It’s 6am on a Friday morning. Despite being late May, the weather forecast for the day ahead doesn’t look promising but, with the predicted rain absent for now, there’s just enough warmth in the Bournemouth air to warrant calling the 991.2 Targa’s electric roof actuators into action. At the touch of a button, the iconic fabric panel is removed in a shade over 30 seconds. The motion may be unchanged since the reintroduction of the classic roll hoop on the Gen1 version but it’s still a mechanical marvel to watch. As my travelling companion and photographer for the day, Mr Daniel Pullen slips into the passenger seat, I engage the Sports exhaust and fire up the heated seats (the two most important options if you’ve set your heart – and wallet – on a new Targa), ready to embark on our day’s adventure. Our plan? Just a 500-mile round trip to Land’s End and back, the perfect opportunity to see if the Gen2 Targa can thrill out on the open road. The start of our journey is entirely suburban but, with the roof down, the turbocharged 9A2 flat six sounds even better than the Coupe, the whistles and chirps of each blower accentuated by the al fresco experience.
The 3.0-litre engine’s extra mid-range torque (500Nm from just 1,700rpm in this 4S example) suits the portly Targa concept down to the ground too. The naturally aspirated Gen1 version felt gutless at the bottom end, even in 4S form, while the new car picks up pretty impressively, despite carrying an extra 25kg over its predecessor. However, as I navigate the increasingly commuter-filled streets of Bournemouth and Poole, what is really eye opening is the number of appreciating glances the Targa draws from passers-by. Resplendent in Sapphire blue, the retro styling seems to strike a chord with onlookers in a way the Coup Carreras just can’t match. Roof down, the car suits these sea-bordered environs to a tee and it does add a little extra something when behind the wheel. Ruining my chic daydream is the need to come to a complete halt to redeploy the Targa top. With faster roads now ahead of us, roof up motoring is still a necessity in the second-generation 991 Targa, Porsche seemingly unable (or unwilling) to fix the awful wind noise generated around the corners of the roll hoop at speeds over 40mph. A few days prior to today’s road trip, I was lucky enough to get behind the wheel of some classic Targas from the 1970s and 1980s, all with similar buffeting issues. While expected on early iterations, you’d think that over 40 years of development would have helped Zuffenhausen find a 21st century solution. With the roof up and some faster, flowing roads as we approach the border of Dorset and Devon, the new Targa 4S starts to do a passable impression of the 991.2 Coupe, dispatching slower traffic with an effortless, whooshing flourish (helped by the combination of PDK and the ‘Sport Response’ button on the steering wheel’s Mode switch). On sweeping corners, the latest Targa never feels phased either, its 1,600kg weight never factoring into the equation on the gentler radii around the Blackdown Hills on the fringes of Honiton. From here, our ‘A’ road route switches from single to dual carriageway, the Targa reverting effortlessly back to its default ‘cruiser’ mode, ticking off the miles as we divert from the fastest route to Land’s End in search of some more challenging parcours. Around 40 miles later we arrive on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, one of the UK’s most famous areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Turning off the main road, we make a quick stop to top up the tank (in anticipation of some proper testing) and begin carving east through the park. Our chosen tarmac – the B3357 – starts slowly, winding through narrow lanes where the high hedges preclude any sight of upcoming hazards (such as the native ponies). However, beyond Poundsgate we work our way up towards one of the moor’s many peaks, blessed with incredible panoramas in all directions. Although the forecast grey skies are beginning to close in as we head further west, there are still glimpses of blue sky and, with the vistas on off er, it’s time to put this 911’s party trick to action again. After 100 miles with the Targa top over our heads, it’s reinvigorating to remove the roof again. Jettisoning Pullen on the roadside to take some photos, the next section of blacktop twists its way down the side of the valley towards the village of Dartmeet, the switchbacks providing the perfect Tarmac on which to start building up an idea of the Targa’s dynamic ability. Accelerating through the first sweeping right-hander, the four-wheel-drive system’s torque vectoring is imperceptible, launching over a tonne-and-a-half of Targa through the countryside with indecent haste. In the verge, Pullen is little more than a blur, the wind rush just beginning to overpower the fl at-six growl.
On a gradient that hits 1:5 in places, I’m riding the brakes for much of the next left, helping the nose bite the tarmac. With the addition of PDK, I’ve got both feet working in partnership, blending between the two pedals to adjust the 991’s balance, something that, with the passive rear axle, feels entirely natural, despite the extra weight. Rolling off the ‘Big Reds’ into the following right, helped by the positive camber, the Targa grips impressively. There’s a bit more roll in the chassis than the Coupe but the caveat is it provides more front-end compliance. Interestingly, it’s not the anti-roll control that feels reduced here, the open-top 911 turning into these smooth curves with the same verve as the Coupe. Instead, where the 991.2 Carrera S crashed its way over uneven surfaces in our head-to-head last issue, the Targa 4S rides more comfortably over Dartmoor’s bumps. Even with the dampers in ‘Sport’ mode, my current steed is much less backbreaking.