The British buy more convertibles than Spain, Italy and France combined. We have a penchant for braving the breeze – choosing style over practicality despite an uncertain climate.
In the past that required a roof made from wafer-thin plastic that proved a minimal deterrent for thieves. Then the folding hard-top came along and suddenly we had year-round protection.
Porsche would argue they invented the genre with the original 911 Targa in 1967. American safety legislation threatened to ban full convertibles, so the answer was an open-car with a fixed rollover hoop and removable hard-top panel.
Equipped with a folding glass roof, the latest Targa is neither a coupe nor a cabriolet. A shade over £109,000, for me it’s the ultimate, everyday version of an iconic sports car.
The folding roof is sensational – an elaborate, tour de force that brought pedestrians to a standstill when I lowered the lid in Knightsbridge. Unlike a true convertible, the Targa gives a taste of open-top motoring without the hassles of a fabric roof.
The only downside is the roof is so complicated it can’t be operated on the move, like some folding hard-top rivals. Still, there’s no shame in pulling over to perform this automatic tour de force that takes a full 20 seconds to complete.
Equipped with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, it’s simplicity itself to drive around town, although rear visibility is compromised slightly when parking.
All 911 models are quick but this top-of-the-range Targa GTS churns out breath-taking performance. It features permanent four-wheel drive for incredible grip and can top 190mph on a racetrack.
Guide it down a twisty country lane and like it’s coupe siblings, Targa has few rivals. A neat electronic system called Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus sends power to the wheels where it is needed most, keeping you glued to the Tarmac.
While that automatic gearbox is great for lazy motoring around town, operating the steering wheel paddle changers on fast roads up the driving pleasure. With the roof open, the roar from the 3.0-litre turbo engine just adds to the thrills.
The downside? With a six-figure price tag the Targa is very expensive indeed – especially when you consider a ‘standard’ 911 convertible can be yours for more than £20,000 less.
However, there are few open cars on the market that offer such a complete, all-round package. Drive it to the office every day, tour across the Alps with the roof open, admire it on your driveway.
Porsche aficionados aren’t so keen on the Targa because the extra weight of the roof mechanism impacts performance. However, the rest of us shouldn’t worry.
And because it’s based on a standard 911, the Targa is moderately practical too. It is equipped with ‘modest’ rear seats and offers heaps of luggage space under the front bonnet for weekends away.
I love the Targa so much I even own one – not a bad recommendation when you consider I’ve tested more than 2,500 cars in the last 30 years. Sadly, I’m more follically-challenged for the those wind-in-the-hair drives these days…