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi), you can't possibly think that a Targa owner will stop by the side of the road, get down from the car and manually fold the roof. No sir, with a press of a button and within 19 seconds, the hard fibre roof neatly tucks itself below the rear glass panel. As this entire process uses a complex mechanism, Porsche decided that the roof should only go down when the car is at a halt, unlike many other convertibles that allow the roof to fold in while the car is going at slow speed.
When you turn on the ignition, the 3.8-litre engine pleasingly roars to life with a sense of purpose. The symphony emanating from the quad exhausts makes you believe that being bad is so very good, especially once the six cylinders hit the high chorus. A slight nudge on the pedal and the engine instantly responds. With 400 hp at my disposal, the Targa, you realise, never hurries you nor pushes you. Porsches are renowned to be the most practical sports cars, if there is such a thing. But here is the evidence: in slow traffic, the Targa behaves and feels very comfortable with the engine quickly adapting to the unhurried driving conditions. There is no lag, no gasping for power. Perhaps the 3.8-litre engine feels insulted, but it doesn't demur when it transforms into a city-friendly car. The Targa has the DNA of the legendary Porsche 911 with a precise steering wheel and meticulous handling. As it has a four-wheel drive train, the Targa remains planted on the road, never misbehaving, even while sweeping past sharp corners.
I decided to let the Targa stretch its limbs on an open stretch. The response was phenomenal. While the thrust did not push me into the seat, the experience was still very impressive. I changed the settings to Sports Plus - this is where the Targa becomes the speed demon everyone wants it to be. In this mode, the car did shove me an inch or two into the plush seat, making me smile and say, "Now this is what I'm taking about." The seven-speed dual clutch transmission is like a mind reader; the gear ratio lets you breeze past anyone or anything while easing the hassle of tackling slow traffic. Though the gearing is slightly tall, it is useful in checking you from wanting to mow down the slow pokes on the road.
The Targa retains the classic 911 design, which is, without a shred of doubt, the most distinctive sports car in the world. Needless to say, it evinced so much admiration on the road that wherever I stopped, I had people peering at its interiors and requesting me to show them how the roof was closed.
Porsche has always provided sporty cabins, though with the introduction of the Panamera the interiors got a heavy dose of luxury. This uber look is also available in the Macan and, now in the Targa. Believe it or not, the Targa comes with - wait for it - bright yellow seat belts and speedometer dial. The dial imparts quite a radical, yet sporty look to the car, but in all honesty, the seat belts look out of place. But at the end of the day, it's a 911 where once you are behind the wheel with the humongous engine playing its favourite tune, nothing else matters.
The Targa, like all 911s except the GT3, is a 2+2 seater. This means that you have some space for your backpack, but little to squeeze your kids in the back. But hey, this is a sports car, who sits in the rear seats anyway?
Well, the Porsche 911 Targa 4S certainly has a lot of things going for itself. This beautifully sculpted sports tourer is the darling of the crowd, so you'll receive celebrity treatment everywhere you drive. The suspension set-up changes according to the driving mode you choose. In the normal mode, the Targa comfortably handles the craters on the tarmac. The ground clearance is impressive and no speed breaker will make itself heard if you are in the Targa. If you want to go in the 'Speedy Gonzales' mode, just opt for the Sports or Sports Plus modes, when the suspension set-up becomes stiffer to ensure razor-sharp handling. However, keep in mind that this car is not something you can drift in because the mechanical assistance kicks in and restricts it to the road. And best of all, the Targa is as practical as a sports car can ever be. Arup Das is Features Editor at AutoX
PORSCHE 911 TARGA 4S
Engine: 3,800 cc
Power: 400 hp @ 7,400 rpm
Torque: 440 Nm @ 5,600 rpm
0-100km: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 294 kmph
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Price: Rs 1.78 crore (Ex-showroom, Delhi)