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Porsche 911 Targa 4S: The beauty’s a beast

Let’s start with an unimpeachable sports-car truth: After decades of evolving and innovating, the Porsche 911 remains top dog. Having said that, not all 911s are created equal. The curvy Carrera 4S is sexier than a base Carrera. The Cabrio isn’t as pretty or as fast, but allows for impeccably engineered topless pleasure. Then there’s the 560-hp Turbo S, the brute of the litter. After that is the psychedelically competent rocket, the GT3—less horsepower and less weight than a Turbo—which in this package equals the quickest 911 at 3.3 sec to 60.

But when it comes to beauty awards, the crown goes to the new Targa 4S. Porsche gave up the weird glass hawk-mo that topped the last-gen Targa and brought back a reimagined version of the original’s iconic arch—evoking one part roll cage and one part Le Mans’s Dunlop bridge. The car is style first—with performance a close second.

I’ve not traditionally been a huge Targa fan myself—until this version hit my driveway. Maybe it was the Sapphire Blue Metallic paint that contrasted nicely with the steel hoop. Or maybe it was the just-right amount of air that circulates in the cabin when you push a button to tuck away the little patch of roof consisting of two magnesium sheets wrapped in sound-deadening material. There’s no hair-whipping, just a patch of sky and plenty of torsional rigidity thanks to the bar.

It was also a mind-melder, as I learned when I began driving it. In around-town mode, the Targa purred calmly. Pop it into SPORT PLUS to aggressively remap the throttle, suspension, shift speed, exhaust note and gearing. SPORT mode is halfway between lamb and lion and my favorite for most of the driving I did.

I took my sexy blue baby on a six-hour drive, and never tired. The seats were supportive but not hard, the controls sophisticated yet easy to master. There were some refreshingly old-school touches, too: a non-removable “key” to start the engine, vs. the now-overdone start/stop button. The gauges display both analog and digital read-outs, and there’s a digital compass dead ahead in case you care to ignore the nav. The clock’s second hand sweeps relentlessly, tricking my eye into thoughts of stopwatches and lap timers (which the car also has).

Were there any cons? I won’t be one of those misguided testers who whines about the rear seat room. (Go have fun with minivans if that’s your focus!) My purse and my nine-year-old were perfectly happy back there.

Porsche engineered out any real flaws so long ago you probably weren’t even born yet—except the $147,000 price as tested—but you do, after all, get what you pay for.

In this case, what you pay for includes two-tone leather interior ($4120); sport exhaust (a must at $2950); PDK 7-speed transmission ($4080); Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3160); 20-inch wheels ($1170); LED dynamic lighting system ($3110); premium package ($2330). Porsche gets you on the a la carte stuff—but each morsel is tastier and more satisfying than the last.

  • Base Price: $116,200
  • Price as Tested: $147,010 (see details below)
  • Engine: horizontally opposed 6-cylinder
  • Power: 400 hp
  • Torque: 325 lb. ft.
  • 0 to 60: 4.4 sec
  • Top Speed: 182 mph