- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

FARO, Portugal — To attract more buyers for its new 911 Targa, Porsche enhanced the new version with standard all-wheel drive, a first for the Targa. Combined with a large glass roof panel and excellent driving qualities, the Porsche Targa 4 and the more powerful 4S are fit for driving under sunny skies both on dry roads and in the snow.

Forty years ago, Porsche launched the Targa concept as a convertible with a wide, exposed rollover bar. The models was named after the Targa Florio race, where Porsche frequently finished first. But Targa is also Italian for panel and that is exactly what it’s all about: a large open roof panel.

As immediately Targa was adopted for convertibles with a roll bar in general, Porsche registered the name and since uses it exclusively for models that are neither a convertible, nor a coupe.

In 1969 the Targa debuted with a glass rear window. In the Netherlands this model served for many years as a police car for a special unit that surveyed the Dutch freeways.

More than 10 years ago, when the 993 model arrived, the Targa got a different meaning: such a model does not have an open roof anymore, but a large glass roof panel instead.

The new generation based on the 997 model line is comparable with that of the former model. The roof is made up of the sliding module at the front and a separately opening rear window that in fact is a tailgate.

The sliding section opens up for a maximum of 20 inches in seven seconds at the touch of a button in the center console, and slides beneath the rear window. For safety reasons, the roof has to be closed to be able to open the tailgate. There is an integrated mesh cover that also opens and closes with the same button. A multiplate wind deflector controls the airflow going over the roof and not into the cockpit. It indeed is effective, as there is hardly any wind noise when driving at 90 mph.

The roof module of the 911 Targa is made of two-layer laminated safety glass that is pre-stressed for better resistance to objects hitting it. This glass is thinner than on the former model and also 4.2 pounds lighter, which is important for a sports car, as the engineers are always looking for ways to lower the center of gravity for better stability and road holding.

The roof offers UV protection by a special filter and has been treated with a special coating, letting through about one-third of the sunlight, thus creating a light interior without allowing it to get too warm.

The 911 Targa 4 is equipped with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine that delivers 325 horsepower and has 273 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. The Targa 4S has also the horizontally opposed water-cooled engine but with a capacity of 3.8 liters. This one has a maximum output of 355 horsepower and a maximum torque of 295 foot-pounds at 4,600 rpm. Both engines can be teamed with either the manually shifted six-speed transmission or to the automatic five-speed Tiptronic S.

As mentioned, this model is the first Targa to get standard Porsche all-wheel drive with a viscous multiple-plate clutch. Depending on the driving conditions, the system distributes between 5 percent and 40 percent of the engine torque to the front wheels. Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and ABS brakes are the same as on the other 911 models. The Targa models have the same wide track of the Carrera 4. Up front, the Targa 4 stands on 235/40 ZR 18 tires, while the 4S is equipped with 235/35 ZR 19 rubber. The rear wheels of the Targa 4 get 295/35 ZR 18 tires and the 4S has a size 305/30 ZR 19.

We drove the Targa 4 and 4S models under the blue skies of the south of Portugal up to the most western point of Europe, Cabo da Roca. The road from Faro offered a quiet piece of freeway where it was not difficult to drive the new Porsches the way we like it: fast.

Above 100 mph it is not only wind noise, but even more it’s concentration that makes you stop talking to your passenger. The Targa 4 reaches a top speed of 174 mph and the needle of the 4S stops at 179 mph. In the Targa 4 with the Tiptronic transmission it is easy to cruise at 2,000 rpm and just push the throttle. The stick-shifted 4S we drove asks for more attention and therefore gives a somewhat sportier feel.

Acceleration from 0-60 mph takes the Targa 4 5.1 seconds, the 4S needs only 4.8 seconds.

In the Targa 4 and 4S Porsche has combined serious sports car performance with a bit of open-air driving. The 911 Targa 4 and 4S will go on sale in North America in November for $85,700 and $ 95,900 respectively.

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