Car review: Porsche Targa, a quaint convertible that's right on target

Porsche's quaint convertible, which boasts a motorised roof, is a cruiser with a racing streak

In the automotive world, the Porsche Targa is a bit of an oddball.

It is not a convertible in the conventional sense because even with its foldable bits folded away, rear occupants are still seated below a glass canopy.

It is not a car with a panoramic sunroof either. The front portion of the roof that drops away leaves nothing but air between the car's A and B pillars.

Porsche must have felt its awkward positioning, and replaced the Targa's unique (and manually removable) roof with a panoramic sunroof in 1996.

But this year, it reverts to the original concept - with a twist.

The roof is now motorised and folds away with the dexterity and simplicity of an origami masterpiece.

The roof mechanism is so sophisticated and such a visual treat that Porsche could have anchored its whole sales pitch on it.

And why not? Because on the surface, the Targa has very little else going for it other than a clever roof.

It is not true, of course. And it becomes clear once you go beyond the surface.

Folks who remember the Targa before 1996 will recall that it had a cult-like following because it was cool and a little dorky at the same time.

It was a "semi-covertible", with a fixed curved glass area in the rear that served no purpose besides making the car appear somewhat futuristic back in the day.

But having driven the latest 911 Targa, it is quite clear the car has its own unique proposition.

It is still undeniably a unique design, whether your perception is coloured by nostalgia or not.

Porsche has managed to make it very sleek and modern, with the canopy not detracting much from the tight and sinewy lines of the new 911.

Yet, at a glance, it is clear the Targa is different.

The same can be said about how it feels behind the wheel.

While it has the same drivetrain as the 911 Coupe, with identical output figures, the Targa comes across as a more laid-back creature.

The way torque is delivered to its four wheels hinges a bit more on grace than pace. Squeeze the throttle and it will still deliver sports-car performance, with the century sprint accomplished in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 280kmh (4.4 seconds and 294kmh for Targa S).

But for day-to-day driving, it puts you in a relaxed mood, rather than a competitive one.

Its ride is also perceptibly cushier. This reinforces the Targa's role as a boulevard cruiser with a racing streak.

In normal drive mode, an occupant in any of the three passenger seats will have less to complain about than in a 911 Coupe.

With the roof up, the Targa seems a bit better insulated against outside noises than a 911 Cabriolet.

Drop the top - at the touch of a button - and quite the opposite happens.

The car immediately becomes quite loud. In fact, louder than a convertible.

Perhaps the capsular rear glass section acts like a sound amplifier, so every note from the rear-mounted flat-six comes through like a boom. It is fantastic - like being in the front row of a rock concert.

At the same time, wind turbulence does not seem as severe as in a conventional topless car.

It is a wonderful arrangment.

Here you have a car that is set up for effortless and relaxed cruising, yet gives you a level of aural delight that is possible only with aggressive driving elsewhere.

In short, perfect for a place like Singapore.

christan@sph.com.sg