- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

At the recent preview of the 2009 Porsche 911 Targa at Garda Lake, Italy, one of the designer’s pointed out that this sports car did not have a spare inch of fat on its body. Of course my mind immediately went to some of the better bodies I have seen, most of them in glossy magazines or on the big screen.

Well, put lean body mass to that to a vehicle and you’re going to get what the new Porsche is all about. For starters: a glass roof that slides quietly into the trunk for open air driving; an LED band of lights that flank the rear; polished aluminum trim bars that skim the roofline and side windows that sail to the rear in a crisp angle. Yes, the Porsche 911 Targa is all about slim. And slim translates to aerodynamics. The 0-to-60 mph time for the top-performing PDK Porsche 911 Targa is 4.3 seconds.

Even with all that lean muscle, there’s also room for shopping. The tailgate opens (by key fob) to 8.1 cubic feet of space behind the front seat. Of course, I managed to fill the back with a load of Italian purchases (groceries, jeans and tops). The 911 Targa, true to form, also has a front boot, in a nod to Italian style.

Coined an open-air sports car when it debuted for 1967, the early 911 Targa had a removable roof panel. It’s name came from the Sicilian Targa Florio racing event. The Targa even passed the “hair test for ladies of the 60’s” because it was a convertible with a protective shield.

Our open-air drive took place in Northern Italy in the vicinity of Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet. The itinerary took us through stunning roads in the surrounding hills and vineyards. The roads had enough hairpin turns to give even the most seasoned drivers a thrill. I am always shy on the hard turns, but I did get the feel of the Targa. It was flat, fast and silent with the distinct hum of a technically precise engine.

There are two new direct fuel inject engines for 2009 and the PDK double clutch gearbox replaces the former optional Tiptronic S automatic transmission. There is also an electronically controlled Porsche Traction Management that takes the place of the former hydraulically controlled AWD. The two new six-cylinder engines produce 345 and 385 horsepower, respectively. Starting prices are about $89,500.

And then there was the new PDK double-clutch gearbox. You can shift (into seven gears) manually with paddles, with the center sports shifter or simply drive in automatic mode. Even in automatic, you got that blip - that resonance that comes from double clutching, which is not your every day driving technique. Believe me, I’ve tried it on the racetrack and barely got out of second gear. When you hear/feel the PDK blip it’s like the sound of a tennis ball hitting the racket in the sweet spot.

The all-glass top was designed to open and close 30,000 times. The average purchaser only opens and closes the top 500 times a year. Call me compulsive, but I opened and closed mine on the tester at least five times in one day.

I asked a variety of Porsche marketing executives some curious questions during my drive in the 2009 Targa, such as:

What was a big design moment? We realized that we had to find something that makes the Targa unforgettable. We sketched a few quick pictures and saw that it needed a trim bar along the roofline. Thus, the chrome strip that follows the roofline from the A pillars to the bottom of the C pillars.

What colors are popular? In the United States and Middle East white and cream; black is very popular in Europe. White still has the highest growth rate, but we’ve become bolder in design because our customers want that.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2008

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