MR face-off: Porsche 911 Targa

Porsche 911 991 Targa 2When Porsche unveiled its new 911 Targa at the Detroit Motor Show this week, it proved somewhat divisive in the MR office.

There was only one thing for it: fight face-off.

Coming off the back of a trouncing against CJ in the hearing of the BMW X6 M Design Edition vs taste, Andrew has changed tack and is now arguing against. Sean is well and truly in the pro-Targa camp. Here’s what they’ve both got to say.

Sean: the Targa is back – and how

For a few generations now the Targa has just been a 911 with a big sunroof – totally against the original “safety convertible” idea designed for the American market way back in 1965. Not now.

With the 991 the Targa is back to its best, and it looks so cool.

Porsche 911 991 Targa 1

The retro look is in. People want old school styling elements from the golden era of design, only with modern one-touch convenience – just look how successful Singer is with its retro-modern 911 conversions.

Buyers want classic looks with no retro drawbacks (would you wash your clothes by hand in a dolly tub today? I thought not…), plus they don’t want to feel short-changed, like they’re being gouged a few thousand pounds extra for a Porsche with a big hole cut in the roof. The new Targa is the answer.

Plus the roof’s folding mechanism is magnificent. Sure, it can’t be operated on the move, but it only takes 19 seconds for the fabric centre section to stow away as the big, curving rear screen arcs backwards to make way.

It’s made of lightweight, exotic materials like magnesium, too, so there isn’t even much of a weight penalty.

It gives most of that open-top cabriolet experience – you still get that unfiltered six-cylinder rasp fed into the cabin with the roof down – only there are far fewer drawbacks. It won’t mess up you or your passenger’s neatly coiffured hairdos for a start.

There’s actually a mechanical benefit as well. Next to a standard drop-top 911 the Targa’s central roll bar actually adds structural rigidity – that cabriolet experience I was talking about with fewer weaknesses. Yeah…

That expansive, sweeping piece of glass at the rear is a thing to behold, too. Imagine just how complex it is to make. The answer is very.

Porsche 911 991 Targa 6

Porsche’s head of special projects, Grant Larson (the man behind the original Boxster and the Carrera GT, so it’s safe to say his CV is strong), revealed to Auto Express that the new Targa is one of his greatest achievements, stating, “The design and engineering complexities with the roof arrangement make it a real USP of the car.”

And despite this level of complexity, the new Targa is actually cheaper than an equivalent 911 Convertible.

Based on the Carrera 4 bodyshell, at £86,281 for the 911 Targa 4 and £96,316 for the 911 Targa 4S, it’s £647 and £648 cheaper than the Carrera 4 Cabriolet and Carrera 4S Cabriolet respectively.

It’s only a marginal saving but… experience. Drawbacks. I refer you to my previous point.

Leave the roof in place and you can even stash a bit of luggage back there as well, improving the 911’s practicality.

Over to you, Andrew…

Andrew: retro looks are wrong for the 991

I agree with Sean. No, that’s not me giving up on this face-off straight away, but I do admit the retro look is most definitely in. Porsche clearly wants a bit of it, which is why it’s going a bit MINI with the Targa unveiled at Detroit this week.

However… the Porsche 911 is the iconic sports car. It should be about speed, handling and putting the driving experience above all else. So why has Porsche gone all retro by fitting a big, bulky mechanism that’s impossible to operate in public without everyone in the vicinity looking at you?

Indeed, the way the roof operates is particularly clever. But you may as well shout “my folding roof is worth more than your car, losers!” It’s unnecessarily complicated, and that isn’t what the ultimate sports car should be about.

Porsche 911 991 Targa 3

Here’s an idea. If brands like Kia are launching simple sports car concepts, why can’t Porsche do the same? Basic and affordable is in right now, even more so than retro. Why not launch a 911 Targa with a manual roof instead of this silly, complex mechanism? If Porsche can make a folding mechanism lightweight using materials such as magnesium, it must be capable of making something as light as feather that even the most metrosexual of Porsche drivers could lift off and pop in the boot.

Not only would it be a real nod towards the original 911 Targa, it’d probably be quicker to remove too.

Or is that asking too much of Porsche buyers? That’s what this comes down to. Most people who buy 911 convertibles want to pose. They want to show off. Sean is bang on about Targa buyers not wanting to mess up their hair. They don’t want hassle and they’re not bothered about outright performance or handling. But that’s a whole other debate…

Ultimately, it just doesn’t look right. The 991 is such a sleek, carefully-designed Porsche, and this contraption has been bolted onto the back in a bid to make it a bit nostalgic. It ruins the design, and while I find the idea of calling a 911 with a large sunroof a “Targa” uncomfortable, it does a much better job of blending in with the streamlined looks.

Porsche 911 991 Targa 4

Sean points out that the central roll bar adds structural rigidity. Buyers of the 991 Targa don’t care about that – if they did, they’d buy the coupe. Or just buy a convertible, and stick a nasty after market roll bar on in case you roll it over while cruising around Saint Tropez. Oh, wait, that’s pretty much what Porsche has done with the Targa.

And the worst thing? It looks like something Homer Simpson would design. It’d have to be cheaper than the convertible for people to buy it, I see no other reason why people would splash out on the Targa.

Are you for or against the new Porsche 911 Targa? Send us a tweet at @Editorial_MR and we’ll feature the best tweets and announce our face-off winner next week.

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