Porsche Targa 4 GTS – the car for all seasons

Don’t want a convertible but love to let the sunshine in? The Porsche 911 Targa offers the best of both worlds. A folding, glass roof for the British summer – added security for the rest of the year. The GTS 4 model is tweaked for extra performance, using Porsche’s 3.0-litre engine to produce 450bhp and 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds. It features permanent all-wheel drive too for improved handling. Yours for £109,622, join us for a February drive in the 911 Targa….

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…

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The sensational Porsche 911 Turbo S – but would I buy one?

You might think a £150,000 supercar branded Porsche would inspire a gush of words about the wonders of handling and performance.

The 911 Turbo is a brilliant driving machine. It does everything you expect and more – with a sensational 3.8 six-cylinder engine at its heart.

Virtually faultless but would I buy one? Despite its range of abilities and everyday usability (you can even squeeze a couple of child seats in the back!), the answer is no.

Quite simple, the 911 just doesn’t ‘move’ me like a McLaren or a Lamborghini Huracan – even the overlooked Audi R8 has more soul. I know each of those cars have their flaws but they come with the character and panache that has been squeezed out of the Porsche range in recent years.

If flat out performance is your mantra, the 911 should be top of your wish list. I’d rather arrive a few minutes later in a car worth more than the sum of its parts…

The Porsche 911 Turbo S will fit you like a well-used glove

Anyone who drove a Porsche 911 Turbo back in the 1970s will remember it as a no compromise beastie. The coupe has been evolving constantly since then into this latest 2017 model.

A consummate performer, it has also morphed into the most straightforward of everyday supercars. We will be testing the Audi R8 and McLaren 540 over the next month – both are brilliant but neither can match the Turbo S for everyday stuff, like popping down the shops for a few bags of shopping.

I’d say the rear-end os nowhere near as attractive as the McLaren or the Audi but as a piece of engineering, the Turbo S gets an A Star. It has a commanding, if understated presence on the road that I’ve only ever experienced in a Rolls-Royce.

Sure, there’s a lot of tyre noise from those 20-inch wheels and I’ve moaned about the infotainment system still lagging behind the best.

Otherwise, this is a very special, if conservative supercar that will fit you like a well-used glove…

Porsche 911 Turbo S – if you want bling buy a Lamborghini

Seems odd that the interior of the Turbo S feels little different to that of the ‘standard’ 911. I suppose if you want bling there is always the Lamborghini Huracan – to be tested here next month.

The dashboard of the Porsche is just about perfect. Every button and dial is within easy reach and has a premium brand feel. Not sure why the chrono clock is still fitted – totally pointless.

The new infotainment system has a clearer screen but still lags behind that offered by Audi or BMW in most of their cars. Why is that?

I also find the electric seat adjustment very slow – and if you use the memory option, manual reading is required to ensure the seat is where it should be when you get in. Usually it has returned to somebody else’s settings.

The Porsche 911 Turbo S – does more than charm the pants off your girlfriend

Now, if you’re reading this, you already know the latest Turbo S is one of the best performance coupes out there. For 2017, power and fuel economy are up, there are some lighting tweaks front and rear, and, thankfully, the infotainment system is easier to understand (well, slightly easier).

But what some lucky people with enough cash to buy one don’t perhaps know is that the Turbo S is as user-friendly as an everyday boring car, like a Skoda Fabia.

In ‘normal’ drive model, the S just tootles along at a sensible pace, with no comedy roar from the quad pipes, no high drama. It is, good people, just as easy to live with as a Golf R.

And this, I think, is the mark of a great supercar. A machine that will thrill the pants off your girlfriend but also get you to and from the supermarket with the minimum of stress.

Lovely…

What you really need to know about the Mercedes AMG GT S

So what do you really need to know about the Mercedes AMG GT S? Well, here’s my tick list of things that you might not discover from an hour-long test drive…

The seats are ridiculous hard! Trust me, I’ve had passengers of all shapes and sizes in the GT S. And NOBODY has got out without commenting on the silly, race-tuned seats. It’s supposed to be a grand tourer. My hips are aching as I write this. Top of your options list should be a couple of soft scatter cushions.

The upright infotainment screen really doesn’t disappear into the dashboard! You know it’s fixed in that upright position but trust me, you will still try and push it away. Yep, it’s that incongruous.

Mind the gap. The doors are very heavy. No surprise in a car this size and rather reassuring BUT they do need a good slam.

The auto dip/full-beam system is lazy. I know it’s been an Easter Bank holiday but why do they take so long to dip in the face of oncoming traffic? Wake up in there!

Luggage space is minimal. On top of that, the door pockets are virtually pointless because they are so narrow and made of stretch material. You need two hands to insert something – not advisable at speed.

On the up side – it’s way better looking that a Porsche 911, will win more admiring glances and sounds fantastic. As a driver’s car? Well, it still lags behind the user-friendly Porsche – and the brilliant McLaren 540 is only a few bucks more…

A nice problem to have.

The pain of scuffed alloys on a Porsche – ouch!

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I’d never buy a car with scuffed alloys. So it pains me greatly when I give back a car with damage to the wheels. It smacks of typical motoring journalist – careless in everybody’s car apart from their own.

It wasn’t entirely my fault (it never is!) but I must bare some of the responsibility for the Cayenne’s grazed knees. A head-on meeting in an Edinburgh street that nudged me into the cobbled curb. Ouch.

Annoying as it is, the Porsche’s ‘restyling’ comes nowhere near what happened to a Range Rover I drove to France in the early 1990s. We had four expensive mountain bikes on the roof and the service station canopy was obviously way too low.

Fortunately, I wasn’t driving but it fell to me to call the Land Rover press office and explain myself. The damage was extensive but nobody batted an eyelid. Let’s hope Porsche are as understanding…