The original 911 should never have been successful, let alone an icon. “On this car, everything is wrong,” says Frank-Steffen Walliser, the man currently in charge of Porsche’s 911 and 718 model ranges. “The wheelbase, for a sport car, is way too short. We have the engine on the wrong end. It’s a flat-six, not a V8,” Walliser explains.
He offers some advice to his colleagues and peers: “Never ever copy this; this would not work.” And yet, the 911 has won just about every prestigious motor race imaginable. It is the most successful sportscar of all time. It turns out that wrongs can make a right, if given enough time.
Over the decades, the 911 has turned its weaknesses into strengths in order to win. That’s what makes the 911 great, and also what makes its fans borderline fanatical; people tend to identify with the 911’s story.
If the regular 911 never should have worked, that makes the continued existence of the 911 Targa some kind of minor miracle. It’s odd, to say the least — the black sheep of the 911 range — which is why it’s also the coolest 911.
You see, the 911 is almost too successful. It’s been around so long, it is almost ubiquitous, almost too familiar. So, what do you do when you want a 911 and the story that goes with it, but you want something different, something distinctive? You buy the Targa.
“It makes the 911 a little bit more unique, a little bit more special” says Walliser of the Targa. “It’s this uniqueness which I think is attractive for people. … Being different is, for 911 owners, part of the story.”
After its native Germany, Canada is Porsche’s best-selling market for the Targa, Walliser said. Third is the U.K. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise. All of these countries have wet, cold winters, where the hard-top Targa convertible is ideal.
Think of the Targa as halfway between a cabriolet and a coupe. The roof panel above the driver folds down under that spectacular one-piece rear greenhouse. It’s quiet like a coupe, but airy like a convertible. The mechanical ballet that makes it possible is mesmerizing.
The all-new 2021 Targa, based on the equally new 992-generation 911, comes in two flavours, both with all-wheel drive: the Targa 4 with 379 horsepower and the Targa 4S with 443 horsepower. Gearbox options are either an 8-speed dual clutch automatic or the new 7-speed manual. (People who buy the Targa tend to go all-out, Walliser said. Targa customers usually tick all the options boxes and get the biggest, most powerful engine on offer.)
As a result of that unique folding roof, the Targa doesn’t just stand out in the 911 range — it stands out, period. There’s nothing else that looks or functions quite like it.
Walliser explains that the Targa was originally created out of necessity to meet U.S. safety regulations, which, in the 1960s, considered drop-top cabriolets to be dangerous. “When the decision was made that we want to go for an open-top car… the idea was to make a safer cabriolet,” he says. Hence the Targa’s big fixed hoop behind the front seats and the unusual removable roof panel. Eventually, U.S. regulations changed and Porsche made a traditional cabriolet, but they kept selling the Targa alongside it. The reason? “The Targa was so, so iconic that we kept it.”
It is yet another Porsche with an unusual backstory. Just like the 911 on which it’s based, the Targa shouldn’t have caught on like it did. But here we are, all these decades later, looking at an all-new model and it’s cooler than ever.