The number “911” will immediately resonate with enthusiasts, identifying one of the most iconic sports cars of all time. The Porsche brand has captivated just about everyone over the half-century life of the 911, having created a variety of models and special editions to make it one of the best known vehicles on the road. This is the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S, heavily optioned and boasting the seven-speed manual transmission.
This latest 911, called the “992”, is a stunner, though very obviously has grown over the years. A rear light bar Is mesmerizing to look at, and the Targa specifically has a gorgeous roll bar directly behind the two front seats. Our tester was painted in a very neutral Night Blue Metallic, which is quite pretty under the right light, though we could do without the gold, sorry, “Satin Aurum”, wheels and gold “Porsche” markings on the side of the car.
A fancy convertible top mechanism unique to the Targa attracts looks everywhere, though it must be mentioned that the car must be completely stationary in order for it to be operated. This is a surprise, as plenty of other such movements allow for walking-pace top operation. Regardless, it’s a great thing to watch, with the entire rear glass window lifting backwards and folding the fabric convertible top right into it. The process takes about twenty seconds, which isn’t quick by any means.
From a driving perspective, the 911 Targa is just plain magnificent. A 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat six-cylinder lives at the rear of the car, outputting 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft. of torque. The Targa is all-wheel-drive only, and when factoring in the top mechanism, makes this one of the heaviest variants of the 911. As such, it feels quick but not necessarily fast – a regular Carrera S in coupé form feels substantially livelier. That said, it’s still plenty of oomph to feel like a performance car, a proper Porsche.
Porsche’s quick-shifting PDK dual-clutch box is how many buyers will prefer to equip their Targa, but our tester was spec’d with a seven-speed manual transmission. Bar none, this is the absolute best modern shifter and clutch combination in the business. It’s brilliant to operate, and incredibly easy to drive. The gearing is a bit on the long side, which makes the car feel a bit less eager, but the transmission is just wonderful. In Sport or Sport Plus modes, the 911 has automatic rev-matching, which some may not like, but actually makes the car feel more engaging in an everyday setting.
Push the 911 Targa into a corner and the level of balance that a rear-engine car brings is immediately evident. It drives beautifully, and handles with a level of confidence that isn’t seen anywhere else. Response is immediate and while the steering is very obviously electrically assisted, there is a degree of communication right at the driver’s fingertips that is unique to the 911 Carrera. There is a reason this is considered one of the most engaging drivers’ cars in the world, and it’s because of how it behaves on that curvy road.
Of course, the move to go to an all-turbocharged lineup for the 911 took away from the sound of that high-revving naturally aspirated flat six-cylinder of the past. Those still craving that in a relatively affordable Porsche can opt for the new 718 Cayman and Boxster GTS 4.0. The 911 Carrera 4S models sound pretty good, especially with the optional exhaust, but nowhere near as delightful as the 911s of the past. On the flip side, efficiency has improved – we observed 12.0L/100km over our weeklong test, with a heavy bias toward city driving and running on 94-octane premium fuel.
One of the cars in my own fleet is a 1979 911 Targa, and the interior is one area where it’s obvious that Porsche has kept to tradition. The instrument cluster is extremely driver focused, and while it’s modern and customizable, it still pays homage to the beautiful cluster in 911s of the past. The driving position is perfect as well, and the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) is fairly easy to use. Wireless Apple CarPlay is easy to set up, and the native infotainment system is minimally convoluted. Customization of settings is very easy to manage, and the touchscreen has a matte finish and isn’t prone to fingerprints. Of course, materials are top-notch and all touch points feel very high in quality.
Canadian pricing for the Targa 4S starts at $156,100, a bump from the standard Targa 4’s $138,000. Noteworthy options here include a $6,100 Premium Package adding surround view camera, power folding mirrors, ventilated seats, Lane Change Assist, and more. A $4,540 Burmester sound system is absolutely worth the money, and the $3,960 18-way adaptive sport seats are as well. The $3,370 sports exhaust system adds a throaty roar to the boosted six, and beyond that, your mileage may vary depending on level of customization and paint.
The as-tested total of our 911 Targa came to $184,105, which is significant, putting it in the same price range as a few big players. The Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe can be had for the same money, and the Audi R8 starts at $167,800. Both of these rivals offer convertible models, but neither offers a nifty Targa body style. Plus, for the most part, the 911 Carrera is not exactly a car that is often cross-shopped – those who want one know what it is and know why they want one.
No matter how you look at it, the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S is a truly brilliant performance car, with an intoxicating amount of brand prestige behind it and an unparalleled level of driver engagement. This is a car that enthusiasts of all ages simply lust after, and while there are other vehicles that deliver similar levels of performance at the price point, they’re unable to provide the all-around brilliance of the 911. There’s a reason this is the performance car to have, and that isn’t changing anytime soon.