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Porsche Targa 4S 997


If Bijoy goes weak in his knees every time the word L-a-m-b-o-r-g-h-i-n-i is uttered even three metres around, who is to blame him? Similarly I go woozy with a feeling of slight breathlessness and watch the hair from my fists to my sleeve stand up like a Mexican wave when the words P-o-r-s-c-h-e and 9-1-1 are even as much as whispered. As a college student, I would download every single Porsche video that the internet had to offer, and watch them over and over again as I fought a losing battle between saving some money for writeable CDs to burn my collection and dwindling hard-disk space. It was the age when 20 GB was ‘Awesome specs, dude’ and a CD writer would evoke responses like, ‘You lucky b*****d.’ And in those gigabytes of mpeg files lay a promotion video of the 996 Turbo, talking about dreams and what they are made of. It ended with a kid placing a poster of the car on the wall with the camera zooming in on it, cutting to a studio placement with the voice-over fittingly ending it with, ‘The 911 Turbo from Porsche. Here’s to the dreamers.’

It therefore hit me like a tonne of bricks when Srini told me that Porsche Middle East would love to have me sample their new Targa 4S in Dubai. The days of daydreaming were finally over. I was now officially the kid in the candy store who could drool, touch and then taste it.  Back in the mid 1960s, Porsche felt a whiff of hot air under its collar. Word had leaked that the new safety norms stipulated by the NHTSA would outlaw convertibles in the United States. Fearing it would lose a major chunk of its sales, Porsche found a unique solution by using a large glass roof on a stainless steel roll bar. It sounded great as an idea, but as history would prove, the NHTSA never banned convertibles and the Targa was never a success. Yet, 40 years down the line, Porsche continues to sell it to the  finicky customer who doesn’t want his back roasted under the Florida or Dubai sun. 

The brief drive around Dubai’s streets was not entirely ideal, but a good indicator of the 911’s strengths. It feels wide yet is compact, the air-conditioning works just fine despite the 64”x37” glass area on top, which Porsche claims is 1.9 kg lighter than the previous 996’s glass. Then there are a whole host of switches, toggles and the sport mode that lets you choose between stiffer damping, a rorty exhaust or both. Exquisite.Driving out of Porsche’s Middle East office and towards the Dubai Autodrome nearly landed me in a quandary. With the frenetic pace at which Dubai is developing, road work at several places led to quite a couple of diversions. And trying to follow the instructions of the GPS just led me back to the same road. Eventually, I gave up plans of heading to the Autodrome and drove around the city to get a feel of the car. With little time on hand, I had to choose between spending more time shooting the car or getting to grips with the car’s numerous characteristics. As you can see, I chose the latter.

There’s a certain directness associated with Porsches. Right from the moment you floor the accelerator, to the steering feel and response, the cogs slipping through the box one after the other to the massive grip levels – every single input has a sense of direct feedback that you can’t associate with a whole host of other cars.Taking one of the corners onto a freeway at 120 kph, I knew everything it did. And everything it did only tired my cheek muscles a bit more. So to aggravate the pain, I hit the sport mode and let the stiff dampers challenge my spine. Immediately I could feel distortions on the road, my vertebrae bumping against each other in muted protest. It’s a bit stiff, but I wasn’t complaining. Not because I was consciously aware that I was driving a sportscar that has set benchmarks over decades. It’s the exhaust thrum over the 3800cc, six-cylinder boxer engine that freezes your sensibility with a bucketful of liquid nitrogen. There is a mechanical, very metallic edge to it that revitalises the boy racer instincts in you. 

As time for my flight neared, I spent the last couple of minutes driving around Dubai’s famous gold market to get a taste of popular response. People strained their necks to get a glimpse of the Targa. With the roof letting  35 degrees of heat in, it was getting a bit unbearable, but having a couple of eyes staring right at you in a city where materialism is at its zenith, such endurance is great. The $10,000 worth of glass above you might not seem worth it, considering the convertible just nudges it on the price list, but for sheer capability for price, it is a combination that is hard to beat. As for me, dear Dr Ing h c F Porsche AG, how about a drive around Nurburgring in the next generation GT2, eh?