There’s no better way to tour the Italian countryside than behind the wheel of Porsche’s new Targa sports car
taly’s Borgo Egnazia resort is a spectacular interpretation of classic design. A meander through its walled grounds, nestled amid the olive groves of southern Puglia, will have you wondering who tread its stone stradas before you. But don’t bother consulting a history book. Just four years ago, none of this existed. Borgo Egnazia is no ancient palazzo but a flawless modern reconstruction, not unlike the car that brought us here: Porsche’s 2015 911 Targa 4S.
In repose, Porsche’s new offering has a calming effect, thanks to its cool shade and fluid lines
Originally named after the Targa Florio—a Sicilian endurance race that Porsche dominated in the 1950s and ’60s—the brand’s new happy medium between a coupe and a cabriolet represents a return to basics. Previous versions of the Targa were criticized as being little more than 911s with an oversized sunroof, and it was said that rear visibility suffered when the roof was retracted. But through a marriage of traditionally chic style and modern ingenuity, the 911 Targa 4S obliterates any preconceived notions of being another also-ran on the 911 scorecard. You may even pick it as your winner.
In its natural state of high speed, the model hugs a curve on a closed course in southern Italy
A credit to the model’s faultless design, it is a monumental task to name the car’s best feature. There is, however, quite the focal point: the “targa”-embossed roll bar. Incidentally, the roll bar is the most direct homage to the 911 introduced in 1963. At inception, the gleaming brace—a safety measure engineered by Porsche in response to America’s mounting prudence with topless motoring—represented a beacon of hope for open-air, spirited driving. Today, the brushed-aluminum bar is also the hub of the car’s mesmerizing robotic top. Primarily controlled by a switch below the gearshift, the Targa’s “innovative kinematics” (the automaker’s buzz phrase to describe the roof’s elaborate mechanics) are hidden from those occupying the car.
A blood red interior evokes speed, danger and passion
Sliding into the cockpit, you’ll find that the open-air coupe’s compartment is driver-centric in its design and placement of instrumentation, and Porsche’s signature high-backed seats embrace you in a firm hold. Buttoned up, the visibility is adequate, but this car is meant to come undone. And with its optional carbon-fiber accents, the Targa’s ambience is a clear, definitive recognition of its race-bred history.
This model’s 400-horsepower engine also echoes a bygone era. The 3.8-liter six-cylinder machine growls to life with a throaty tone, and an optional rapid-fire dual-clutch gearbox (seven-speed manual, standard) will propel you from naught to 60 miles per hour in just 4.2 seconds.
s you cruise through fresh-cut meadows and budding pear orchards with the top down, the Targa 4S unites you with your surroundings in a way that closed-cabin cars never could. It’s hard to imagine that if not for the ingenuity of the original 1963 model’s roll bar, which finds new life in the Targa 4S, this oneness may not have been possible. Supplementing that bond is the inclusion of standard all-wheel drive. Porsche claims this decision was based purely on cosmetics, explaining that the stoutness of the all-wheel-drive configuration perfectly complements the Targa’s stance. The planted, more forgiving drive dynamic it delivers is just a bonus.
What’s more, travel Puglia’s borghis in a Porsche like the Targa and you’ll never go unnoticed. As was likely the case with its predecessors, expect everyone—from schoolboys to old gents exiting the barbershop—to stop and ogle the fresh face of classic beauty that’s baring it all in their streets. Enjoy the attention. You may not have been a pioneer in your past life, but the car sure was—and she’s no longer hiding her roots.
Porsche’s 2015 911 Targa 4S hit dealerships in the United States in June 2014.
Engine: 3.8-liter flat-six
0–60 mph: 4.2 seconds with PDK transmission and the Sports Chrono package
Max speed: 183 mph with manual transmission
Max power: 400 horsepower at 7,400 revolutions per minute
Max torque: 325 foot-pound
Base price: US$116,200, plus a US$995 destination charge in the United States
William K. Gock contributes automotive and motorcycle content to numerous print and online outlets. He lives with his family in Babylon, New York.