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First Drive: The New 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 Still Makes a Lot of Sense

For a certain type of driver, the latest Targa delivers the best of several worlds.

Eleonor SeguraWriter, PhotographerManufacturerPhotographer

PALOS VERDES, California—Whiners might argue that from a design standpoint, nothing is visually much different between the outgoing 991- and the new 992-generation 2021 Porsche 911 Targas. Others may wonder who, exactly, this 911 is for, or why Porsche continues to produce the Targa-and if it is worth building.

We say to the first criticism, if the new car in question is a contemporary and genuine representation of its heritage, you do not alter its design just to create something new. The 911 in general has easily passed the test of time since the 1960s up until today's eighth-generation model; our test drive of the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 once again proves this version the rear-engine juggernaut has found the middle ground of sun-beaming-down-on-you convertible meets UV-ray-shielding coupe.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4: Driving on Normal Roads 

We've driven other versions of the latest 911 enough at this point to know its dynamics reasonably well, so instead of rushing out to test the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 up on Angeles Crest Highway or some other crazy canyon road, I threw it into duty as a daily driver in Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and then circled back to Palos Verdes. To keep things interesting, though, Sport+ remained the preferred choice of drive modes. Immediately upon taking delivery of the car, the exhaust note strikes you and brings an excited smile, and you don't have to drive especially hard to enjoy it.

To the point, a brief Target stop was on the day's checklist, and loading shopping goods into the usable frunk was a cinch-but the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa's call from the parking lot was too strong to spend much time shopping before it was back to the road. Crossing over the Vincent Thomas Bridge from San Pedro into Long Beach in a vibrant Gentian Blue Metallic 992 Targa 4 felt like an action-movie scene. I smiled, turned up the volume on the Burmester audio system, and accelerated to a suitable speed.

Through the erratic and semi-truck-congested sections of the Seaside Freeway, the road's rough surface was no challenge for the Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM); holy smokes do the improved dampers take care of business-even on dreadful roads. In Long Beach, the 2021 Targa 4 scrabbled from left to right, up and down elevation changes, braked, and accelerated to absolute perfection on the small surface streets near Shoreline Drive. I pulled over and stopped near Ocean Boulevard for a quick breather, and a passerby took one look at the Targa and said three words: "Beautiful, just beautiful."

Given the 379 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque from the 3.0-liter, twin-turbo flat-6, the 911 Targa 4 is certainly not as beastly as the 911 Turbo S or the 911 GT3 RS. But this model as-equipped still accelerates from 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds, and it rewards smooth driver inputs and maximum attention. The staggered Pirelli P Zeros together with the all-wheel drive and PASM provide excellent traction and stability, and overall the package makes the Targa feel well balanced. The standard eight-speed PDK transmission means you get nonstop smooth-shifting, and building momentum up to eighth gear feels and sounds spectacular; top speed is achieved in sixth gear, at 179 mph. (The optional Sport Chrono package is necessary to hit Porsche's claimed 4.0-second 0-60 time; non-Sport Chrono cars make the run in 4.2.)

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4: It's All About the Targa Top

Everywhere another Porsche driver caught a glimpse of the modern classic 911 Targa 4 out for one of its first test drives in the wild—it won't land in customers' hands until the fall—they waved and smiled. In some instances, they drove side-by-side with me as if the Targa has a gravitational pull powerful enough to suck others into orbit around it. To dodge the usual crowd on Pacific Coast Highway as I headed toward Huntington Beach, I used the 405 Freeway as an alternate route, which momentarily saved the Targa from being trapped in standstill traffic jams. Huntington Beach called for the roof to be open, and at a red traffic light, I stowed the top away, and it's a mechanical act that remains the star of the Targa show.

With the tug of a button, the Targa's center roof-piece unlatches automatically and folds into a Z-shape as the glass rear window moves back and retracts; the entire process of lowering the roof happens in 19 seconds, an operation you can execute while waiting at a red light. A separate deflector integrated into the cowl panel reduces wind intrusion noticeably, and is most effective at speeds between 31 mph and 90 mph. I didn't use the deflector much, and instead just enjoyed the experience and rolled with the punches. For the record, the Targa's complete roof system weighs approximately 187 pounds.

I was alone but I wanted to test and watch the retractable-roof performance from the outside. No problem: I parked the 911, stepped out, and used the remote keyfob to open and close the roof. As a practical note, the standard park-assist system will cancel the operation if it detects an obstacle within 1.6-feet behind the vehicle, lest you smash your mechanism into a solid object.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4: Options and New Technology

Porsche is a master when it comes to offering a massive selection of upgrades, no doubt at massive profit margins, but its best ones are always driver-centric. And as is the norm with its test cars, our 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 test car came loaded with various options.

At the top of the pricing spectrum after the $5,560 Burmester Sound System, the two-tone Slate Gray/Chalk leather interior ($4,960) complemented the Gentian Blue Metallic exterior paint. My favorite cabin feature carries no additional price: the classic, central tachometer and frameless instrument displays combine analog and digital tech for a throwback look with a modern twist. Oh, and the 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats Plus for $3,470 did an excellent job of providing support and comfort, and keeping me happy.

Two exterior appearance highlights were the RS Spyder Design Wheels ($3,740), and exceptionally cool LED-Matrix Design Headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus ($3,270). On the performance end, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus ($1,500), Power Steering Plus ($280), silver Sport Tailpipes ($950), and the Sport Chrono Package ($2,790) contributed to the generous $41,150 of optional equipment.

Technology systems now available as an option on all 2021 Porsche 911 models are Porsche InnoDrive ($3,020), which enhances adaptive cruise control and includes Traffic Jam Assist, and the Front Axle Lift System with Smartlift function ($2,770). At speeds of up to 21 mph, a push of a button raises the front end to increase ground clearance by roughly 1.5 inches. The system overall isn't new to Porsche, but the Smartlift function available now on all 911's uses GPS to allow you to program the nose to lift automatically when required on frequently traveled roads. The 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is scheduled to arrive in U.S. showrooms this fall at a starting price of $120,650.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4: Who is the Targa Buyer?

Born in the 1960s out of fear of a possible ban on convertibles in America due to safety regulations, the body style that continues with the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 appeals as much to a core group of buyers today as it ever has during the past 50 years. Porsche says the typical modern Targa buyer is concerned more with luxury and convenience options rather than upgrading the performance of the 911 they buy. In reality, the new Targa 4 provides more than enough real-world performance while delivering on the former, meaning it's still a logical model for Porsche to offer. For the people who get it, the Targa top makes the always excellent 911 proposition an extra special one.

 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 Quick Facts

  • Charge-air coolers now positioned above the engine and beneath the decklid grille
  • 8-inches wider than its predecessor when measured at the front fenders
  • Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur and 930 leather upholstery packages optional
  • Available sport-exhaust system
  • 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds; top speed of 179 mph (w/PDK)
 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4 Specifications
ON SALE Fall 2020
PRICE $120,650/$160,920 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6/379 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 331 lb-ft @ 1,950-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2+2-passenger, rear-engine, AWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 18/24 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H 177.9 x 72.9.3 x 51.1 in
WHEELBASE 96.5 in
WEIGHT 3,658 lb
0-60 MPH 4.2 sec (4.0 w/Sport Chrono)
TOP SPEED 179 mph